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Press release: Ruminant Health & Welfare launch report highlighting immediate gains of ruminant health on methane emissions

 

Ruminant Health & Welfare launch report highlighting immediate gains of ruminant health on methane emissions

New report highlights the role reducing key endemic diseases in ruminants can play in contributing to the Global Methane Pledge formed at COP26 to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

Produced by Moredun Research Institute in conjunction with Ruminant Health & Welfare (RH&W), the report; ‘Acting on methane: opportunities for the UK cattle and sheep sectors’, details available interventions for priority health and welfare conditions to provide a starting point for discussions between farmer and vet, or animal health advisers, about the health status of their herd or flocks with methane reductions in mind.

“Methane is a powerful Greenhouse Gas (GHG) when compared with CO2, and on many farms contributes over 50% of total emissions. It’s important to remember that methane is the only short-term gas among the big three GHGs that has the potential, if managed, to slow global warming,” explains Nigel Miller, RH&W chair.

According to DEFRA, ruminants are responsible for 45% of UK methane emissions, the majority of which is through rumen digestion, manure and slurry. However, the area the sector can really make an immediate difference in is the contribution of certain livestock diseases to emissions.

“The baseline work on GHG diseases, funded by both Defra and Scottish government, found that improving livestock health and welfare could reduce methane emissions by 10%. This new report takes us a step further than this by mapping the GHG profile of key endemic diseases identified by RH&W with the input of farmers and veterinary health professionals,” says Dr Philip Skuce, principal scientist at Moredun Research Institute.

“For example, studies reveal that gastrointestinal parasites lead to a minimum 10% increase in GHG emissions in lamb production. Similarly, liver fluke infection adds an extra 11 days to slaughter in cattle, reducing growth rate by 4% and adding 2% to the GHG footprint.”

As emissions and productivity go hand-in-hand, reducing the burden of endemic disease contributes to improved productivity on livestock farms through better feed conversion efficiency, live weight gain, and less involuntary culling.

“It’s important that despite global pressures we are facing, our livestock sector continues to remain focused on the big picture of how we can work towards improved livestock health, productivity and environmental impact.

“Ruminant health is one of a small, but important, group of mitigation measures which can reduce emissions while also delivering a cost-benefit. Progress on health is identified immediately through herd or flock performance data, which feeds into on-farm carbon calculators and the national inventory. The tools and resources identified in the report, for example monitoring and mapping out disease goals, are already available for farmers to utilise now.

“Effective farm health strategies are a gateway into low emissions production, and should be a pillar of future low carbon production systems supported by flock or herd health security,” Mr Miller concludes.

To read the full report, visit: https://ruminanthw.org.uk/actingonmethane/

Download a copy of the report Ruminant-Report-Methane-April-2022

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Issued on behalf of Ruminant Health & Welfare

Background information

Although the COP 26 agenda was very much focused on accelerating the end of our dependence on fossil fuels, a strategic initiative driven by the EU and USA will create an immediate methane challenge.

Methane as the only short-term gas among the big three Greenhouse Gases (GHG) that has the potential, if managed, to slow global warming. The warming impact of methane can reduce if total methane emissions fall below the decay rate of the historic methane envelope in the atmosphere as defined by the Oxford Martin research group. The COP 26 methane pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 has been signed by over 100 nations representing 50% of world methane emissions, and has the potential to reduce global warming by 0.2 degrees.

This strategic intervention buys time to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and if it is to be successful its impact will ripple over several sectors. Oil, gas, and coal extraction, along with waste management and disposal, can release methane. In agricultural terms rice, slurry, manures and enteric emissions from ruminants are sources of methane. In the UK the waste sector has reduced its release of methane by close to 75% and with agriculture responsible for 45% of UK methane there will be pressure on the ruminant sector to contribute to the reduction goal.

Existing proven mitigation measures can reduce the methane emissions from agriculture including an improved herd and flock health status which may also generate economic and welfare benefits. With ruminant enteric emissions accounting for 87% of agricultural emissions a new generation of mitigation measures have focused on enteric methane including feed additives and genetics which modify the rumen biome and have the potential to go beyond the 30% reduction target.     

 

Editors’ notes

Ruminant Health & Welfare was established to co-ordinate and focus the ruminant sector‘s drive in tackling endemic cattle, sheep and goat diseases across the UK, working with partners in the four nations.

We work with industry and governments to influence collective action and secure the policy framework and funding required to prevent, manage or control disease and welfare challenges across the ruminant sectors.

Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland already have protocols in place for many diseases, so Ruminant Health & Welfare’s role there will be to assist existing bodies to deliver these priorities and share best practice.

Members comprise key stakeholders as well as specialist expertise in ruminant disease, genetics and epidemiology. For more information visit www.ruminanthw.org.uk and sign up to our newsletter or follow us on Twitter @ruminanthw

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