Laying the foundation for Ireland’s methane mitigation strategies
Ruminant livestock directly contribute an estimated 60% of Irish agriculture’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the production of methane.
As part of the EU funded projects RumenPredict and MASTER, members of Teagasc, UCD and ICBF are partnered in an effort to better understand the biological mechanisms associated with methane output.
Ruminant livestock directly contribute an estimated 60% of Irish agriculture’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the production of methane. Methane is produced as a natural end product of feed degradation by microbes in the rumen. As a GHG, methane is 28 times more potent to the environment than carbon dioxide. Therefore, decreasing the volume of methane produced by the Irish livestock industry will be key to adhering to the 2030 EU targets of a 30% reduction in Irish GHGs.
As part of the EU funded projects RumenPredict and MASTER, members of Teagasc, UCD and ICBF are partnered in an effort to better understand the biological mechanisms associated with methane output. Both projects aim to better understand the link between the composition of the rumen microbial ecosystem (rumen microbiome) and methane output.
To achieve the objectives of both projects, GreenFeed systems, the first of their kind in Ireland, have been installed at the ICBF progeny test centre in Tully Co. Kildare to estimate methane output from individual animals. A sample of rumen fluid is obtained from each animal to define the relationship between the composition of the rumen microbiome and methane output. Based on preliminary results to date, cattle in Tully are producing on average 236 grams of methane per day with microbial analysis currently underway Teagasc Grange.
Dietary composition is known to shape the composition of the rumen microbiome and alter methane output. Two studies coherent to this concept have been undertaken as part of RumenPredict. The composition of the methane producing microbial community (known as methanogens) has been shown to be altered in the rumen of dairy cows grazing white clover. Also, in a laboratory based experiment, concentrates formulated from by-products of the global food, oil and ethanol industries, in comparison to a cereal and soybean meal ration, have been shown to reduce methane output by over 20%. Both dietary investigations are examples of potential cost effective mitigation strategies.
This work has the potential to increase our understanding of the biological mechanism controlling methane production in ruminant animals. Furthermore, findings from these projects will provide the knowledge required for future targeted mitigation strategies to the benefit to Irish agriculture and national GHG reduction policy.
The GreenFeed System used for estimating methane output
Twitter: @PaulSmid94 @MASTER_IA_H2020 @RumenPredict
Paul Smith, Sinéad Waters, David Kenny, Alan Kelly, Stephen Conroy and Stuart Kirwan