Probiotic feed additive shows potential to dramatically lower methane emissions from cows

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Olga Strelnikova
© GettyImages/Olga Strelnikova

Related tags methane emissions Probiotic direct-fed microbials

Preliminary data from a trial evaluating a Locus Fermentation Solutions’ microbe in cattle at UC Davis showed significant reduction in methane emissions in cows, without sacrificing animal health or performance.

Researchers at the university tested three strains of non-GMO organisms identified by the company and found that one combination yielded a 68% reduction in methane, compared to the control, while another microorganism, by itself, achieved a 78% reduction compared to the control, said Keith Heidecorn, managing director of Locus’ animal nutrition division. 

The startup's non-GMO and patented direct-fed microbial (DFM) feed additives come from a common strain of bacteria.

Locus Animal Nutrition's work on methane emissions reduction has been flying under the radar but the company was recently chosen as a top agtech startup by FoodBytes! and Robobank.

The startup has been focusing on building the science, trying to ensure robust data for the methane emissions busting probiotics, Heidecorn told us.

‘We are kind of in stealth mode. We believe we are on to something very big, but we want to make sure all our solutions are backed up by science,”​ he told us.

Its microbial products not only support methane emissions reduction but the [unpublished] UC Davis data also shows that supplementation of its DFM feed additives in feed can enhance the gut microbiome of the cow, increasing the volatile fatty acid (VFA) levels, he said.

Mode of action 

The hypothesis is that the microbial product works through competitive inhibition in the stomach of the cow, so methanogens, the microorganisms that produce methane, are essentially being outcompeted by a healthier microbial population.

“We are hoping to see an accumulative effect from the use of the DFM over time, even at low dosage rates. We are doing a dosage study currently at UC Davis to hone in on the right dose,"​ ​said Heidecorn.

However, the team has already determined how it can produce a microbial product at a price point that would encourage widespread adoption, he added.

There are other competitive advantages with Locus’ probiotics - they are patented and certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Being approved means they can be brought to market in a short amount of time.

The company's microbial feed additive can be commercialized as a pellet or dry powder; it says they can be easily added to drinking water and feed.

“Our feed probiotic is very shelf stable and can fit into different systems. The plan is to hit the US dairy market first as it is easier to get the feed additive metered into feed for dairy cows. We really want to win in one market,” ​said Heidecorn.

Locus FS’ co-founders have years of experience discovering and commercializing probiotic strains.

“They previously built Ganeden Inc. into one of the leading probiotic suppliers globally by developing a unique shelf-stable strain currently used in more than 1,000 for food, beverage and companion animal products across 60+ countries. At Locus, they designed the technology needed to cost-effectively customize probiotic-based solutions for use in other industries, such as livestock,” ​commented Teresa DeJohn, marketing director, Locus FS.

Next steps 

UC Davis researchers are expected to complete their study later this spring and publicly release their findings, said Heidecorn. In addition, Locus is planning to run in-vivo studies with that university in January 2021.

The company is also working with industry partners to speed up commercialization. "We are having numerous conversations with strategic distributors and they are looking to test the product internally. Teaming up with them with help us get the product to the market quickly, and cost-effectively; it will mean we can hit the ground running and make a difference in terms of the climate, and the future of the livestock industry."

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