New feed additive significantly reduces methane emissions from dairy cows

A novel feed additive can be included in dairy cow diets to significantly reduce methane emissions. That was demonstrated by a trial at the Wageningen University & Research innovation centre Dairy Campus in Leeuwarden. The emission reductions vary from 27% up to 40% of methane per cow, depending on the diets and the amount of methane inhibitor in the feed. Royal DSM developed the Bovaer methane inhibitor.

Methane emission from ruminants represents a significant portion of anthropogenic greenhouse gases and contributes to climate change. Parties agreed in the Dutch Climate Agreement that the Dutch livestock sector should reduce greenhouse gases with 2 Megatons by 2030.

The trial was designed to deliver methane reduction results for three different ratios of grass silage and maize silage in dietary roughage, typical for Dutch circumstance in different regions, with two different dosages of Bovaer. Sixty-four Holstein-Friesian cows in mid-lactation were enrolled in the study to investigate the effect of supplementation of the methane inhibitor with the different diets.

Methane reductions from 27% up to 40%

Researcher André Bannink comments: “The results are certainly promising. Bovaer effectively inhibits the formation of methane. Precisely how effective, depends on the diet the cow is given.” Methane was reduced by 27% when a low dose of Bovaer (60 mg/kg DM*) was supplemented to a diet without maize silage in the roughage up to 35% when a low dose of the methane inhibitor was supplemented to a diet containing 80% maize silage in roughage dry matter. With a medium dose of Bovaer (80 mg/kg DM), this percentage ranged from 29% to 40%. The trial was supervised by a team of cattle nutrition experts for the Wageningen University & Research and supported by the Dairy Campus Innovation Fund.

The results are certainly promising. Bovaer effectively inhibits the formation of methane. Precisely how effective, depends on the diet the cow is given.

André Bannink, researcher

The information from the trial is necessary to substantiate accreditation of Bovaer by the Carbon Footprint Monitor/Climate Module of the Dutch Kringloopwijzer (the Annual Nutrient Cycling Assessment). The results provide farmers with insights on the effects of applying Bovaer. Furthermore, they enable governments and inventory organizations to adequately account for enteric methane reductions and they can be used to help reward and recognize every individual farmer for their sustainability contributions.

At Dairy Campus, researchers measure methane emissions in special feeding troughs.
At Dairy Campus, researchers measure methane emissions in special feeding troughs.

Just a quarter teaspoon of Bovaer per cow per day reduces enteric methane emission by approximately 30%. The feed additive therefore contributes to a significant and immediate reduction of the environmental footprint of meat, milk and dairy products.

The trial with Bovaer was designed and executed by a consortium from across the Dutch Dairy Chain, comprising of DSM, Wageningen University & Research, FrieslandCampina, Royal Agrifirm Group, De Heus Animal Nutrition and ForFarmers.

*DM means Dry Matter, the dry portion of animal feed with the water extracted.

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