Reduce Methane Emissions
Develop and implement new breeding, feeding and management strategies to minimise the losses of methane from animals and slurries.
Immediate actions include:
The generation of specific enteric methane emission factors for Irish grass-based systems; evaluation of feed additives and inhibitors; earlier slaughter of prime beef cattle; breeding lower enteric emitting animals; reducing methane emissions from slurry.
What is Methane (CH4)?
Methane is a colourless, odourless gas occurring abundantly in nature and as a product of certain human activities. Its chemical formula is CH4. Globally, it is the second most important greenhouse gas (GHG). Its contribution to global warming is estimated at 28 times that of carbon dioxide, over a 100 year period. Once produced, methane persists in the atmosphere for around 12 years after which it is eventually broken down into carbon dioxide and water.
Methane and Agriculture
Ruminant livestock have a unique ability to convert grass into high quality sources of dairy and meat protein for human consumption. In the rumen or forestomach of ruminant livestock there is a microbial ecosystem with bacteria, archaea, protozoa and fungi, collectively known as the rumen microbiome. This microbial ecosystem allows ruminant livestock to obtain nutrition from plant matter. Biogenic methane is a natural by product of this process, it is commonly known as enteric methane. It is estimated that 90-95% of enteric methane is expelled from the rumen in the breath of the animal (eructation) with the remainder a product of flatulence.
What are the Solutions?
- Animal breeding - breed animals which emit less methane; this is a long term strategy
- Dietary supplementation/management - feeding of methane reducing supplements
- Improved animal health – a healthy animal will be more productive during its lifetime
- Lifetime performance/age at slaughter – slaughtering prime beef animals at a younger age will reduce the volume of methane produced over the animal’s lifetime.