Reducing Methane

Carly) Any of the methane that’s generated in the livestock production system, is actually generated by microbes in the gut of the animal and these microbes are known as methanogens. And these methanogens are taking some of the products that are provided by the breakdown of the feed in the gut. They’re produced by bacteria and then some of this waste product that’s produced by those bacteria is taken up by the methanogens to make methane and this allows the methanogen to produce energy to support its own growth. And so one of the ways we can understand more about methane producing microbes is to study their genomes. And basically what we do is we use new technologies to study the genetic information that is held in a microbial genome. And that information allows us to understand the different functions that the microbes can carry out in an environment. So, in this case it provides us with information about how the methanogens are growing and surviving in the gut of a cattle or sheep. We are quite early in the space of our research, but we’ve made some quite interesting discoveries in terms of how the methanogens may be interacting with other bacteria in the gut of the cattle and this information can allow us to understand how we might be able to change the fermentation parameters in the rumen to stop the methanogens from being able to grow. And therefore reduce the methane output of the cow. Some of my colleagues at CSR already have some quite interesting research, where they have supplemented the diet of sheep with a marine species of algae. And it turns out that this particular species of algae, contains a natural product which is a direct inhibitor of the pathway that the methanogens use to make methane. So, it’s very potent and we’re very excited about the potential for this technology to impact on methane production livestock. In order to understand whether this algae will be useful in a commercial setting, we need to scale up to provide the algae as a feed additive in a cattle feed lot, which will involve assessment of parameters that include productivity and palatability. It also impacts on carcass quality.

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