4 Jul 2012

New livestock methane reduction measures being developed

3:06 pm on 4 July 2012

A dairy industry scientist says farmers may have access to some new solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock within five years.

The Government has confirmed that emissions from farm animals will be excluded from the Emissions Trading Scheme until at least 2015.

One of the reasons for that is the lack of practical and affordable measures available to farmers for reducing them.

At present, nitrification inhibitors that can be applied to pasture to reduce nitrous oxide emissions, but there are few other solutions.

The agricultural sector is spending millions of dollars a year on research to find solutions for the main agricultural greenhouse gas, methane, emitted by livestock.

Most of that research is under the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.

Industry body Dairy NZ is among the contributors. Its strategy and investment leader for sustainability, Dr Rick Pridmore, says one of the methane reduction treatments that could be available within five years is a vaccine.

Dr Pridmore says scientists are also working on a drench that would target the methane-producing microbes in livestock.

He says the dairy industry is making progress with the animal breeding approach; breeding cows that effectively reduce gas emissions by producing more milk with the same amount of feed.

Scientists are also identifying and breeding animals that naturally produce less methane, while farmers are changing systems to reduce emissions.