International livestock genetics company Semex has announced that it will launch a breeding index to help farmers reduce the methane emissions output of their herds.

The index, which is due to launch in April, will publish methane efficiency values for various cattle breeds, which users can consider in future breeding.

The company stated that it worked with industry scientists to develop the platform, which it believes “can reduce methane emissions by 20-30% by 2050”.

A percentage of the over 13 million milk mid-infrafred (MIR) spectroscopy reports, collected over more than five years by Canada’s milk-recording organisations will be used to inform the values published in the index.

“Over seven hundred thousand first lactation MIR records were analyzed by Lactanet geneticists in order to predict methane emissions for milk-recorded cows across Canada.

“The results showed that you can substantially reduce methane emissions with genetic selection,” said Dr. Michael Lohuis, Semex’s vice president for research and innovation.

In a statement, Semex said that “for genomic bulls, [the index] is 70% reliable, and genetic selection alone is estimated to reduce emissions by 20-30% by 2050”.

Speaking about the growing social and political focus on agriculture as an emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), Semex’s vice president of corporate development Drew Sloan said “methane is a global enemy”.

“In fact, most developing nations are adopting laws targeting net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This new trait is a game changer.

“The time is now to genomically test your herd, giving you the power to assess, monitor and reduce methane in your herd,” he concluded.