Reducing methane emissions in New Zealand's national sheep flock through genetic selection – The Cool Sheep™ Programme.

This ground-breaking and world first project aims to give every sheep farmer in New Zealand the opportunity to use genetic selection to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our national flock.

The overarching goal is to offer every sheep farmer access to low methane genetics, help them understand the genetic merit of their flock for low methane traits and and support them to be recognised and rewarded for breeding toward lower methane genetics. To achieve this, the Cool Sheep™ Programme will support and accelerate the identification of low methane rams in the breeding sector to increase the supply of rams to lower sheep methane in the national flock.  

Globally, New Zealand has led the way in pioneering genetics to reduce methane, having already successfully developed and deployed the ability to genetically select for lower methane emissions in sheep following a ten-year collaboration between Beef + Lamb New Zealand, the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc), the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) and AgResearch Limited.  This work confirmed breeding was a sound option for reducing methane in sheep while maintaining productivity with other traits. Since 2019, methane selection has been successfully piloted with 18 leading sheep breeding flocks through a PGgRc-funded initiative supporting B+LNZ Genetics’ nProve and the AgResearch service. 

This subsequent $4.2 million three-year Cool Sheep™ Programme, is supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries through the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF), and a range of organisations including B+LNZ.  It will support the identification of low methane rams in the breeding sector to increase the supply of rams to lower sheep methane in the national flock. The low methane credentials of such rams used in sheep flocks will in time be incorporated into on-farm greenhouse gas (GHG) calculators, with the aim of capturing these reductions into the national GHG inventory. 

Webinar: Leading the flock – breeding toward low-methane genetics

In September, a webinar on using genetic selection to reduce methane emissions in NZ's sheep flocks was organised by the Cool Sheep Programme and hosted by B+LNZ Genetics. It focused on harnessing the power of science and research to provide solutions and options in NZ’s sheep breeding sector. 

You can watch a recording of the webinar at the link below:


About the Programme The three-year programme is funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Ministry for Primary Industries. It aims to give more farmers access to animals that can help reduce greenhouse gas emission from their farm. View Opportunities for farmers The three-year programme will put infrastructure in place for the industry to drive this ground-breaking opportunity beyond the programme duration, to continue selecting for low-methane genetics and reduce GHG emissions in New Zealand’s sheep sector. View