Enteric fermentation is a natural part of the digestive process in ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, and buffalo. Microbes in the digestive tract, or rumen, decompose and ferment food, producing methane as a by-product.
Enteric methane emissions from ruminant animals raised for their meat and milk account for as much as 30% of global anthropogenic methane emissions, and factors such as feed quality, animal size, and environmental temperature will increase the amount of methane an animal produces if left unchecked.
The Coalition is working to transform ruminant production systems, especially in developing regions, to increase productivity and reduce emissions of enteric methane per unit of animal product.
For an estimated 800 million resource-poor farmers, ruminant production is a pathway out of poverty. Ruminants are, however, a large contributor of greenhouse gas emissions - particularly due to enteric fermentation - which affect agricultural productivity.
The intensity of enteric methane emissions, and the potential to reduce these emissions, varies greatly across regions and production systems due to different regional conditions, farming practices and approaches to supply chain management. Between 2-12% of a ruminant’s energy intake is typically lost through the enteric fermentation process.
Ruminant production systems with low productivity, mainly found in Latin America, South Asia, and in parts of Sub Saharan Africa, lose more energy per unit of animal product than those with high productivity. Farming systems that are more productive generally have higher total methane emissions but much lower emissions per unit of product (also referred to as ‘emissions intensity’ or ‘Ei’).
Increasing productivity across production systems increases food security and strengthens farmer livelihoods. This strong correlation between increased animal productivity and enteric methane emission reductions implies there are large opportunities for low-cost mitigation and widespread social and economic benefits.
The greatest gains can be achieved by focusing on emissions intensity, the most tractable goal for enteric methane reduction from livestock in the near term.
The Coalition is working to transform ruminant livestock production systems to improve productivity as well as reduce emissions of enteric methane per unit of animal product.
Coalition Partners are working to identify and disseminate innovative low-cost or no-cost solutions that can be packaged together to result in multiple benefits for farmers and producers in addition to reducing enteric methane emissions.
Main activities include testing and demonstrating prioritized technology and policy actions at high methane-emitting sites in South Asia, East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. The success of these actions will be evaluated against social, economic and environmental goals.
Available measures to reduce methane from enteric fermentation include:
- At animal level: optimizing feed digestibility and availability, balancing and fine tuning feed rations; promoting better animal health, and; improving performance through breeding
- At herd level: reducing the ratio of animals dedicated to reproduction to animals dedicated to production
- At production unit level: improving grazing and grassland management in grazing systems to increase feed quality and productivity
- In mixed systems: improving the quality and usage of crop residues as fodder
- New Zealand (co-funding activities)
- Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) (implementer)
- New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) (implementer)
- Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) (alignment of activities)