European dairy giant Arla Foods is collaborating with Dutch bioscience company Royal DSM to start its large-scale on-farm pilot of Bovaer, a feed additive that can reduce methane emissions from cows.
A decade of research and on-farm trials in 14 countries has shown the feed additive can cut methane emissions by 30%. The feed has been proven to be safe for animals and consumers.
The feed additive will be trialled on 10,000 dairy cows across more than 50 farms in Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
Traditional feed causes cows to release methane gas, which has a negative impact on the environment. Around 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions from Arla Foods farms are of bovine origin.
Bovaer restrains the enzyme that typically causes methane to be released in a cow’s digestive tract. The feed then breaks down into compounds which already exist naturally in the animal’s stomach, but crucially does not impact the taste or quality of the cow’s milk, according to Arla Foods.
Executive Vice President and Head of Agriculture and Sustainability at Arla Foods, Hanne Søndergaard said: “Climate change requires urgent action, and we believe that dairy is part of the solution. The results from our initial trials with Bovaer at both a research facility and one of our Danish farms are very promising.
“Together with DSM, we are now gaining practical on-farm experience by applying the feed additive in one of its largest pilot progammes to date, and one of Arla’s biggest climate projects over-all, with 10,000 cows. This is a great example of innovative scientific solutions and actions we are taking to create a sustainable and resilient future for dairy and I am excited to see how far this will take us”.
On-farm trials will take place across summer and autumn 2022. Arla Foods will collect milk samples from farmers throughout the pilot, and analyse them in comparison to the milk produced from cows which haven’t consumed Bovaer.
If the findings from the analysis are successful, the company will expand their trial of the feed additive to 20,000 cows in 2023.
Bovaer is currently available in the EU, Australia, Chile and Brazil.
Mark van Nieuwland, Vice President of Bovaer at DSM said: “Leaders of more than 100 countries recognize the urgency of cutting methane emissions as they pledged to make a difference at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, a few months ago. The recent IPCC report on the impact of climate change tells us there’s no time to lose when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Transforming livestock farming will be key to this and forward-thinking companies like Arla Foods are already working hard on sustainable dairy. Through our scientific innovation and collaboration, we can help achieve a sizeable reduction in emissions by changing the feed that animals eat every day and in doing so, support the health of animals, people and planet”.
Arla Foods’ farmers currently produce an average CO2 emission level of 1.15kg per kg of raw milk, which the company claims makes them some of the most climate friendly dairy producers globally.
There are a growing number of methane reducing feed additives appearing on the market besides Bovaer. Mootral, created by the British-Swiss agritech company of the same name, is an additive made from garlic and citrus extracts. It has been proven to cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40%.
Red seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiformis) has also been said to reduce methane by over 90% when cows consumed a daily seaweed supplement, according to Hawaii-based company Symbrosia and Future Feed in Australia, who have both tested out the seaweed in their own trials. One downside of alternatives like red seaweed however is price. It currently costs around $1.60 a day per cow, which is too much for many farmers to afford.