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.