DSM flags huge reduction of methane emissions in Canadian beef cattle trial using feed additive

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/peterschreiber.media
© GettyImages/peterschreiber.media

Related tags methane emissions Beef GHG emissions

DSM says a two-year large-scale trial in beef cattle in Alberta, Canada has successfully demonstrated that its feed additive 3-NOP, branded as Bovaer, can be included in commercial feedlot diets to reduce methane emissions by up to 80%, without negative effects on animal health and performance parameters and carcass characteristics.

The trial was conducted by a Canadian Research Consortium consisting of Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, Feedlot Health Management Services, Viresco Solutions, and DSM. It was also supported by the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association while Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) committed US$1.5m to the US$3m project through its Methane Challenge. 

With around 15,000 heads of beef included in the trial, it represents the largest single trial conducted on methane reduction technologies for ruminants, said DSM

“This was the largest and longest trial for methane reduction in beef to date. The trial alone already reduced Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 1,473 tons CO2e.”

Trial design

The project evaluated the relative effects of feeding 3-NOP on methane reduction and feedlot performance, health and carcass quality outcomes in feedlot cattle fed typical North American finishing diets  - corn and barley grain-based diets - as well as in a high forage, backgrounding diet, said DSM.

The trial also evaluated direct measurement techniques for methane emissions in a commercial beef feedlot where the product was used and demonstrated the use of the product in a commercial feedlot, it added. 


Measurements indicated that, on average, 70% enteric methane emission reduction was found when the feed ingredient was provided in steam-flaked or dry-rolled barley finishing diets at 125 mg/kg of feed dry matter, according to the company.

In steam-flaked corn-based finishing diets, a reduction in the range of 31%-80% at the 125 mg/kg dosage of the feed ingredient was observed, reported DSM.

Lastly, in backgrounding diets, increasing the dose of the feed ingredient stepwise from 150 to 200 mg/kg decreased the yield of methane by 17%-26% compared with control animals, it said. 

When asked why there was such variance in methane emissions reduction levels when it came to the steam-flaked corn-based finishing diets, a spokesperson for DSM told us the actual values of methane production in ruminants depend on several factors, and a combination of factors including the methodology used, seasonality, feed quality, and the duration of the trial resulted in the spread of 31%-80% in that specific trial.

"We employed two very different methane measurement methods over the trial period and they were not used simultaneously due to resources and availability issues,"​ she said

The first measurement approach used relied on the GreenFeed emission monitoring system (GEM), and this is where the research team saw 80% reduction, she said. 

"This is an intensive and sensitive technology, only measuring enteric emissions, which delivers more consistent data and on an individual animal basis; it is approved by the US FDA as a reliable way to measure methane reduction. As part of the research, we also tested a new method, which had not been demonstrated at scale; it was a laser based micrometeorological method that measures large pens in their entirety, and covers all methane emissions - enteric and manure. [Using this method] in open feedlots, we measured, in one specific period, 31%-44% methane reduction."

The trial in steam-flaked corn-based finishing diets was also conducted at different times of the year, leading to a variety of weather conditions, which can have an effect on animals such a dry matter intake, she said. 

Commenting on the overall outcome, project leader, Karen Haugen-Kozyra, Viresco Solutions, said the trial was significant as it demonstrated that, compared to conventional feed mixes, the inclusion of 3-NOP in the diet mix for cattle has resulted in real, permanent and quantifiable reductions of methane emissions, ranging from 31-80% in finishing diets.

“It therefore has broad application potential across Alberta’s beef and dairy sector - and further afield. We are particularly happy also that the trial in itself generated CO2e greenhouse gas reductions (GHG) of close to 1,500 tons clearly showing the impact this solution by DSM can have - especially when it is on the market and scaled up.”

DSM is working to get regulatory approvals for the feed ingredient in various geographies.

Dairy cattle feeding trial

Bovaer has been shown to be effective in methane emission reduction in a lot of different trials to date, said a Danish researcher, based at Aarhus University.

Mette Olaf Nielsen is one of the team leaders of a research project​ being undertaken by Aarhus University in collaboration with researchers at the University of Copenhagen assessing a range of methane emissions reduction strategies.

They are evaluating Bovaer in a feeding trial of dairy cattle, where the feed additive is being tested in combination with dietary fat – since fat, in itself, is known to reduce methane emissions, she told us in October.

The DSM feed additive is also being evaluated in combination with nitrate, said Mette Olaf Nielsen.

“Nitrate, when it gets into the rumen of the cow, is converted to ammonia, which rumen bacteria can use for protein synthesis. This conversion of nitrate into ammonia is associated with consumption of hydrogen, the limiting substrate in the methane production process. If you can get hydrogen channeled into other pathways, then that would be beneficial in terms of methane emission reduction but also for production of microbial biomass that the cows would digest and utilize."

The article was updated on Friday December 18 to reflect the comments from the DSM spokesperson. 

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