Methane & the 9% of UK Greenhouse Gases Contributed by Agriculture

Globally, Agriculture is stated to contribute 14% of greenhouse gases.  These include Nitrous Oxide (fertiliser, run off and waste) and Methane.  Methane is x21 as detrimental as CO2. Interestingly British Agriculture is said to contribute 9% of it’s greenhouse gases.  This result is achieved by efficient use of farm waste, better animal feeding, especially ruminant and an ever-growing focus on carbon footprint.  Minette Batters (NFU) intends to achieve net 0% Carbon by 2040, 10 years before Government deadline and this is entirely plausible given the progress to date and upcoming advances.

Methane is produced by a group of micro-organisms called Methanogens, remarkably these represent only 3% of the Rumen bacteria.  It is made by anaerobic decay of organic matter, wetlands, ruminant digestion or reworked methane from deep within the Earth’s crust.  In a ruminant it is made via “Methanogenesis” where Hydrogen reduces the CO2 with the help of Methanogens. A typical UK dairy cow produces 100kg’s of Methane/year.

Higher yielding cows produce less methane/litre of milk. Whilst better utilisation of grazing can lead to a 20% reduction in methane, typically through grazing younger grass and measuring cow performance (litres/solids/cow). Three other game changing initiatives are;

1. Vaccination against Methanogens.

A big study currently underway in New Zealand based on grazing cows.

2. Increased Legume inclusion in rations

Tannins and reduced rumen bacteria degradation can reduce the amount of methane production.

3. Feeding Australian Red Seaweed

99% of methane production in a cow could be eliminated by feeding a small amount of Australian Red Seaweed according to various studies including Penn State and Yale researchers.  Likely to be more suited to buffer fed cows but begs the question as to whether this could be incorporated into parlour compounds and thus support grazing cows?

The mid-month article looks at Legume effects on methane production.

To see how this could work in your diets, please contact Wesley – or your local FCG Office.

Posted in Business Management, Chippenham, Dairy & Forage.