In the last of three ABP-sponsored sustainable beef podcasts, farmer and TV presenter Adam Henson investigates the potential for beef farmers to improve the sustainability of their businesses.

Significantly, he found that beef farmers are already doing a lot to this end and that science has a lot more to offer when it comes to improving the livestock sector’s sustainability credentials across the board.

Henson spoke initially to Reading University’s Professor Chris Reynolds, who has been working with ABP to develop ways of reducing methane reduction levels on beef farms.

According to the renowned ruminant nutritionist, it is feasible to significantly reduce the environmental impacts created by both dairy and beef cattle.

“We now have large data base of methane emissions from animals and how this is impacted by what they eat,” he said.

“Information gather, where nitrogen excretion is concerned, is allowing us to develop systems within which protein is utilised more efficiently by cattle.

“The work we are doing with ABP is investigating the impact of various dietary strategies on the carbon footprint of beef farms.”


Reynolds has investigated the use of specific supplements in growing beef-cattle diets and their impact on subsequent methane reduction levels.

Seaweed is a case in point. The Reading-based academic gave a broad indication that the use of bespoke supplements may well play a part in delivering a lower carbon footprint for livestock farmers into the future.

“We need good evidence to back up the claims that are made for these supplements. There are a lot of products already on the market,” he said.

“We need to a system that delivers verification for these nutritional supplements, particularly when we move into a situation which sees a lot of carbon trading taking place.

“Already in Australia, a carbon trading system is up and running which recognises carbon credits for those farmers feeding nitrate, as opposed to urea to their cattle.

“Nitrate is already recognised as an effective nutritional supplement, which acts to reduce methane production levels.

“But irrespective of what steps beef farmers take to reduce the carbon footprint of their business, an agreed process must be in place to verify the claims that have been made.”

Meanwhile ABP, in its own right, is committing significant resources to its Zero Emissions Livestock Project (ZELP), which is centred at the company’s Bromstead Farm, near Newport in Shropshire, England.

This work has included the fitting of bespoke ZELP harnesses to cattle, which act to reduce methane emission levels.

Farm manager Andrew Macleod spoke to Chris Henson, reflecting on the work carried out to identify how every aspect of management and nutrition impacts on the environmental impact created by individual animals.

“ZELP entails putting a head collar on to an animal. It then captures the methane eruptions coming out from the rumen,” Macleod explained.

“Step one involves getting the animals used to the halter. After that it’s a case of hooking up the new technology.

“All of this is quite time-consuming, as we are dealing with cattle in a truly commercial environment.”

“Groups of farmers may utilise the ZELP collars, simply to give us a base line in terms of where we are with regard to ruminant methane emission levels.

“It’s all about gathering data, which accurately reflects the impact of various feeding systems on actual methane production levels.”