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A new project is to lead the way to describing the climate-friendly dairy cow

Aarhus University leads a new research project which is to pave the way for a more climate-efficient dairy production. The aim of the project is to reduce the cow’s methane emission via feeding and to investigate the biological reasons for why cows differ in methane production. Furthermore, researchers will examine how we can implement the new climate initiatives in the best way and hence document the effect in the future.

[Translate to English:] Køer i stald med sengebåse. Foto: Linda S. Sørensen.
[Translate to English:] AU forskere vil nu se nærmere på, hvilke fysiske, fysiologiske og mikrobielle egenskaber, der adskiller den klimaeffektive malkeko fra den mindre effektive malkeko. Foto: Linda S. Sørensen.

In order to fulfil the national goals in relation to reducing the total emission of agricultural greenhouse gases, and in order to maintain a competitive agricultural production in Denmark, we need to make the dairy production more climate efficient. The loss of methane from the cows’ rumen currently accounts for up to 700 litres per cow daily.

The climate fund of The Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark supports a new project which aims at contributing to the reduction of the carbon footprint in the Danish dairy production. Preliminary studies from Aarhus University have shown that the cows’ methane emission is significantly affected via feeding. Therefore, the new project, led by Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University, is based on a number of essential focus areas, including for example feeding, rumen metabolism, phenotypes, measuring and assessment methods, and effect assessments.

Feed additives

Part of the project is about studying the effect of existing additives, and, in cooperation with the industry, beginning the development of new additives, which, in time, can ensure a significant reduction of the cows’ methane production without affecting the animal’s health and the milk quality.

What does the climate-friendly cow look like?

Furthermore, the researchers must identify the dairy cows who have a low and high loss of methane, respectively. “It is well-known that the production of methane varies markedly among the animals. However, it is not yet stated which of the physical, physiological and microbial qualities that distinguish the climate-efficient dairy cow from the less efficient dairy cow”, says leader of the project professor Peter Lund, Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University. Thus the aim is to define the phenotypic qualities (i.e. the qualities expressed via appearance and physiology) characterising the efficient dairy cow.

Implementation and documentation

The spread of new mechanisms, for example the use of additives, is completely dependent on the opportunity to implement them in each farm. Therefore, the barriers for using these mechanisms must be identified, and potential solutions presented, in this project. Potentially, a successful implementation will reduce the methane from the cow’s digestive processes by 30-40% in the short term (2030).


Finally, during the project, the researchers will develop new tools for documenting the effect of the new initiatives on the reduction of methane from the cows’ rumen at product, farm and national level as well as for identifying related effects elsewhere in the food chain. This way, Denmark, the industry and the individual farms can be credited for their effort.



The project entitled ’Feeding and phenotype of the climate-efficient dairy cow (FF-KO) is funded by the climate fund of The Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark and runs from 2019 – 2022.

Project partners

The project is led by Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University, and is carried out in cooperation with the University of Copenhagen, SEGES, DSM, Arla and Novozymes.




Further information

Professor Peter Lund, Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University

E-mail: peter.lund@anis.au.dk