Dairy cows are set to be given ‘methane suppressants’ by farmers to reduce their carbon footprint – by making them burp less.
Ministers are looking to force farmers to give herds additives to reduce gas from digestion in ‘compound feeds’, which contain seaweed and essential oils.
The Government’s Net Zero Growth Plan, released this week, looked to address concerns from the High Court that existing plans to reach the climate goal before 2050 were not detailed enough.
The plan said the bovine supplements could be introduced ‘at pace’ from 2025 – or as ‘soon as practically possible’ – in efforts to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2030, as Britain’s commitment to the Global Methane Pledge requires.
Cows are a big contributor to climate change, with farm animals producing around 14 per cent of carbon emissions from human activity worldwide.
The plans are expected to add around 33p a year to the cost of milk for the average consumer but ministers could also choose to subsidise the superfood feed.
Dustin Benton, former government adviser on food strategy, told The Telegraph the suppressants could eventually be given to sheep as well as cows.
‘Most dairy cows are milked twice a day, and when they’re going to be milked they usually eat, so that’s a pretty good way of getting it into them.’
Mr Benton added that the suppressants were a good start but that further action would be needed to reduce the impact of livestock.
A government source said that ‘significant’ progress had been made thanks to innovation in agricultural products and that there were ‘major benefits’ to the plans for farmers and the climate.
The suppressants contain a number of additives, including seaweed, organic acids, probiotics and antimicrobials and essential oils, that reduce the amount of gas produced during digestion.
It’s an urban myth that cows produce most of the methane by farting and it’s actually belching that is the real culprit.
Livestock made up the majority of agriculture and other land-use emissions in 2021, which accounted for 11 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gases. [DM]
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