As the dairy industry has worked to improve milk yields and quality over the years, we have also learned a ton about bypass fats and their influence on both. Along the way, we have also looked at how animal feeds with bypass fats impact methane emissions. The correlation is an interesting one.

We take no official position on methane emissions except to say that our feeds can help reduce them. We think that this is important due to the greater global effort to reduce greenhouse gases. If our feeds can help contribute to lower levels of methane in the atmosphere, we are happy to contribute in that way.

Research Backs Up the Idea

Compared to some other areas of scientific research, the role bypass fats play in reducing methane emissions in cattle hasn’t gotten a lot of scientific scrutiny. But the research we have to date certainly backs up the idea. One particular study published in 2011 lays out all the details. The study covers a wide range of bypass fats and their individual contributions to methane emission reduction.

Unfortunately, we still don’t know the total impact bypass fats have on methane production. Research suggests that bypass fat supplementation can reduce methane emissions anywhere from 5% to as high as 40%. Still, we need a lot more research to confirm those numbers. As for the mechanism behind it, it also requires more study.

Possible Explanations

Much of what we know about bypass fats is related to their molecular composition and chemistry. We are still learning how they interact with animal digestion, particularly where ruminants are concerned. Our industry is especially curious about ruminants because they produce excessively large amounts of methane compared to other types of animals.

With that said, possible explanations for why bypass fats might contribute to methane reduction include:

1. Reduced Rumen Function

Ruminants have a special section of the stomach dedicated to feed fermentation. Likewise, it is believed that the fermentation process contributes to methane production in several different ways. Bypass fats, by their nature, are not rumen degradable. They pass through largely intact.

As the thinking goes, bypass fats do not engage rumen microbes. Less active microbes produce less fermentation which, in turn, reduces methane production.

2. Changing the Rumen Environment

Another possibility is that bypass fats actually change the rumen environment. We know that PUFA-rich bypass fats can affect the microbial profile within the rumen. Perhaps this leads to more bacteria that either doesn’t produce methane or produces less of it.

3. An Alternative Energy Source

Because bypass fats pass through the rumen without breaking down, they provide a more direct energy source readily absorbed by the intestines. Some research suggests that a diet rich in bypass fats leads to less reliance on rumen fermentation for energy. This further suggests less rumen activity, which ultimately leads to less methane.

Still Much More to Learn

It should be noted that the effectiveness of a particular kind of feed can be influenced by a variety of factors. Everything from fat volume to total dietary composition can affect how bypass fats influence methane production. Needless to say that we still have a lot more to learn here.

We look forward to future research into bypass fats and methane reduction. What we know thus far is encouraging. Feeds rich in bypass fats do appear to reduce cattle methane emissions. If that is something you are concerned about as a dairy farmer, you will be happy to know that our feeds can help. Do not be afraid to contact us if you have more questions about our feeds.