The Swiss company Agolin has developed feed additives which reduce methane emissions from cows, and methane is one of the key greenhouse gases. The company was founded in 2006 and uses botanical compounds in the additives. Michael Roe, Agolin’s Commercial Director, answered some questions for CleanTechnica.
Do your feed additives reduce both methane and CO2 generation from cow burps and flatulence?
Trials show our product Agolin Ruminant acts on methane-producing microbes, reducing methanogenesis and resulting in reduced levels of methane through eructation or “burps.”
Is the idea that farmers would mix your products into their cow food? Or could cow feed be made to have it already present?
Either option is possible, although generally it comes to the farmer through the feed they purchase from a feed mill or mineral premix company.
What incentives do farmers have to reduce methane and CO2 emissions?
Unfortunately, there are very few countries or dairy companies offering anything to farmers to reduce methane emissions from their cows, but this may be changing as the consumer seeks out products which are produced in a sustainable way. However, the use of our product in cows also improves feed efficiency, according to our trials and the Carbon Trust, so the farmer can benefit financially in this way.
Do your additives work on other animals too, like goats, sheep and pigs?
Agolin Ruminant has been shown to work in other ruminants like sheep. Monogastric animals such as pigs and poultry do not produce methane in the same quantity or way as ruminants. We also produce a range for these animals which improve feed efficiency, thereby reducing the need for inputs to achieve the same production.
What are your additives made of?
Our products are a specially formulated blend of plant-based ingredients, coming from wild carrot, coriander, and nutmeg for instance. These ingredients have been selected for their ability to have an effect on methane and production.
How did you figure out which additives reduce animal methane and CO2 production?
It was a long and detailed screening of plant active substances, also looking for synergies and cost-effective activity which led to the final product.
How much do you additives cost per cow per meal, or is it more accurate to say per 100 cows?
Cost to the farmer is about 3 cent (Euro) per adult cow per day.
How many farmers are currently using your products and on how many cows?
Presently, we are feeding the equivalent of around 1 million cows, but this is growing quickly. It is the equivalent of about 4% of all dairy cows in Europe.
How much methane and CO2 is not being generated because of your feed additives?
A cow produces about 110kgs of methane per year (400-600 liters per day). The Global Warming Potential (GWP of methane is about 25 times that of CO2, so the output of 1 million cows is about 2.6m tonnes of CO2–equivalent Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) each year. Agolin Ruminant can reduce this by about 10-15%, thereby saving at least 260,000 tonnes of CO2-eq each year at current numbers being fed our product.
Do you see a growing trend in farmers using methane and CO2 reducing feed additives?
Most definitely. A recent UN Report references the increasing problem of global temperature increase, which will be well in excess of the limits proposed at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015. Nations will need to act decisively now in order to address this issue and while there is no single solution to reducing CO2, the report suggests a “hail of silver bullets” might offer the best chance. We can be part of that.
Are more European or American farmers using these additives currently?
Europe is leading the way presently, but there is a growing interest and usage in North America and Asia.
Could it be possible in theory to be able to use feed additives to one day reduce methane and CO2 generation in cows to zero?
Unlikely in the short-term, but anything is possible in my view. A lot of investment and research is now going into this area and some interesting results are coming out. The questions are: Are they viable and cost-effective? Do they have any side effects on the animal or the environment? Do they offer a long-term solution and do they continue to work in the animal over long periods of time?
There are many questions like these to be answered by research going forward. Here at Agolin our research has shown that we can answer many of these questions. The Carbon Trust, a leading authority on sustainability in industry, has issued Agolin Ruminant with a Certificate of Achievement as a methane reducer and improver of feed efficiency in cattle and dairy cows. Also the Solar Impulse The Foundation for Efficient Solutions has endorsed our product. These independent accolades are a first in this area for methane reduction and offer further support in the use of Agolin Ruminant in cattle and dairy cows.
Image Credit: Robert Merkel, Wikipedia, Public domain
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