California has set a target to reduce methane emissions by 40% by 2030, or the equivalent of 7.2m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, Professor at the University of California Davis Frank Mitloehner told a symposium on agriculture in Ghent last week.

A combination of manure management, dairy digesters and feed additives means it’s becoming a reality – and farmers have already reduced methane by 30%.

When asked from the floor how EU farmers could change, given the fact they are in general smaller and hence the economies of scale are not on farmers’ side, he said: “Breeding more methane efficient animals is permanent and constructive.

“Using methane-reducing feed additives that have been proven in fact-based research, and, potentially down the line, using vaccines might help. Otherwise replacing diesel use is key.”

Mitloehner also talked about New Zealand research into a vaccine that would trigger an animal’s immune system to generate antibodies in saliva that suppress the growth and function of methane-producing microbes (methanogens) in the rumen.

Canadian approval

A speaker in the audience discussed the fact that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) just last week approved 3-Nitrooxypropanol, (3NOP) as a new livestock feed ingredient for cattle.

The ingredient is a gut-modifier product, which reduces the methane emitted from cow burps by 30 to 50%.

This is one of the first products that’s been approved in Canada for the primary purpose of creating an environmental benefit after more than a decade of research.

When discussing methane produced by grazing animals, Mitloehner acknowledged that it wasn’t as easy as the feedlot scenario in Canada.

As animals are grazing it is harder to manage, but at the same time he said grazing animals are needed to manage the land which can’t be travelled.

He said it is necessary to produce food from these areas, and food security shouldn’t be something we take lightly.