Project Clean Cow

A project to reduce methane emissions from cattle is starting this fall in southern Alberta.

Feedlot cattle will receive a feed additive developed by the Dutch life sciences company Royal DSM to assess whether the product with the enzyme inhibitor 3 Nitrooxypropanol can reduce emissions.

The company has been testing the product for nearly 10 years and in smaller trials learned it reduces gas from burps and increases feed efficiency.

“It is a double whammy where you are losing less of the feed energy and converting it into muscle and milk,” said Karen Haugen-Kozyra, president of Viresco Solutions, an agricultural sustainability company in Alberta involved in the initiative, called Project Clean Cow.

Royal DSM found the product could reduce methane eruptions by more than 30 percent.

It approached Viresco looking to expand the research because it knew Alberta funds these kinds of projects through Emissions Reduction Alberta.

“They are interested in testing this in Alberta, given that we have a carbon price that is the highest anywhere at $30 a tonne for carbon credits,” said Haugen-Kozyra.

The test feedlot has about 18,000 head on feed, and pens of animals will be designated for the research, making it one of the largest trials ever done. It should be completed by the end of 2018.

“We are about to embark on a large-scale field trial that will demonstrate the field viability of feeding this compound in backgrounding and finishing operations,” she said.

The cattle will receive flaked corn, flaked barley and standard barley feedlot rations. Traits like animal performance, health and carcass quality will also be assessed to see if there is an effect from the additive.

Agriculture Canada researcher Karen Beauchemin is part of the trial. She has already conducted research testing the efficacy of 3-nitrooxypropanol in reducing enteric methane emissions when added to the diet of beef cattle.

The study results, which were published in 2014, also looked at diet digestibility, rumen fermentation and rumen micro-organisms. The conclusion was that the product reduced emissions without affecting diet digestibility.

Cows have complex stomachs full of micro-organisms that break down feed. As they work, rumen flora may produce methane that is released mostly as burps.

Grant money has come from the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association and Emissions Reduction Alberta, which funds projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Last year it launched a $40 million methane challenge to develop technologies to address methane detection and reduction.

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