Research from Teagasc has found “the most promising additive to date” for methane reduction in beef cattle is “the supplementation of calcium peroxide”.

According to the advisory body, this yields its most beneficial returns when used in a pellet format – as it is then resistant to pressure and temperature.

The additive must also be offered to livestock twice a day.

Findings from Teagasc’s Principal Research Officer, Sinead Waters, as well as Walsh scholar Emily Roskam, and Research Officer, Ben Lahart, have found that the additive has the potential “to yield a [methane] reduction of 28% with no effects on feed intake or animal productivity”.

Teagasc researchers in the TResearch winter 2023 edition, note that through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and funded GREENBREED projects in collaboration with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) – methane and performance data were collected, creating a final dataset of 1,600 beef cattle.

Animals were ranked as ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’ methane emitters. Beef cattle ranked as ‘low’, as they produce 30% less methane, but maintained the same level of animal performance (feed intake, growth rate, carcass output) as their ‘high’-emitting counterparts.

Data obtained from the research has contributed to the development of the world’s first genetic methane evaluations for beef cattle published by the ICBF, “which will need to be validated in future studies in grazing systems”, according to Teagasc.

Research is also ongoing regarding differing grazing management practices, and the incorporation of different plant species, such as clover in grazing swards on methane emissions.

Sheep given perennial ryegrass swards including clover (white or red), were found to rank lower for methane output.

Regarding feed additives, a series of indoor beef studies have been conducted with promising results:

  • The percentage methane reduction obtained from feeding linseed oil was 18%;
  • The percentage methane reduction obtained from feeding rapeseed oil was 9%;
  • The percentage methane reduction obtained from feeding a seaweed extract was 7%.

These feed additives were all fed to cattle in a twice-daily feeding regimen.

As part of the research, a feed supplement called Bovaer was assessed through a total mixed ration (TMR), resulting in beef cattle emitting 30% less methane.

The supplementation of Bovaer to dairy cattle within indoor settings demonstrated similar results, with a 26% reduction.

The research found that when Bovaer was given to cattle at pasture, a transient effect was demonstrated, resulting in a 6% reduction in methane.

The researchers emphasised that “further research” is required, “to develop long lasting and sustainable feed additives for beef and dairy grazing systems”.

“A major focus is the reformulation of promising feed additives into slow release formats, that can be incorporated into once-daily concentrate supplementation or a rumen bolus for long-lasting mitigation effects during grazing.”