As more farmers become aware of the claims that asparagopsis seaweed can drastically decrease ruminant-generated methane emissions, it is interesting to monitor the progress in Australia, where much of the early research was performed.
Eric Barker writes in AgCarbon Central that pressure is currently ramping up on the development of methane reducing feed additives as the Federal Government pledges to reduce its methane emissions by 30 percent in the next decade.
The non-binding pledge is for an “absolute reduction” in emissions, meaning methane emissions cannot be offset. Australia’s Federal Government is insisting that the livestock industry will not face any taxes or herd reducing measures and has described it as complimentary to the industry’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2030.
But the reliance on seaweed feed additives has been clear, with the Government committing $8 million to support the commercialization of Asparagopsis and $5 million to develop technologies to deliver low emission feed supplements to grazing animals.
With the 2030 deadline a little over seven years away, University of Melbourne professor Richard Eckard said significantly more funding was needed if there was to be widespread use of the supplement in grazing systems. He said the government investment should be more like $50 million.
Feedlots are emerging as the most eligible candidate for asparagopsis with commercial trials already underway. But Dr. Eckard said widespread use in feedlots would not be enough to achieve the 30% reduction. “If you can imagine a bar chart of where methane comes from, the biggest bar is the beef industry, the second biggest is the sheep industry, the third biggest is dairy — and feedlots don’t even show up.”
Meanwhile, the dairy industry has been one of the biggest opponents of the pledge, with Australian Dairy Farmers saying it is too early to bank on seaweed. But Dr. Eckard said it had the potential for using the feed additives effectively.
“Dairy accounts for about a third of Australia’s livestock emissions and farmers have the opportunity to feed cattle twice a day when they come in for milking,” he said. “The average dairy farmer could knock out half their methane emissions tomorrow if the incentive was there.”
Dr. Eckard points out that early life programming has massive potential, and it just needs funding. “That’s basically the notion that rumen behavior is a product of its upbringing. Whatever the calves inherit from their parents at the time of birth, through to weaning, seems to be the methane they produce for the rest of their lives. This is where the research needs to land.”
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