Winter grazing of forage crops is very harmful to the environment, says an AgResearch scientist, Professor Richard McDowell.
The methane produced in the stomachs of ruminant animals including cows, sheep and deer is a powerful greenhouse gas. In New Zealand, agriculture comprises nearly half of our rising gas emissions.
A global search is on to find ways to reduce the amount of methane produced by farm stock, and a Kiwi researcher is part of the team behind what may be the first solution.
Research co-authored by Matthew Deighton, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal recently, found a new stock feed additive, NOP, cuts the methane produced by cows by almost a third.
It interferes with an enzyme in the methane-producing micro-organisms in the cow’s stomach. “It’s a very, very small amount – as little as one gram – in the daily feed of a cow. So that means it really has the opportunity to get on to farms, as we don’t have to drastically change the diet of the animals.”