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News 300 views last update:6 Aug 2012

UK company develops 'green' dairy diet

Dairy co-operative First Milk in the UK developed a new diet that can increase yields and reduce greenhouse emissions in cattle.

By optimising the forage fibre in the feed, animals chew their feed more thoroughly and convert the energy more efficiently.

Initial trials show that cows involved produced around four extra litres of milk per week on the diet while cutting methane emissions by more than 20 per cent for every litre produced. If these figures could be repeated for the UK's entire milk output, it would be the equivalent of removing 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.

Methane produced by dairy cows in the UK is estimated to contribute one per cent of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions while the industry as a whole contributes around two per cent.

Keenan 'mechfibre'
David Beever, from Reading University in England, and Tony Hull, from the University of Illinois in the US, are working on methhane reduction through the feed in dairy cattle.

They are key parties in a research, which has been conducted with private Irish agribusiness group Richard Keenan & Co.

"We have a system that delivers a more efficient conversion of energy into milk, better rumen and digestive health, better animal health, and better nutrition," said Professor Beever, author of more than 450 research publications.

The Keenan system, used around the world, provides nutrition strategies through the use of its mixer wagon. Keenan's patented process is called "mechfibre", which is based on the science of how an animal best digests feed in its rumen and absorbs the nutrients.

The Keenan wagon chops and mixes the feed to a consistency the animal can digest. In turn, this achieves the feed conversion efficiency that Keenan has shown through research.

Professor Beever said the use of mechfibre on 270 farms in Britain and France over a year had shown the clear impact of nutrition, with milk output up 18-21%. "That (result) means more milk for the same amount of feed," he said.

With climate change issues to the fore, Professor Beaver said the experiment had also shown a 16% reduction in methane emissions. "The gains are potentially double that," he said.

Related website:
First Milk 
Keenan System 

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