Low-gas cattle feed

Beef farmers can breathe easier, thanks to University of Alberta researchers who have developed a formula to reduce methane gas in cattle.

By examining how much starch, sugar, cellulose, ash, fat and other elements were contained in cattle feed, the scientists were able to formulate equations to predict how much methane a cow would produce based on diet.

They are hoping that their research will provide beef producers with the tools to reduce the methane gas their cattle produce by as much as 25 per cent.

‘That’s good news for the environment,’ said Stephen Moore, a professor of agricultural, food and nutritional science at the University of Alberta.

‘Methane is a greenhouse gas, and in Canada, cattle account for a fair amount of the total emissions.

‘By identifying factors such as diet that can reduce emissions, we hope to give beef farmers a way to lessen the environmental footprint of their cattle production, and methane reductions in the order of 25 per cent are certainly achievable.’

The study was jointly conducted with the universities of Guelph and Manitoba, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria.

While further studies are needed before bringing the research into general use, the work ‘promises significant improvements in environmental stewardship on the farm,’ added Moore.

The study was funded by the Canada Research Chairs programme and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.