News Agriculture, Food

The new research project aims to find novel means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairy production by feeding strategies. The companies involved in the Public-Private Partnership are Arla Finland, Hankkija and Mootral SA.

Milk production is a very important part of Finnish agricultural production, and each improvement in sustainability is increasingly important in the current situation. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from dairy production comprise less than 4% of Finnish GHG emissions. Researchers still strive to cut this number to meet the demand to reduce 80% of total Finnish GHG emissions by 2050 compared with 1990. The main source of GHG from milk production is methane, released from the cow as burps or in manure.

Methane is produced in the cow rumen by microbes that digest feed and produce energy and protein for the cow. In Finland, cow nutrition is mainly based on forage (grass). The cow, unlike humans and other monogastric animals, can convert grass to high quality products such as milk. Grasslands are environmentally sustainable as they emit less emissions than other agricultural lands and are often situated in locations where other types of agriculture are not feasible. Grass based feeding, however, produces more methane in the rumen, and therefore it would be of high importance to find ways to reduce methane production by feed additives. Luke has studied nutritional approaches on mitigation of enteric methane emissions since 2009 and has been collaborating with national and international partners to improve the sustainability of dairy production. The aim of this project is to evaluate the effects of different feeding strategies on reducing methane emissions of high producing dairy cows without compromising (or even improving) their performance and product quality in collaboration with Mootral SA, Hankkija and Arla Finland.

“Hankkija has long-term research cooperation with Luke and our previous dairy cow trial finished in last autumn. The ongoing project is done in a network of companies which is beneficial for all parties” – says Hankkija’s Research and Development Director Juhani Vuorenmaa.

Promising preliminary results

The project is ongoing in Luke’s experimental barn in Jokioinen, where 8 cows in mid-lactation participate in an experiment testing three different feed additives composed of natural ingredients, with beneficial effects either on performance, enteric methane, gut health or milk quality. Methane production is measured in respiratory chambers, and the feed intake, milk production and composition, metabolism and health of the cows are monitored. At the same time, valuable samples for analyzing the interactions between the cow genome, feeding and rumen microbiome are collected.

One of several components to be tested is Mootral® , by Mootral SA, a Swiss AgriTech company that develops innovative carbon reduction solutions for companies and governments. Mootral® is a natural feed supplement based on a proprietary combination of active compounds from garlic and flavonoids derived from citrus. Mootral directly inhibits the activity of the archaea leading to a profound methane reduction. “During earlier research at Luke, Mootral supplementation showed promising results on reducing methane” – says Matthias Miller, Chief Scientific Officer from Mootral SA

“The experiment is now half way through, and the preliminary measurements show some promising trends”, says senior research scientist Alireza Bayat.

Aiming at sustainable food production

The research work with Luke will guide us in further fine-tuning to achieve the highest efficacy in reducing methane while maintaining the animal’s welfare and productivity.”, says Matthias Miller from Mootral SA.

“Enhancement of the sustainability of animal production is one of the development targets for Hankkija’s feeds. We hope to get new means to fulfill this target from the ongoing project”, says Juhani Vuorenmaa.

Dairy company Arla Foods aims for carbon neutrality by 2050, and Arla Finland attempts to achieve this aim even earlier. “The calculations from Arla farms show that cow enteric fermentation is the biggest single source of emissions, and thereby it is excellent if we can find nutritional solutions to reduce emissions.” says Sami Kilpeläinen, Director, Milk Acquisition, from Arla Finland

“The new strategy of Luke emphasizes improving the sustainability and competitiveness of primary production, and this is an excellent example of a project that can be expected to produce concrete tools to reach these aims” says program director, Johanna Vilkki from Luke.