News last update:6 Aug 2012

Bark cuts methane emission from cows

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) staff jointly with University of Melbourne scientists have made a breakthrough in reducing bovine emissions by feeding an extract from the bark of black wattle (Acacia mollisima ).

The scientists found that feeding the crystallised powder not only reduced methans but also nitrogen emissions, and increased milk production.

DPI "Greenhouse in Agriculture" team leader Dr Richard Eckard said in an interview "A tannin in the bark combined with nitrogen in the rumen making it easier to digest and giving more benefit to the animal. The nitrogen goes out in the dung and then released slowly into the environment. The tannin stopped the nitrogen going into the bloodstream, where the animal had to work hard to process it.

Easy way to feed
The cattle might spend the energy equivalent of one litre to 1½ litres of milk to excrete the nitrogen in their urine. There is evidence that tannis reduced methane and it was now necessary to develop a method easily to feed the supplement to the cattle. We were giving it to them in two big doses a day, but that was affecting milk production.

A problem that there were no commercial suppliers of the supplement in Australia and we are importing it from Brazil or South Africa where it is used to tan leather." Dr Eckard added that feeding Australian animals cysteine, an amino acid, and nitrate would not have the same success here as in Japan, where researchers at Obihiro University in Hokkaido found that dairy cattle consuming large amounts of nitrate released only trace amounts of methane when they belched.

The researchers found that adding cysteine in addition to the nitrate cut methane emissions and prevented nitrate poisoning. Dr Eckard said however, there was generally too much nitrate in Australian pastures. The team also had some success in reducing methane by feeding oil supplements to the cattle.

Related websites:
Department of Primary Industries   
University of Melbourne   

Related folder:
Dossier AllAbout Plant Extracts 

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