CSIRO Australian technologies zero in on livestock methane emissions

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 26th August 2011

New technologies and techniques are enabling Australia’s leading agricultural scientists from CSIRO to track a reduction in the levels of livestock methane emissions and develop solutions for a more productive, profitable and greenhouse gas friendly beef industry.

The CSIRO research leader Dr Ed Charmley, has just announced that research conducted in the high-tech respiration chambers shows Australia’s northern beef herd is actually more ‘methane-friendly’ than previously thought.

“What we have found, through a large number of experiments is that Brahman cattle fed on a wide range of tropical grasses and legumes emit up to 30 per cent less methane than previously determined,” Dr Charmley  said.

“The laboratory chambers combined with field technologies such as the lasers are allowing us to zero in on the real level of emissions.

“These findings, while not changing the actual emissions, could have significant implications for calculating the emission footprint of the northern cattle industry.

Some of the techniques being developed in northern Australia will be important for calculating the amount of methane being released by livestock across Australia.

The work is part of CSIRO’s broader research programs on livestock production and emissions reduction in agriculture, helping to provide the scientific basis for decision-making and highlight possible opportunities for farmers and landholders under an emerging carbon market.

“It will be a difficult challenge in the short term to reduce the amount of methane coming out of the rumen or to develop methane-friendly cattle breeds, but there are some strong opportunities over the next few years to reduce methane emissions by improving productivity,” Dr Charmley said.

According to Dr Charmley, initiatives that improve productivity also tend to lower the quantity of methane released per kilogram of beef produced.