Greener grazing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

3 March 2010

Gases such as methane expelled by grazing animals make up roughly one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.Dr Alex Chaves, Senior Lecturer of Animal Nutrition in the Faculty of Veterinary Science, is working on ways to reduce these livestock emissions, which contribute to global warming.

Working in collaboration with the CNPGL-EMBRAPA (Dairy Research Centre) and the Federal University of São João del-Rei in his native Brazil, Dr Chaves plans to supplement ruminant feed in Brazil and Australia with biodiesel by-products, such as press-oil seeds and glycerol.

"Brazil has a massive biodiesel industry," he explains. "By using biodiesel by-products in animal feeding, we can hopefully improve animal nutrition and performance, and reduce methane emissions per unit of production."

While Brazil has the second-largest number of livestock animals in the world (170 million head), the quality of its grasses is lower (tropical grasses, or "C4") than those in temperate areas (temperate grasses, or "C3"). This means its animals develop at a slower pace, and therefore emit more methane over their lifespan.

Essentially, Dr Chaves' project aims to improve the quality of Brazil's grasses from C4 to C3, to improve the performance and sustainability of the agricultural sector.

"The better the nutrition, the better the efficiency," he explains. "And the better the efficiency, the less animals you need to produce to feed human beings. This means lower emissions."

"We are trying to kill two birds with one stone," he continues. "We are trying to reduce methane emissions while simultaneously improving animal performance as well as the nutritional quality of the meat and milk."

If the project is as successful as Dr Chaves anticipates it will be, it will help producers to maximise livestock productivity, improve the income of thousands of farmers in marginal regions including outback Australia and lower greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating anthropogenic climate change.

Contact: Michelle Wood

Phone: 02 9351 3191

Email: 001a3120230308107d045b3e0073273a202755296714162d410844