Evaluation of enteric methane prediction equations for dairy cows used in whole farm models


J. L. Ellis, tel. +1 519 824 4120, e-mail: jellis@uoguelph.ca


The importance of evaluating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from dairy cows within the whole farm setting is being realized as more important than evaluating these emissions in isolation. Current whole farm models aimed at evaluating GHG emissions make use of simple regression equations to predict enteric methane (CH4) production. The objective of the current paper is to evaluate the performance of nine CH4 prediction equations that are currently being used in whole farm GHG models. Data used to evaluate the prediction equations came from a collection of individual (IND) and treatment averaged (TRT) data. Equations were compared based on mean square prediction error (MSPE) and concordance correlation coefficient (CCC) analysis. In general, predictions were poor, with root MSPE (as a percentage of observed mean) values ranging from 20.2 to 52.5 for the IND database and from 24.0 to 38.2 for the TRT database and CCC values ranging from 0.009 to 0.493 for the IND database and from 0.000 to 0.271 for the TRT database. Overall, the equations of Moe & Tyrrell and IPCC Tier II performed best on the IND dataset, and the equations of Moe & Tyrrell and Kirchgeßner et al., performed best on the TRT dataset. Results show that the simple more generalized equations performed worse than those that attempted to represent important aspects of diet composition, but in general significant amounts of bias and deviation of the regression slope from unity existed for all equations. The low prediction accuracy of CH4 equations in whole farm models may introduce substantial error into inventories of GHG emissions and lead to incorrect mitigation recommendations.