Leveraging Production Efficiency and Nutrition to Influence Methane Emission Reduction
July 18, 2023
Disclaimer: Product availability and approved claims varies by region and country. Please speak with your Cargill or Provimi representative to discuss your methane emission reduction options. [Specific feeds that reduce methane emissions are not available in the United States.]
Why is methane important for agriculture to consider?
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that traps 28x more heat than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over 100 years6. Though it is potent, methane is relatively short-lived, lasting about a decade in the atmosphere before breaking down. For comparison, carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for about 300-1,000 years7. Today, methane accounts for about 8.2% of GHG emissions globally8. This means cutting methane emissions could help the world meet its midcentury targets to combat global warming.
Sustainability is not a new topic in farming – it is quite the opposite. As an industry, farming has continued to evolve and enhance its sustainability with a successful sustainability history to show for it. This is because, for generations, farmers around the globe have evolved their operations and practices to do more with less.
In fact, over the past 50 years, modern dairy farms have produced 59% more milk while reducing their carbon footprint by 41%1. Similarly in recent years, from 2000 to 2020, the amount of milk per cow produced in the U.S. grew by 1.53% and dairy farms produced 18,197 pounds of milk per cow in 2000 and increased their output to 23,777 pounds in 20202.
In beef production, the sustainability story is similar. If we focus in on the U.S. as an example, a research paper in 2021 confirmed that U.S. beef production is, “the most sustainable production system in the world,” noting that America’s cattle producers reduced the industry’s carbon footprint by about 40% while also producing 66% more beef3.
While beef and dairy farmers have always been steadfast stewards of sustainable production, consumers, regulatory agencies and beef and dairy customers continue to call for agriculture to reduce naturally occurring ruminant methane emissions that have an impact on climate change.
So, what is agriculture’s impact today?
Globally, it is estimated that livestock contribute about 14.5% of human-originated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions4 and of livestock’s contributions, 40% of emissions are attributed to methane produced from ruminant animals (like cattle) during enteric fermentation5 – the digestive process unique to ruminants or animals with multiple stomachs. Because methane is a potent, but relatively short-lived GHG, agriculture is in a unique position to have a meaningful impact in methane emission reduction. And sometimes small changes can have a big impact.
When Cargill works with farmers interested in reducing methane emissions, we start by understanding their operation’s efficiency and identifying opportunities for changes big and small. This includes taking an assessment of each operation’s outputs compared with inputs, feed efficiency, methane production, nitrogen efficiency, and more.
Our assessment helps us to understand which technologies or solutions will have the greatest impact for our farmers’ productivity, sustainability and bottom line.
One solution we leverage: dairy MAX™
Farmers know that sustainability and production efficiency go hand-in-hand. Production efficiency allows farmers to leverage their feed ingredients and inputs to the fullest without overfeeding or oversupplying nutrients to their cattle. For sustainability and production efficiency to work closely together, technology can do wonders to ensure farmers’ nutrition decisions are connected closely with key sustainability metrics that consumers value.
One solution that helps farmers to monitor sustainability metrics that matter to consumers is Cargill’s dairy MAX™ software platform. Dairy MAX enables dairy consultants and farmers to:
- Monitor a ration’s impact on methane production: Through dairy MAX, Cargill dairy consultants and farmers gain insights into how ration choices directly impact herd performance by monitoring sustainability factors such as methane production, nitrogen and phosphorous efficiency, and feed efficiency. These insights allow Cargill dairy consultants to develop dynamic diets that adapt to feedstuff, environmental and economic changes.
- Keep pace with consumer demand: Consumers around the globe continue to show growing interest in sustainability and food chain transparency. Dairy MAX gives farmers the tools and data to determine how their cattle’s diet directly support consumer sustainability demands.
- Balance sustainability goals and herd productivity choices. Dairy MAX offers a complete picture of on-farm sustainability metrics and how changing specific ration inputs impact animal productivity. Dairy MAX puts the power of data-backed sustainability nutrition decisions in the hands of farmers around the globe.
Paired with Cargill’s deep nutrition expertise, the power of Cargill’s Nutrition System (CNS), and global research, dairy MAX identifies and delivers solution options that help dairy consultants and farmers build high performing diets and adapt to ingredient variations. This allows dairy farmers to make powerful nutrition decisions that achieve maximum performance and ultimately, enhance their sustainability and reduce ruminant methane emissions. Learn more about dairy MAX’s new enhanced sustainability features, visit www.cargill.com/page/meetmax.
Your Partner in Methane Emission Reduction
Methane emission reduction can feel complicated; however, no matter where you are in your methane emission reduction or sustainability journey, Cargill is your trusted partner to identify and deploy the right solutions for your operation that support productivity, efficiency and sustainability goals altogether. Reach out to your Cargill representative or visit cargill.com/animal-nutrition/contact to learn how you can Reach4Reduction™ and further your ruminant methane emission reduction journey.
Interested in learning more about methane emission reduction? Stay tuned for more methane emission reduction information as a part of our Reach4Reduction™ series.
1 Sustainability and Dairy Production: challenges and Opportunities. D.E. Bauman and J.L. Capper. Cornell Nutrition Conference 2011.
5 FAO, Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model, February 2017.
8 UGA Cooperative Extension. Global Warming: How Does It Relate to Poultry? | UGA Cooperative Extension.