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Royal DSM feed ingredient reduces cattle methane emissions

erdinhasdemir/iStock/Thinkstock cattle in feedlot
Breakthrough trial reduces greenhouse gas emissions by close to 1,500 metric tons.

A 2-year, large-scale trial in beef cattle in Alberta, Canada has successfully demonstrated that a novel feed ingredient, developed by Royal DSM, can be included in commercial feedlot diets to reduce methane emissions by up to 80%, without negative effects on animal health and performance parameters and carcass characteristics. This was the largest and longest trial for methane reduction in beef to date. The trial alone already reduced Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 1,473 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). This is comparable to taking 500 cars off the road for a year.

The trial was conducted by a Canadian Research Consortium consisting of Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, Feedlot Health Management Services, Viresco Solutions, and DSM Nutritional Products, and with support from the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association. Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) committed $1.5 million to the $3 million project through its Methane Challenge. The project was recognized for having positive implications for the province due to the fact 70% of Canada’s cattle production happens in Alberta. With approximately 15,000 head of beef cattle included in the trial, it represents the largest single trial conducted on methane reduction technologies for ruminants.

The feed ingredient, developed by Royal DSM, has been proven to reduce enteric methane formation in ruminants by over 30% on average. The ingredient is scientifically called 3-NOP and is considered a breakthrough technology that inhibits methane formation in the rumen of cattle.

The trial demonstrated the commercial viability of feeding 3-NOP in backgrounding and finishing operations in Alberta’s beef cattle industry in a large-scale field trial. The project:

  • Evaluated the relative effects of feeding the product on methane reduction and feedlot performance, health and carcass quality outcomes in feedlot cattle fed typical North American finishing diets (corn and barley grain-based diets) as well as in a high forage, backgrounding diet.
  • Evaluated direct measurement techniques for methane emissions in a commercial beef feedlot where the product was used.
  • Demonstrated the use of the product in day-to-day practicalities of commercial feedlots.

Measurements indicated that on average 70% enteric methane emission reduction was found when the feed ingredient was provided in steam-flaked or dry-rolled barley finishing diets at 125 mg/kg of feed dry matter. In steam-flaked, corn-based finishing diets, a reduction in the range of 31-80% at the 125 mg/kg dosage of the feed ingredient was observed. Lastly, in backgrounding diets, increasing the dose of the feed ingredient stepwise from 150 to 200 mg/kg decreased the yield of methane by 17-26% compared with control animals. The trial successfully demonstrated that the ingredient can be included in commercial feedlot diets to reduce methane emissions, without negative effects on animal health and performance parameters and carcass characteristics.

The inclusion of the feed ingredient in the diets of cattle has resulted in real, permanent and quantifiable reductions of methane emissions and has broad applications across Alberta’s beef and dairy sector, and in feedlots globally.

“Alberta’s agricultural sector is a world leader in sustainable practices. The results of this trial highlight that further opportunities are on the horizon for beef and dairy producers to better manage methane from cattle,” said Steve MacDonald, chief executive officer of Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA). “ERA’s investments are accelerating the solutions that will deliver the improved economic and environmental outcomes Alberta and the world need.”

Project leader Karen Haugen-Kozyra of Viresco Solutions, commented “This trial is significant for two reasons: it demonstrates that compared to conventional feed mixes, the inclusion of 3-NOP in the diet mix for cattle has resulted in real, permanent, and quantifiable reductions of methane emissions (ranging from 31-80% in finishing diets). It therefore has broad application potential across Alberta’s beef and dairy sector, and further afield.”

She said researchers are particularly happy that the trial generated CO2e greenhouse gas reductions (GHG) of close to 1,500 metric tons, “clearly showing the impact this solution by DSM can have, especially when it is on the market and scaled up.”

Mark van Nieuwland, program director at DSM, said that demand for low carbon beef and dairy products is increasing globally. “We are, therefore, very proud that our methane reduction solution has proven to be highly effective at scale and with this level of impact.”

He continued, “This is the largest cattle trial DSM has ever contributed to with over 15,000 cattle tested. Our solution showcases well DSM’s purpose-led, performance driven strategy. We are very grateful also to ERA and the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association for their generous financial support to make this trial a reality and to deliver true impact for the planet’s future.”

DSM has filed the novel feed ingredient for commercial registration under the trade name Bovaer in various geographies.

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