Science tells us that climate change is real, science has guided the setting of emissions reductions from agriculture – and science can help us achieve those cuts.
We have already introduced proprietary urea fertilisers, low emission manure spreading and increased use of clover, as well as genotyping and maximizing genetic gain in our herd – and now we are the first commercial farm in Ireland to use methane reducing feed additives.
Bovaer works by suppressing the enzyme that triggers methane production in the cow’s digestive system. It acts immediately and is safely broken down into compounds already naturally present in the cow’s stomach.
It has been scientifically proven not to affect milk quality.
When fed under the right conditions, it delivers a 30 percent methane reduction.
In partnership with Dairygold, to whom we supply milk, we recently received a range of Bovaer to try out with some of our dairy herd – including three of our show teams at the National Dairy Show.
We feed the additive a diet consisting of grass silage, straw, a grain mix and an alternative non-soy protein source.
All of the feed is analyzed and the diet adjusted to a feed intake of 24 kg DM/hd/day. Cows fed with the additive have access to the feed mixture 24 hours a day.
We intend to increase the number of animals fed this diet as we continue to house cows in the coming weeks.
Before I decided on the product, I did a little research.
The company behind Bovaer is DSM (Dutch State Mines), the world’s largest producer of vitamins for humans and animals with annual sales of over EUR 9 billion.
In 2008, DSM assembled the Clean Cow team of scientists tasked with developing a methane-reducing feed additive, and within two years internal trials on sheep showed the product reduced enteric-coated methane.
By 2012, positive results had been confirmed in dairy and beef cattle.
Registration trials began in 2015, marketing authorization was submitted in 2019 and in February this year the product received the European Food Safety Authority and EU approval for use in lactating dairy cows, including pregnant heifers, and reproductive cows.
The additive has 54 peer-reviewed papers from Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands showing methane reductions of 30 percent on average.
Bovaer is fed worldwide. A study of 20 cattle funded by Meat and Livestock Australia found methane emissions reduced by 60-90 per cent, and Australia’s largest supermarket chain Coles is conducting a trial of 9,800 cattle.
Dutch milk processor Friesland Campina has started a trial feeding the additive to 200 supplier farms – over 20,000 cows.
Dairy suppliers to Danone, the flagship brand Actimel in Belgium, have started feeding the additive.
Dairy cooperative Arla has launched a large-scale on-farm pilot program, feeding Bovaer to 10,000 cows on more than 20 farms in Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Livestock in Brazil and Chile are also fed with the additive.
When we go to the National Dairy Show in Millstreet three of our show teams were part of the group of cows that are fed the additive on the farm and as these cows compete in the show ring so does DSM and they have since adopted Bovaer the National Dairy Innovation Awards. It makes us a little proud when we see these animals walking into the show ring knowing that we have fed them in a way that they produce 30% less methane and also gives us a chance to tell the public that we as Dairy farmers are willing to tackle agricultural emissions. Going green comes at a cost to farmers: we pay around €7 per cow per month, which will decrease as Bovaer is rolled out globally.
From today’s perspective, this emission reduction is not credited to us.
That’s a recurring question: Who bears the long-term cost of reducing emissions? For example, this week I rated a diesel van versus an electric van, and the latter costs €10,000 more. The manufacturer or retailer does not bear the additional costs for me to look for a more environmentally friendly means of transport.
So, as a dairy farmer, should I bear the cost of producing greener food?
The cost could be passed on to the consumer, but the price of groceries is already a challenge in the subsistence crisis.
In the long term, if it is for the good of the people, the EU, the Irish government or the taxpayer should bear the cost.
More needs to be done and is being done on these additives.
Teagasc is working hard on trials to obtain peer reviewed data from Irish dairy systems. The speed of this scientific research is beyond anything we have seen before.
With the current product we will not be able to achieve a 30% methane reduction across our entire herd, but we are doing it across a portion of our herd and many more Irish dairy farms could do the same.
However, scientists are confident that within 2-3 years we will be able to achieve that 30 percent methane reduction across our entire dairy herd. Surely the reductions achieved in the meantime are a positive step for climate change?
DII calls on the EU to fund the introduction of new technologies
The introduction of methane-reducing feed additives is being welcomed across agriculture.
Conor Mulvihill, Director of Dairy Industry Ireland, said: “We are making every effort to implement changes that improve measured environmental performance for Irish dairy across a range of metrics.
“Hopefully, once peer-reviewed science is accepted, the science will be quickly integrated into the Irish registers.
“There is now a great opportunity for EU and Irish dairies to become world leaders in this field.
“Currently, the technology works best with indoor systems, but I am confident that our academic community and Teagasc will find solutions to ensure our world-leading grass-fed systems are protected and able to benefit.
“However, I would like to emphasize that the technology does not bring any commercial benefit to either the farmer or the industry – the benefit lies in the national emission inventories.
“Therefore, DII calls for public support at EU level for the deployment of this technology as it is clearly a public good.”
Dairygold Co-op added: “It is very encouraging to see farmers embracing new technologies that have the potential to create a more sustainable platform for Ireland’s agricultural sector.
“We look forward to the impact Bovaer will have on the Hynes farm and the research ongoing nationally to see if the technology can be effectively applied to pasture-based herds.
“It has the potential to be an effective emissions reduction measure that could complement the wide array of other initiatives being implemented across our milk supply base.”
Teagasc’s Laurence Shalloo said: “It is likely that the greatest gains that can be made at the farm level in reducing enteric-coated methane will come from a better understanding of enteric-coated methane production and its relationship to a range of grassland parameters.
“For dairy cows on pasture, feed additives could play a role if they provide consistent reductions in enteric-coated methane throughout the day, can be fed via automated feeders in the milking parlour, and these reductions are accepted as proven technologies for inclusion in the national registries and that there is a mechanism to encourage/recognize the farmer for using them.”
Speaking at the start of the National Dairy Show in Millstreet, Co Cork, IHFA CEO Laurence Feeny said: “Irish dairy farmers have always been ready to embrace new science when it comes to grassland, AI, genomics and more.
“I have no doubt that better breeding will go a long way, but methane-reducing feed additives have the potential to kick-start this process and make rapid progress.
It’s fantastic to see purebred herds taking the lead and ready to showcase these products to the public so people can see the progress in real time.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/forestry-enviro/why-i-became-the-first-farmer-in-ireland-to-feed-a-methane-reducing-additive-42084561.html Why I became the first farmer in Ireland to feed a methane reducing additive