Cattle Magazine Cattle Exploring the science behind methane emission levels in cattle production – Western Producer

Exploring the science behind methane emission levels in cattle production – Western Producer



(Reuters) — Scientists have worked for years to reduce methane emissions from cattle burps by changing what cattle eat, or through research on vaccines, genetic modification of cattle and even forehead-mounted masks and backpacks to trap vapours.

What is the problem?

Methane, the second-most abundant greenhouse gas from human-related activities after carbon dioxide, accounts for 20 percent of global emissions, according to the Global Methane Initiative.

Livestock emissions come from feed production and processing (45 percent), burps and flatulence (39 percent), manure storage and processing (10 percent) and processing and transportation of animal products (the rest), according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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Even so, greenhouse gas emission intensity per kilogram of milk declined almost 11 percent from 2005 to 2015 as farmers improved animal health and feed quality and better managed herds, resulting in more milk per cow, according to the FAO.

Why are livestock gassy?

Ruminant livestock — cattle, sheep, bison, goats, deer and camels — have a stomach compartment called the rumen in which microbes produce methane as a byproduct of digesting fibrous plant material. Certain feed additives claim to inhibit these microbes from making methane.

Who makes the methane-reducing feed additives?

  • Agolin SA — The Swiss company’s Agolin Ruminant feed additive contains extracts from coriander seed oil, clove and wild carrot. It claims that shifting the microbial population in the rumen leads to greater milk production. Trials in Europe and the United States have confirmed methane reductions of 10 percent per animal.
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