You are currently viewing the Sheep CRC archived website for the period 1 July 2007 – 30 June 2014
This website has been replaced and the information provided here is for archival reference only
To view the current Sheep CRC website please visit Hide This Message

The page you are currently viewing is part of the Sheep CRC archived website for the period 1 July 2007 – 30 June 2014. The information provided within this page is no longer actively updated and may now be out of date. For up to date information please visit the current Sheep CRC website at

Feed efficiency & greenhouse gas reduction

Photo: Methane race (Source: I and I NSW)
Photo: Methane race (Source: I and I NSW)

Sheep produce methane as a by-product of fermentative digestion in the rumen and hind gut. Efforts to lower emissions from sheep production systems are important for achieving long term domestic emissions targets and moderating their impacts on climate change. Research is needed to better understand the opportunities and costs of different mitigation strategies. Genetics is a powerful tool that can be used to make ongoing and permanent improvements to animals. The extent of the genetic improvements depends on the amount of variation that the trait exhibits and what proportion of this variation is heritable. Methane production is largely dependent on diet quality and feed intake, but differences in methane emissions per kg dry matter intake between individual sheep of 40 to 60% have been reported. The variation in methane production between individuals is significantly higher than that recorded for conventional sheep production traits of approximately 10 to 20% within flocks, and provides an ideal opportunity for selection of low methane producers providing the trait is heritable. It has been shown that cattle selected for higher efficiency of feed utilization produce less methane per kg dry matter intake than cattle selected for lower efficiency. This suggests that methane production is heritable and reducing methane emissions and improving productivity through genetic selection is feasible.

It is also important to define the relative importance of different management options compared to genetic variation. In addition to selection for methane production alone variation in characteristics such as growth rate, feed conversion efficiency and reproductive rates are likely to have major effects on methane production per unit of wool and meat produced.

The aim of this project is to develop practical techniques for measuring methane emissions from individual sheep on a large scale to enable the estimation of methane emissions as a function genotype, management practices and environment. New and existing data of the sensitivity of enteric methane production and whole farm profit to different mitigation strategies will assist sheep producers to prepare for comprehensive emissions accounting.

More specifically, the project will:

  • Develop and validate new methods for measuring methane production enabling large scale screening of individual animals;
  • Determine the genetic and phenotypic correlations between methane production and animal production traits and if methane production in sheep is a heritable trait;
  • Quantify variations in methane emissions as a function of genotype and management options across a range of sheep production systems and agroecological zones in Australia and define options for abatement; and
  • Contribute to the development of an accurate basis for determining methane production from sheep for use in the National Carbon Accounting System and validate these functions against benchmarking studies of flock emissions.

To read more about this research project click here.

Choose from the tabs below to find more detailed information.

Products & Training Resources Reports, Articles and Presentations Producer Training

Products & Training Resources

Australian Sheep Breeding Values - A guide for ram buyers

This guide is provided to help you understand the complexities of breeding profitable yet functional sheep that are right for your business.

Feeding Grain for Sheepmeat Production CD

The Feeding Grain for Sheep Meat Prodution CD is available by contacting Janelle Holzberger at the Sheep CRC on 02 6773 2927.

Reports, Articles and Presentations

Sheep CRC 2010 Conference Papers - Sheep and their management

This Conference combined world class science with its practical application.

Wool meets Meat - 2006 Conference Papers - Nutrition

Sheep CRC Practical Wisdom Notes is a series of technical notes to assist sheep producers to make sound decisions about technology and practices and then to have the know-how to implement their decisions.

Producer Training

Lifetime Ewe Management Training

The Sheep CRC, in partnership with Rural Industries Skills Training (RIST), presents a practical course focusing specifically on the nutrition and health issues associated with the ewe and develops participant skills in sheep assessment and feed budgeting, based on key information from the lifetimewool project.