EIT Food News

Opportunities to Reduce Methane (CH4) Emission from Cattle

Greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically reduced in the next 11 years in order to avoid disastrous levels of global warming as stated in the report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)1. Methane gas is a potent greenhouse gas produced in the rumen of cattle and sheep during the normal process of feed digestion. This ruminant enteric methane production is the single biggest anthropogenic source (~25%) of methane which also has 28 times higher global warming potential than CO2.

Recent research in Australia2 has shown that some species of seaweed can reduce methane production from cattle by up to 80% when used as a feed supplement at 3% inclusion rates of organic matter. Hence, seaweed clearly has the potential to reduce methane gas production from ruminant species, even at low inclusion levels. EIT Food has recently funded the project SeaCH4NGE which aims to reduce methane (CH4) emission from cattle. This is a collaborative project that involves four European partners and   is co-ordinated by Matís.

SeaCH4NGE will investigate the potential of different species and processing of seaweed as feed supplements to reduce methane production by cattle with secondary aim to study the effect on animal welfare and product quality. First phase of SeaCH4NGE will investigate and process a range of seaweed products at Matís. In the second phase a laboratory based in-vitro system will be used to screen the products at University of Hohenheim. The third phase will test in-vivo the most promising products on cattle at University of Reading with ABP Food to study the effect of seaweed supplementation on the CH4 production by cattle.

This project will provide essential information on the potential for seaweed as a feed supplement for cattle to reduce overall methane emissions from agriculture in Europe. The output will be a marketable seaweed supplement to farmers/seaweed producers.