Substantial reductions in methane from animal feed

Selected strains of probiotics added to animal feed would reduce the methane produced by ruminants by more than 60%—excellent news for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

Long live scientific research. In the livestock field, it seems that we are close to a breakthrough: probiotic additives for animal feeds have been identified, capable of reducing by more than half the methane emitted by cattle, which then pours into the atmosphere.

According to preliminary data from in vitro tests, a probiotic additive has been developed, consisting of three selected groups of bacteria, which added to the feed would induce a 68% reduction in methane. In contrast, another probiotic additive, consisting of only one strain of bacterial microorganisms, would generate a 78% reduction. Both are made of non-GMO probiotic strains, which, in addition to reducing polluting emissions, would naturally increase milk production in dairy cattle.

Selected strains of #probiotics added to #AnimalFeed would reduce the #methane produced by #ruminants by more than 60%. Excellent news for mitigating #ghgemissions. Click To Tweet

At the head of the innovative discovery is a company, Locus Agricultural Solutions, dealing with the supply of biotechnological products with low environmental impact, which recently invested in developing feed additives to reduce the amount of methane gas emitted in the atmosphere by ruminants. After spotting various mixes of probiotic strains from animal feeds capable of counteracting cattle-related methane development, the test is ongoing in the labs of the University of California, Davis, with field trials set for early next year. If the latter confirmed the in vitro test results, it would be a real breakthrough in the fight against methane emissions.

Methane is released from ruminants either through discharging or belching. It is necessary to eliminate gases that naturally form in significant quantities during bacterial fermentation in the animal digestion process and through methane and nitrous oxide emissions released during their ejections’ fermentation process.

It is no coincidence that how to act on animal nutrition to reduce methane has been studying for some time. What is new is that percentages capable of making the difference have been reached this time if these feeds added with ad hoc probiotics were used for farms all over the world.

In technical jargon, we talk about Direct Fed Microbials (DFM) – probiotics – practically live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate quantities (otherwise there is a risk of fatally altering the pH and therefore causing acidosis in animals), have benefits for animals’ health. In this case, the selected strains would mitigate the climate-changing gas emissions of ruminants, stimulate higher milk production, and improve the gut microbiome. How? By acting through competitive inhibition in the cow’s stomach, methanogens (the methane-producing microorganisms) are overwhelmed by probiotic bacteria.

Therefore, the objectives of marketing and the distribution of these foodstuffs seem, in theory, practicable. Firstly, dose tests are being carried out to identify the most effective quantities to be added to feed. Secondly, the price is competitive, so there will be no cost issues. Their safety is guaranteed by the AAFCO Association, which develops rules and regulations for the production, distribution, and sale of animal feed. Finally, microbiotic additives are very stable and can be administered as pellets or in dry powder to be added to drinking water or feed.

It only remains to wait for the field test data, considering that the preliminary tests carried out in the laboratory until now give good hope.

Giornalista ed eco blogger, da sempre si occupa di temi legati alla sostenibilità ambientale e al food. Scrive per testate giornalistiche sia cartacee sia online e per blog aziendali. È laureata in Sociologia, con indirizzo Territorio e ambiente, all'università La Sapienza di Roma.