Meat & Livestock News

Navigating Methane Reduction in Farming

TL;DR: Australian and New Zealand farmers face challenges implementing methane mitigators in extensive farming systems, despite promising trials and efforts towards sustainable agriculture and carbon reduction strategies.

New Zealand and Australia face similar battles in agriculture. They’re looking for a balance between productivity and reducing their environmental marks. Richard Rennie visited Australia to learn more about their efforts in gene technology, carbon farming, and sustainability.

Challenges with Methane Mitigators

Dr. Chris McSweeney, a top researcher from CSIRO in Brisbane, shares insights into methane reduction. While methane mitigators are promising, delivering them to free-range animals poses significant challenges.

McSweeney has deep knowledge in ruminant production and appreciates efforts like DSM’s Bovaer and the Asparagopsis red seaweed. Bovaer, especially, shows promise in feedlot conditions, potentially reducing methane by 40-50%.

However, he urges caution with Asparagopsis, highlighting the need for more research into its long-term effects.

Trials in New Zealand

Fonterra’s Kowbucha trial aims to see if early dietary interventions can alter methane production in dairy cows. The concept of changing rumen microbiology early on is intriguing but remains unproven.

Despite the potential of products like Bovaer, practical application in pastoral settings remains a hurdle. Regulatory approval also demands extensive, repeated trials.

Managing Mitigation

McSweeney discusses the logistical and regulatory challenges in deploying mitigators in extensive farming systems. Ensuring compliance and the real-world application of these solutions requires careful management.

Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator oversees emission reduction efforts in the beef sector, promoting methane efficiency. Through improved management and genetics, farmers can earn carbon credits, aligning productivity with environmental goals.

However, McSweeney notes that there’s a limit to the improvements achievable, suggesting that innovation must continue to evolve alongside regulatory frameworks.

The Road Ahead

The journey towards effective methane reduction in farming is complex. It requires a blend of science, practical solutions, and regulatory support to ensure that environmental efforts also support farming viability.