Earn more ‘green’ while cutting methane emissions


“Improving income levels of farmers and achieving a drastic reduction in emissions 

can go hand in hand.” 

-Wageningen University report

Launched in 2009, the Global Research Alliance (GRA) was formed with the mission to “bring countries together to find ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions” (GRA website). A team of scientists from 36 countries and six continents has established dozens of GRA-linked projects around the world.


18% of all human-activity greenhouse gases are produced by livestock farming worldwide. This equates to a total of 4.6 billion metric tons of methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide gases each year. One of the first things recognized by GRA researchers, farms that efficiently manage and feed their herds produce less of these gases.
Participating in GRA projects, farmers in the Netherlands reduced greenhouse emissions by 20% from 1990 to 2008 and expect an additional 10% reduction by 2020. The Dutch researchers’ first successful project revolved around the field and feed bunker. One of their conclusions was that young grass produces 15% less methane from the rumen than older grass. Corn silage was identified as being even better at reducing methane production. 
According to feed expert Professor Jan Dijkstra of Wageningen University, fine-tuning a herd’s diet has the potential to cut methane production in half. In fact, the Netherlands has successfully halved methane production and doubled average yield per cow through consistent improvements in dairy cow efficiency over the past 40 years.
Research indicates that improving poor quality feed increases output and income levels for farmers. The most influential efforts to reduce emissions are taking place in third world countries where most cattle consume low quality feed. Better managed grazing, silage making, and better calf care are currently being implemented in these countries.
In sum, research concludes that efficient feed and herd management not only cut greenhouse gas emissions, but also increase a farm’s bottom line.
Source: Norman Dunn. “Cutting dairy’s methane emissions also good for efficiency.” Better Farming. April 2012: 60-61.



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