Individual-level correlations of rumen volatile fatty acids with enteric methane emissions for ranking methane yield in sheep fed fresh pasture.
Woyimo Woju, Chernet
García Rendón Calzada, Mariana
Janssen, Peter H.
McEwan, John C.
Animal Production Science; 2021, Vol. 61 Issue 3, p300-305, 6p
Context: Total ruminal volatile fatty acids (VFA) or acetate concentrations were previously found to be moderate correlated proxies to select sheep that are genetically low methane (CH4) emitters. However, this was based on trials, with sheep fed lucerne pellets at a fixed feeding level, which is different from pastoral farming conditions in New Zealand, where the correlated proxy would be applied. Aim: To determine repeatability and individual-level correlation of rumen VFAs with CH4 emissions in sheep fed ad libitum cut pasture in three and four repeated periods in Experiments 1 and 2 respectively. Sheep in Experiment 1 were also fed lucerne pellets at 2.0 × maintenance-energy requirements in two periods. Methods: Methane emissions were measured from 96 and 72 animals, in Experiments 1 and 2 respectively, in respiration chambers and rumen samples were collected via oral stomach tubing before morning feeding. Repeatability estimates between periods within feed and experiment serve as an upper threshold for the estimate of heritability and ri estimates are a proxy for genetic correlation. Key results: Methane (g/day) production and yield (g/kg dry-matter intake) were low to moderately repeatable traits on pasture across periods (0.58 and 0.39 for CH4 production and 0.43 and 0.32 for yield in Experiments 1 and 2 respectively). On pasture, repeatability was generally greater for VFA proportions (0.13–0.32) than for VFA concentrations (0.02–0.24), while the opposite was the case on lucerne pellets. Rumen propionate as a proportion of total VFA had strong negative ri (−0.82 and −0.87) and acetate : propionate ratio (A : P; 0.82 and 0.78) and (acetate + butyrate) : (propionate + valerate) ratio (AB : PV; 0.84 and 0.82) had a strong positive ri with CH4 yield in sheep fed cut pasture, while the ri of total ruminal VFA (−0.13 and 0.35) and acetate (−0.08 and 0.38) concentrations with CH4 yield were only moderate and non-significant. Conclusion: The VFA traits propionate proportion and A : P and AB : PV ratios had strong individual-level correlations with CH4 yield in sheep fed pasture ad libitum , suggesting that they would be useful correlated proxies to rank sheep CH4 yields. Breeding sheep with lower methane production is becoming available to farmers; however, on-farm methods to rank sheep are required to get breeding values for industry-relevant rams. The main finding was that rumen-fermentation end products, propionate proportion and volatile fatty acid ratios were suitable for ranking sheep methane output, suggesting their potential as an indicator trait for screening sheep on-farm. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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