A Dutch company is seeking EU authorisation for a feed additive for dairy cows to reduce their methane emissions by around 30%.
The additive has been scientifically proven in 26 peer-reviewed studies globally.
Just a quarter teaspoon of the additive per cow per day suppresses the enzyme that triggers methane production in a cow’s stomach.
Upon feeding, the additive takes effect immediately.
After suppressing methane production in the stomach, it is broken down into compounds already naturally present in the cow’s stomach.
The active ingredient of the new product is 3-nitrooxypropanol (3-NOP).
However, the jury is out on how well it will work in pasture-based milk production.
Dairy herds confined indoors (which is the norm in most milk-producing countries) can take in some of the 3-NOP every time they help themselves to feed, but it is hard to see how that could be managed for herds — like Ireland’s, or New Zealand’s — which take in more than 85% of their feed as grass in one form or the other.
Ominously, Christoph Goppelsroeder, Chief Executive Officer and President of DSM Nutritional Products, has revealed the company faces a regulatory hurdle in bringing 3-NOP to market in New Zealand.
The problem there is that there isn’t even a category for such a product in New Zealand’s system for registering such products.
Methane is a natural by-product of digestion in cows and other ruminants, the majority of which is released into the atmosphere through burping and breathing, and it is responsible for more than half of the cow’s carbon footprint.
Like carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change.
Methane is a short-lived, but much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Reducing global methane emissions could therefore help lower the rate of global warming in the near term, helping society stay within the 1.5-2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise indicated in the Paris Climate Agreement, while society moves to net zero carbon emissions.
The feed additive is a result of the Royal DSM company’s Project Clean Cow, a decade-long journey of research and development.
It is said to the most extensively studied and scientifically proven solution to the challenge of burped methane to date.
“We’re excited to start registration in Europe,” said Mark van Nieuwland of DSM.
“This is an important milestone.
“Because of its global warming potency, mitigating methane emissions will be a powerful lever for the dairy sector to take action on the climate emergency.”
DSM’s feed additive will be available in Europe as soon as EU authorisation is granted, with a launch in the region anticipated late in 2020 or early in 2021.
Registrations in other regions will follow.
Royal DSM is a global science-based company active in health, nutrition and sustainable living. It is active in human and animal nutrition, personal care and aroma, medical devices, green products and applications, and mobility and connectivity.
DSM and its associated companies have annual net sales of about €10 billion, with approximately 23,000 employees.
The market potential of 3-NOP could be as high as $2 billion per year.
It will compete with a host of other methane-reducing additives including flax seeds, linseeds, seaweed, and a blend of garlic and citrus extracts.
3-NOP has the claimed extra advantage if reducing feed costs by 3-5%.
This occurs because about 10% of a cow’s energy is consumed in generating methane, so the body weight gain of 3-NOP-treated cows was 80% greater than control cows during some trials.
Pennsylvania State University researchers in the US have been involved in the development of the 3-NOP product.
In one of the trials at the University, it reduced methane emissions by 30% in 48 Holstein dairy cows over a 12-week period.
Researchers at Penn State say farms — and particularly dairy farms — can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by adopting a few beneficial management practices.
They say changes in feeding, storing or processing manure, and cultivating crops, are the best options, including no-till farming, sealed flare storage for manure, and high feed efficiency that can reduce cow belches.
They have calculated farms can reduce methane emissions by 43-53%, nitrous oxide by 4-56%, and carbon dioxide by 10-20%, per hectare.
They projected farmers worldwide setting targets to adopt practices to reduce their greenhouse gases by just 25% in 30 years, and calculated they could reduce overall warming by 0.21 degrees Celsius, or 6% of projected total warming.