Reducing Emissions and Boosting Productivity

AUSTRALIA - The question of reducing ruminant methane while improving productivity is being given some answers, courtesy of the Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Program (RELRP).
calendar icon 27 June 2012
clock icon 2 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

nvestigating how the red meat industry can accurately measure and reduce methane emissions from livestock while still improving productivity has been the focus of the Australian Government’s RELRP program managed by MLA over the past three years.

Some RELRP solutions can be used now; some lines of enquiry may take years to have an effect on-property.

But according to RELRP Science Coordinator, Dr Julian Hill, most strategies share a common trait: helping the livestock industry reduce methane emissions also boosts productivity.

More oil, less gas

RELRP research is measuring the effects of feeding ruminants fats and oils, in forms like cottonseed, canola or sunflower.

Fats and oils change the fermentation process in the rumen, producing more propionic acid and less methane, reducing emissions by 6–10% and increasing productivity.

Grapemarc – a wine by-product comprised of grape skins and seeds – has shown even more potential. It reduced emissions in cattle by a conservative 7–10 per cent, with a related lift in productivity.

Current tactics and future technologies

Management strategies that aim to turn off livestock faster reduce the grams of methane produced per kilogram of product over the lifetime of an animal.

RELRP research indicates that ‘low methane’ sheep can be identified, pointing toward a potential Australian sheep breeding value to identify low-emissions phenotypes.

Future work will assess how this trait interacts with other production traits.

Super supplements

Scientists are looking at feed supplements that suppress the activity of methaneproducing bacteria in the rumen. One investigation has found promise in compounds in native Australian shrubs, such as eremophila and rhagodia, which also reduce the level of internal parasites in ruminants.

Another has discovered that nitrate supplementation is more methane-friendly than urea supplementation, with investigation continuing in how to deliver the nitrates.

Measuring methane emissions

RELRP has dedicated considerable resources to better understanding methane emissions. One striking outcome from CSIRO research work in the northern rangelands indicates that methane production from beef cattle has been overestimated by up to 30 per cent.

RELRP science underpins the Australian Farm Institute’s FarmGas online calculator, which allows producers to compare current farm emissions against potential emissions from new enterprises.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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