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Livestock Methane

Cornell Livestock Innovations for Food and Environmental Health

Joe McFadden and students with cow

Methane in the atmosphere is one of the key drivers of climate change. A 2021 United Nations Environment Program report indicates that cutting methane emissions 40-45% by 2030 could reduce the increase in global temperature by 0.3 degrees C by 2040. The goal of Cornell Livestock Innovations for Food and Environmental Health (LIFE) project is to reduce global enteric and manure greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ruminant livestock production in order to mitigate climate change and support farmer opportunities, human health and nutrition, and animal well-being.

  • Agriculture contributes to ~40% of global methane emissions from more than 4 billion domestic ruminants.
  • Rumen fermentation of complex carbohydrates not edible by humans generates methane.
  • Up to 12% of gross energy intake by the cow is lost as methane, providing an opportunity to convert lost energy to meat or milk.
  • Feed additives to safely reduce methane are being developed at Cornell, but extensive time and resources will be required to make it happen.

How are we doing it?

  • Seeking dietary approaches to enhance conversion of dietary energy to meat and milk production while reducing enteric methane.
  • Developing and applying a holistic method to define the efficacy of methane-reducing feed additives to ensure that efficiency, animal health, and the composition of animal-sourced foods are not compromised.
  • Creating manure management practices to lower GHG emissions and nutrient runoff.
  • Enhancing the efficiency of meat and milk production in developing countries.
  • Expanding consumer awareness.
  • Developing and refining agricultural policy for farms, the environment, and society.
  • Identifying paths to accelerate academic-industry partnerships to expedite technology development.

Why is Cornell uniquely positioned for this work?

  • 60,000+ dairy cows within one hour of Ithaca.
  • Cornell Dairy Center of Excellence connects 100+ Cornell faculty and staff with expertise in the dairy industry.
  • Facility and equipment upgrades under development include respiration chambers, GreenFeed units, and in vitro/manure tools to measure methane emissions as well as farm upgrades to support studies required for FDA product registration.
  • Ongoing efforts to establish global partnerships expediting the discovery, regulatory approval, and adoption of methane-reducing feed additives and enhancing the efficiency of production in developing countries.
  • This methane mitigation collaboration is advancing with support from The 2030 Project, a Cornell climate initiative.

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