Agolin reduces the CO2 impact of cattle farming
The company Agolin (in Bière, Canton of Vaud) markets a plant-based feed additive that helps reduce methane emissions from cattle, providing an effective low-cost solution to limiting the production of greenhouse gases in the farming industry.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, dairy cows and beef cattle produce nearly five billion tonnes CO2 equivalent every year worldwide, accounting for around 10% of all emissions generated by human activities. 40% of these emissions are generated by the animals belching during the digestion process.
The feed additive developed by Agolin contains plant extracts and is available in both a standard version and in an organic version that complies with organic farming regulations. The additive, called Agolin Ruminant, was originally developed to improve cows’ digestive function with a view to increasing milk production – or weight gain in the case of meat herds. This is because more efficient digestion gives the cows a 4% better energy yield from their feed on average. “The reduction in the amount of methane produced is a side effect,” says Kurt Schaller, co-founder and director of the company. A very useful property when it comes to limiting greenhouse gas emissions from ruminants, which are estimated to be 0.5 m3 per animal per day.
One gram of the additive mixed daily into the feed given to each cow reduces its methane production by 10 to 20%. These figures have been measured and confirmed in a number of trials, many of which were part of research projects in which Agolin has been involved. Because at Agolin, scientific rigour is of vital importance. “We are the first and only company to have carried out long-term academic trials on herds of 150 cows measuring performance, animal wellbeing and gas production,” says Kurt Schaller.
The company exports 99% of its production, mainly to Europe, with the greatest market penetration so far being in Norway, where more than 50% of the cows are fed with Agolin. “The Scandinavians are particularly sensitive to the climate protection argument,” he says. Using this additive could reduce the methane impact of cattle by 200’000 tonnes CO2 equivalent per year in Europe, based on current cattle numbers. The potential for methane emissions reduction worldwide is huge: 200 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, four times the total impact of Switzerland’s farming industry. And the cost involved is relatively modest, being estimated at 25 euros per tonne of methane saved. The feed additive was awarded Carbon Trust certification in 2018 in recognition of Agolin’s efforts in combatting climate change. “Honesty is a value that we hold very dear; we don’t make any claims that can’t be quantified and proved scientifically,” concludes Kurt Schaller.
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