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Methane Production: How can we reduce it?

08 July 2020
Type Media Article

Methane (CH4) is the second most important greenhouse gas (GHG) in terms of global warming. It is 28 times more potent to the environment than carbon dioxide (CO2). Agriculture accounts for 34% of Irish GHGs emissions, with CH4 responsible for nearly 60% of agri emissions.

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  • Ruminant livestock convert plant matter into high quality sources of dairy and meat protein for human consumption via the microbial ecosystem that exists in the rumen called the rumen microbiome.
  • The rumen microbiome consists of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and archaea which convert grass into an energy source for ruminants
  • BUT ……….. they also produce methane (CH4) as a by-product of fermentation.
  • CH4 is produced by a group of microbes called methanogens (archaea). CH4 is released into the atmosphere from the rumen via the animal’s breath or during the storage of manure and slurry.

In line with EU legislation, Ireland will need to decrease national GHGs emissions by 30% by the end of 2030. Reducing CH4 will be key to meeting our targets

How will we reduce it?

  1. Breeding initiatives – collaboration with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF)
  2. Additives for animal feed and slurry/manure
  3. Mixed species swards – addition of clover

METH-ABATE - Development of novel farm ready technologies to reduce methane emissions from pasture based Irish agricultural systems

(Funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM)






  • Will investigate feed additives to mitigate methane emissions while monitoring their effects on animal productivity.
  • 3-NOP, seaweeds, oils, halides
  • Encapsulation for slow release options at pasture
  • Nutritional and toxicological composition of meat and milk - to confirm consumer safety - no residues
  • Farm level cost effectiveness investigated through the National Farm Survey.

Reducing methane emissions enhances profitability

  • Methane production from ruminants is energetically wasteful - 2-12% loss in dietary energy
  • ICBF Tully data - negative correlation developing between methane yield and both the replacement and terminal indexes
  • Animals that have lower methane yield have a higher ranking on the replacement and terminal index.