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Livestock Methane

Joe McFadden and students with cow

Reducing methane emissions is a critical component of new global commitments to reduce planetary warming, and Cornell researchers are developing tools and strategies to reduce emissions, particularly in the agriculture sector.

  • Methane is the 2nd largest contributor to global warming after CO2.
  • Targeted methane reduction can accelerate climate stabilization and help achieve the IPCC’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5⁰ C.
  • The Global Methane Pledge was launched in 2021 by the Biden administration, European Union counterparts, the United Nations Environment Program, and major U.S. foundations to mobilize policies and practices that will accelerate methane mitigation from all sources. Signatories agreed to take voluntary actions to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. Reductions that are projected to reduce warming by 0.2° C by 2050.

How are we doing it?

  • Emerging research at Cornell aims to develop new tools and agricultural practices that reduce both enteric and manure methane emissions from livestock, and methane associated with rice production.
  • 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?

  • Cornell has launched a broad cross-college collaboration to model the scope of global livestock emissions, test cutting-edge measurement tools, and share practices to reduce enteric methane in ways that support animal health and farm productivity.
  • Cornell Atkinson has allocated more than $1.2 million in seed funding over the last three years, linking Cornell faculty from three colleges and the Cooperative Extension with global partners in NGOs, corporations, and foundations to combat agricultural methane emissions. The 2030 Project, A Cornell Climate Initiative has enabled an expanded focus on methane mitigation from livestock by fostering faculty-led research, facilitating external collaborations, and training students to develop practical solutions in partnership with external entities. These efforts have received more than $8 million in external funding, including support from Cargill, Inc., Environmental Defense Fund, and the Global Methane Hub.
  • 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.

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