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Cows in the UK could be fed methane suppressants to help reach net zero targets

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2 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Cows factory farming

Cows in the UK may be fed methane suppressants in the future to reduce carbon emissions, under the Government’s latest Net Zero Growth Plan.

The ‘high efficacy methane suppressing products’ are predicted to become available to the UK market from 2025, according to the Government.

The products will be introduced through a phased approach, which ‘will mandate the introduction of products with proven safety and efficacy in compound feeds for cattle as soon as practically possible in England’, the plan states.

Some existing methane suppressants include seaweeds, organic acids, essential oils such as garlic and citrus, methanogenesis inhibitors, antimicrobials and probiotics. The products are said to restrain the methane gas-producing enzymes in cattle as they digest feed and grass.

The Food Standards Agency will need to carry out a scrupulous risk assesment on any proposed methane suppressant prior to licensing it for use in feed, taking account of animal welfare, food safety risks, wider environmental and worker risks, as well as its general efficacy, according to the NFU.

No details were provided around whether farmers would receive financial support to use the suppressants, but Sky News has suggested they would come at an extra cost at a time when many farmers are already struggling with rising energy and feed prices.

According to its net zero strategy, the methane-reducing products will help the Government reach the Methane Action Plan target of a 50% reduction in methane emissions by 2030.

Recent national statistics show the agricultural sector produced 10% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. Data from the UK Atmospheric Emissions Inventory also suggests that methane was responsible for over half of agricultural emissions.

The news has been well received by UK farmers. “The evidence suggests these products could be useful,” Tom Bradshaw, Deputy President of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), told The Guardian in an interview.

Such products are currently being trialled but to what extent they work is yet to be seen, he added. “I don’t think we know enough yet about the impact they will have on the efficiency of the diet … but it’s something that we have to investigate to try and reduce methane emissions.”

The results of the Government’s consultation on methane suppressants which took place between August and November 2022 are yet to be published.

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