Meat Technology Ireland (MTI) is an Enterprise Ireland Technology centre which is industry-led collaboration of key Irish beef processors and research institutions. MTI is hosted by Teagasc and ICBF is a key collaborator on the Genetics Pillar.

The Genetics Pillar is focused on optimising animal production and commercial output with a focus on:

1)Reducing finishing age and increasing meat yield

2) Accurate carbon foot-printing

3) Reducing beef greenhouse gas emissions

4) Improving methane eating quality.

The board above is the first preliminary methane data collected on a population of beef cattle in the MTI Genetics Pillar. The methane data was collected using the GreenFeed system across different production systems/diets, breed types, and sex – representative of the main beef production systems  in Ireland. The graph shows the large variation in methane emissions per animal across the year and across different diets and ages.

Methane data is captured using a Greenfeed system. Animals are enticed to use the system with small amounts of meal that drops at set intervals. The animal is then identified by the Greenfeed machine through its RFID tag. As the animal consumes the feed, the air surrounding the animal’s head, including that of which is exhaled is extracted via a fan. It is then passed by sensors and a value for each animal’s methane emissions are determined.

A diagram of sensors and layout of the Greenfeed system

The objective of the Genetics Pillar in MTI is to put in place the necessary data, tools, and know-how for breeding a more productive and efficient cattle herd. The dual focus of the programme is on reducing daily animal methane emissions with a reduced number of days the animal will produce methane (i.e. age at finish/slaughter).

A part of the approach is to ensure that breeding for more methane efficient cattle with a younger age at finish will not have a detrimental effect on carcass performance or other important beef production traits like fertility/calving etc. The methane data collected will also be used to refine carbon footprint models with Irish data to provide a more accurate estimate of emissions per kg of output. The Genetics Pillar is unique collaboration between important stakeholders and the outputs will provide a unique selling point for beef on global markets.