Here at EFI, investigating specialty feed ingredients that can contribute to lowering methane production among dairy cows is part and parcel of what we do. Reducing methane emissions is a worthwhile goal in the cow-cattle feed industry. That goal might be easier to achieve in the future, thanks to a $5 million USDA grant designed to fund the study of methane-reducing feed additives.

Grant money will go to three land-grant universities: the University of Florida, Clemson University, and Auburn University. Researchers from all three institutions will collaborate on developing additives that, when added to cow-cattle feed, should reduce methane emissions by way of better rumen management.

A Common Problem Among Ruminants

What the researchers learn during their study could ultimately end up benefiting more than just dairy farmers. That is because excess methane production is a common problem among most ruminants. The primary goal is to control methane emissions among grass-fed cattle, goats, sheep, etc.

One particular form of methane is especially problematic. It is known as enteric methane. Enteric methane is produced when ruminants ferment forage prior to full digestion. It is expelled in the atmosphere when the animals belch.

Nature has designed rumination to help animals that possess this ability to better process their food. Without rumination, much of the nutritional value found in grasses and production feeds would be lost. Even so, we don’t want excess enteric methane escaping into the atmosphere. So, how can we control it?

What the Researchers Will Be Working On

Researchers at the three universities will not be developing new types of feed. They won’t even be attempting to create specialty feed ingredients. For them, it is all about feed additives. Think of it in terms of nutritional supplements for human beings.

Their goal is to optimize rumination through microbiome management. There are microorganisms within a cow’s rumen (the first compartment in a cow’s stomach) that promote fermentation. Theoretically, the microorganisms can be controlled while still maximizing rumination and minimizing methane production. Researchers will start with what they know about the microorganisms to research novel additives for managing them better.

Once additives are successfully developed and evaluated, the plan is to begin introducing them to cow-cattle feed. Along the way, some of the study participants will also learn about emerging technologies that are likely to make their way into commercial food production.

Better Animal Nutrition

Researchers will partner with Cooperative Extension Service professionals to share and disseminate knowledge. They hope to keep feed producers apprised of what they learn in terms of both additive development and new technologies. Ultimately, the partnership should lead to better animal nutrition that means better things at multiple levels.

Here at EFI, we are looking forward to the study’s eventual results. There is always room for improvement in the cow-cattle feed industry. Between specialty feed ingredients and methane-reducing additives, there is plenty we can do to improve nutritional value while simultaneously combating methane emissions.

In the meantime, we will continue to do what we have always done. The EFI team is committed to remaining a world leader in bypass fat and specialty feed ingredients – as we have been since 1972. Our ongoing research and development is combined daily with 50 years of industry experience and innovation for the benefit of dairy farmers and cattle ranchers across the country.

Reducing methane emissions is a worthwhile goal. It is one we pursue ourselves. As we do, however, we want to ensure that we are always producing the best feeds for our customers. When we maintain the highest quality, our customers and their animals are the main beneficiaries.