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DEFRA to incentivise the uptake of methane-suppressing livestock feed

According to Our World in Data, the 1.5 billion cattle which are raised specifically for meat production around the world emit at least 231 billion pounds of methane over the course of a year, and troublingly, methane has 80 times the warming power of CO2 during its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

The agricultural sector in the UK accounted for 10% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 and cows and sheep are particularly responsible. However, research has provided evidence that some feed products are capable of reduce the amount of methane emitted by the animals (which they do primarily through ‘burping’), particularly in the case of confined cattle.

black and white cow on green grass field during daytime

In August of last year the government, via DEFRA, issued a call for evidence to help them understand more about livestock feed products that can reduce methane emissions.

In January it was announced that 213 responses had been received – 52% of which were from farmers, 31% from organisations and 17% from other individuals – and they were being considered.

Following the consideration of those responses, DEFRA have announced that they are committing themselves to working with the industry to help introduce the use of  methane-suppressing feed products in England.

Nearly a quarter of the farmers who responded (23%) were not aware of methane-suppressing feed and 74% said they had no plans to trial it. Those who came out against the idea cited the cost, naturalness, and potential impact of these products on animal welfare.

Less than half the farmers (44%) replied ‘Yes’ or ‘Maybe’ to the question: ‘Do you think consumers would be willing to purchase meat or dairy products produced by cattle and sheep which are regularly fed methane suppressing feed products?’

Following the call for evidence – which was run jointly with the Devolved Governments – Defra has confirmed it will work closely with industry and farmers to encourage the widespread adoption of methane-suppressing feed in England. 

Defra’s ultimate objective is to establish a mature market, encourage uptake and mandate the use of these products in appropriate cattle systems across England, as soon as feasibly possible and no later than 2030.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: ‘We are fully committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by 2050 and it is vital that we continue to explore ways to assist farmers in sustainable food production while also further reducing emissions from agriculture.

‘We will continue to work closely with industry to develop a mature market and mandate the use of safe and effective methane suppressing feed products in suitable cattle systems in England as soon as feasible.’

The Scottish government is ‘continuing to monitor the development, regulation and production of methane supressing feed products.’

The Welsh government is ‘committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by working with farmers and the industry to adapt to low carbon farming technologies, including the potential role of methane suppressing products.’

While, in Northern Ireland, ‘low carbon emission farming practices, including the use of feed additives to reduce enteric methane emissions, nitrogen and phosphorus outputs are to be progressed by collaborative industry research through a research challenge fund.’

 

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