A cattle feed additive has been found to cut bovine methane production by 30%, without affecting the health of the animal.
In addition, the study claimed that meat production becomes more efficient as cattle fed the additive do not waste extra energy producing methane.
The new research was published this week in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences.
It found the chemical compound 3-NOP (3-nitrooxypropanol), now has a similar methane-reducing affect on cattle as it’s been proven to have on sheep, when added to feed.
The study found 3-NOP affects methane-producing microorganisms, but not the bacteria that assist bovine digestion.
Cows, sheep, and goats emit methane, contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.
The methane is produced by microorganisms in the digestive system and can contribute to the loss of up to 12% of the energy contained in feedstock.
3-NOP could be developed into a feed supplement to reduce methane emissions, according to the authors of the report.
Cattle are the largest producers of methane emitted by animals, contributing to around 25% of all methane produced.
It is reported that methane can be about 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. Aside from animal waste, it can be found in landfills and coal mines.
According to some scientific sources, cattle can produce the methane equivalent of four tonnes of CO2 per year.
“Until now, no-one had described the action of a compound which can reduce by 30% methane production without any risks to the animal’s health, or productivity,” David Yáñez of the Spanish National Research Council is reported as saying.
“We will see an increase in the efficiency of ruminant [that is, cow, sheep and goats] production systems as better use is made of the energy in animal feed, given that methane production accounts for a loss of up to 12% of the energy an animal ingests.”