Consultation launched on cutting methane emissions from livestock

25th August 2022

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Chris Seekings

The UK government has launched a consultation to collect views on how using new animal feed products can reduce methane emissions from livestock.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs explained how feed products with methane-inhibiting properties have shown potential in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially from housed cattle. 

These products may include ingredients like methane production inhibitors, seaweeds, essential oils, organic acids, probiotics, and antimicrobials.

The government is now seeking views from the agricultural industry, scientists and the wider public to consider the role of feed additives within farming systems, and the potential barriers that could prevent the introduction of methane-suppressing feed products.

“We’ve set out ambitious targets to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and it’s right to consider how we can help farmers produce food sustainably and reduce emissions from agriculture further,” farming minister, Victoria Prentis, said.

“Through this call for evidence we’ll better understand the promising role emerging feed additive technologies for cattle could play and how government can help drive its development.”

The consultation has been launched in agreement with the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

It comes after government research found that agricultural greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 16% between 1990 and 2020 thanks to innovation and advances in technology, with many farms using more efficient agricultural practices.

Government emissions and production statistics also suggest that, since 1990, the UK is producing a litre of milk with 21% less GHG emissions. Moreover, efficiency gains in dairy farming mean that 11% more milk is now being produced than in 2000, with 24% fewer cows.

Scotland’s cabinet secretary for rural affairs and islands, Mairi Gougeon, said: “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and therefore methane reducing feed additives have the potential to be a crucial part of the solutions that the agriculture sector needs to deploy towards achieving our climate ambitions.

“That is why I welcome this four nations effort to improve our understanding of the use of this innovative new technology in the sector, which will inform each government’s approach to future policy-making in this area.

“I would encourage the Scottish farming community to respond to the call for evidence and make their views known.”

The consultation closes on 15 Nov 2022.

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