Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization revealed that animal agriculture emits 44% of the methane produced by human activity. Fermentation in the rumen, one of the four stomach chambers of livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats, generates the methane, as a result of micro-organisms that aid in the process of digestion. Animals must expel this gas to survive. A compound added to the feed of high-producing dairy cows reduces methane emissions by 30% and could have ramifications for global climate change, revealed a new study.
The 3-nitrooxypropanol, or 3NOP supplement, blocks an enzyme necessary to catalyze the last step of methane creation by the microbes in the rumen. Lead researcher Alexander Hristov, professor of dairy nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in the US, said, "Methane expulsion through burping represents a net loss of feed energy for livestock."
The cows that consumed a feed regimen supplemented by the novel methane inhibitor compound over the course of the 12-week study gained 80% more body weight than cows in a control group. Hristov said, "The spared methane energy was used partially for tissue synthesis, which led to a greater body weight gain by the inhibitor-treated cows."
The findings showed that the feed intake, fiber digestibility and milk production by cows that consumed the supplement did not decrease. Hristov said, "The 3NOP compound, developed by DSM Nutritional Products, a Dutch company that is one of the world's leading suppliers of feed additives, seems to be safe and effective. If approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and adopted by the agricultural industry, this methane inhibitor could have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector."
The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.