Finland: Collaborative effort aimed at cutting methane emissions in dairy cows

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Dairy farm in Finland © GettyImages/HildaWeges
Dairy farm in Finland © GettyImages/HildaWeges

Related tags Bovaer Valio A-Rehu Finland Dsm

Finnish companies and researchers are continuing to evaluate a DSM feed additive as well as other approaches to reduce methane emissions.

Under the Climate smart feeding solutions for Finnish milk production ​project, which is funded by the Finnish ministry of agriculture and forestry, Valio, A-Rehu, the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and the University of Helsinki are researching the potential for reducing ruminal methane emissions using the Dutch firm’s Bovaer.

Bovaer was granted EU marketing authorization for use in dairy cattle diets in February 2022. According to DSM, the manufacturer, the use of the additive reduces ruminal methane emissions in cows by up to 30%. Bovaer is the result of a decade of scientific research, including over 50 peer-reviewed studies published in independent scientific journals and 48 on-farm trials in 14 countries across 4 continents, said DSM. It has entered into partnerships with several major dairy companies to prepare for the implementation of the additive at large scale.  

Valio, a cooperative owned by around 4,000 Finnish dairy farms, and Finnish feed company, A-Rehu, began evaluating that feed additive last year, on a limited scale, on three dairy farms in Finland.

“The trial in 2022 showed us that the feed additive is functioning well in the dairy farms. This was not scientific research; it was more of a practical test to discover how the feed additive works in practice, across three different dairy farms. The results were positive; no changes were discovered in the quality or amount of produced milk and there were no changes in terms of the cows’ welfare,” said a spokesperson for Valio.

The companies began a three-month follow-up pilot trial in early 2023, expanding the use of the feed additive to include it in the diets of a total of 3,100 dairy cows across 43 farms. The pilot is examining how a feed containing Bovaer could be made widely available to dairy farms in Finland in the future.

Methane emissions account for roughly half milk’s carbon footprint in Finland, and the methane expelled by dairy cattle accounted for 2.5% of Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, reported Statistics Finland. 

In addition to that dairy farm pilot, a study is currently underway at the Jokioinen research barn at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) to determine what impact the product has on methane emissions when a typical diet for Finnish cows is employed.

Research professor, Marketta Rinne, who is based at Luke, told this publication the goal of the study is to estimate how much methane can be reduced on grass silage-based diets, and how much of the potential of Bovaer supplementation is lost in separate feeding systems that are relatively common in Finland. “The measurements are made in metabolic chambers with continuous methane measurements.”

Mapping strategy 

Other dietary means are being mapped that could reduce ruminal methane emissions in the future, she added. “The mapping part includes in vitro trials supported by literature data.”

Several methane suppressing approaches including lipids, red seaweed, and biochar are being evaluated separately and in combination with some novel compounds, she explained.

In addition to that research work, a dairy cow feed trial, which is scheduled to start in autumn 2023 at the University of Helsinki, will also examine the methane reduction potential of the Bovaer feed additive based on a diet of grass silage and whole-crop cereal silage.

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