Diet of oats could cut cows’ gas emissions, Defra research shows
30th March 2011
Feeding cows and other farm animals more oats and other foods such as maize and rapeseed, could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by up to 33 per cent, latest Government research has found.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(Defra) study looked at how changing the diet of cows, sheep and goats
could help fight climate change by reducing the amount of methane gas
they produce. It found that foods such as maize silage, naked oats, rapeseed and higher sugar grasses could reduce their GHG emissions significantly.
Farming accounts for 41 per cent of the UK’s overall methane emissions and about nine per cent of all UK GHG emissions. Half of this comes from sheep, cows and goats.
"We are committed to supporting the farming industry as it faces the challenge of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. It is very exciting that this new research has discovered that by simply changing the way we feed farm animals we have the potential to make a big difference to the environment," said Agriculture Minister Jim Paice.
The research was conducted by Reading University and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS). In a short-term trial, it found that methane emissions could be reduced by 33 per cent in sheep that were fed naked oats, while crushed rapeseed could reduce methane production from dairy cows by 20 per cent per litre of milk produced. Additionally, it found that high-sugar grasses could reduce an animal’s methane emissions by 20 per cent for every kilo of weight gain, while increasing the proportion of maize silage from 25 to 75 per cent could reduce methane emission per kilogramme milk by six percent.
While the study is considered something of a break-through in helping farmers’ cut their contribution to climate change, Defra said the benefits of the new diets would need to be weighed up against other environmental impacts as well as how practical or costly they are for the farming industry to implement.
Like this story? Please subscribe to our free weekly e-newsletter at the top of the page for more stories like this.