Grazing beef cattle is a major industry in the Burdekin catchment.

Grazing beef cattle is a major industry in the Burdekin catchment.

Reducing livestock methane emissions

CSIRO is undertaking an extensive research program focused on developing practical solutions for significantly reducing methane emissions from livestock such as sheep and cattle.

  • 26 May 2011 | Updated 14 September 2012

Overview

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Ruminants such as sheep and cattle produce methane as a by-product of digesting plant material in the rumen – one of the four chambers of their stomach. This methane is released from the gut by belching.

In Australia, methane emissions from ruminants are estimated to account for approximately 10 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions (National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, May 2010).

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Reducing livestock emissions video (6:52)

CSIRO research to reduce methane emissions from livestock

Incorporating research at the cellular, animal, and landscape levels, CSIRO is undertaking three related projects that aim to reduce livestock methane emissions per unit of product:

  1. Microbiological research to understand methane production in the rumen and to develop biological methods for reducing this methane production.
  2. Systems-based research to understand management and dietary factors that affect methane emissions from cattle in northern Australia.
  3. Investigation of plant foods (forage) that may reduce methane production in ruminants and the potential incorporation of these plants into Australian livestock production systems.

These research projects are carried out through CSIRO's Animal, Food and Health Sciences Division and the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship.

Project funding and collaboration

Project funders include:

  • Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
  • Australian Government Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
  • Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
  • Meat & Livestock Australia
  • Cooperative Research Centre for Beef Genetic Technologies.

CSIRO has several national and international collaborators on this research, including:

  • The University of Western Australia
  • Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, New Zealand
  • AgResearch, New Zealand
  • United States Department of Energy, USA
  • Ohio State University, USA
  • National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science, Japan
  • National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), France.