Methane-reduction initiative to boost environment and cattle health

Published Friday, 10 May, 2024 at 11:32 AM

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities
The Honourable Mark Furner

  • Funded through the Greener Cattle Initiative, a $US3.2 million project aims to better understand methane mitigation impacts in beef and dairy cattle.
  • The Australian research hub is a collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Australian agriculture biotech company ProAgni, and the University of California Davis.
  • The project will help to achieve sustainable decreases in methane emissions, with animal performance and health co-benefits.

A $US3.2 million project is using Queensland agricultural expertise to research ways to improve the performance and health of beef and dairy cattle while reducing methane emissions.

Part of the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research's Greener Cattle Initiative, the project is led by the University of Illinois and involves seven international research hubs in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Israel and Norway.

The Australian research hub is a collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Australian agriculture biotech company ProAgni and the University of California Davis (UC Davis).

Australian researchers will look at the effects of methane suppression products, which result in more hydrogen being released in the rumen (the largest of a cow’s four stomach compartments).

They will investigate if probiotic bacteria can capture this hydrogen and turn it into products the animal’s digestive system can use. This will ensure sustainable decreases in methane emissions have co-benefits for cattle performance and health.

Initially the team will study a variety of hydrogen-utilising bacteria in the lab. They will add these bacterial species into a fermenter that mimics the conditions of the rumen to measure their effect on methane production and evaluate their competitiveness. The bacteria will also be tested in conjunction with methane-suppressing compounds.

The top bacterial candidates will be developed into in-feed probiotics that improve energy capture by redirecting excess hydrogen in the rumen to more productive end-products—particularly in cattle receiving methane-blocking feed additives.

This will help achieve sustainable decreases in methane emissions while boosting animal performance and health, leading to agricultural sustainability.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for regional Communities Mark Furner:

“Enteric methane is the single-largest source of direct greenhouse gas in the beef and dairy sectors,” Mr Furner said.

“As the demand for animal products increases, livestock production will also need to expand, further increasing methane emissions.

“It’s critical we reduce these emissions to slow the effects of climate change, while also ensuring sustainability in our beef and dairy industries.”

Quotes attributable to Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Senior Principal Molecular Biologist Diane Ouwerkerk:

“It’s exciting that there are now dietary additives which can inhibit enteric methane,” she said.

“Finding bacteria that can turn the resulting excess hydrogen into energy for the animal will improve production benefits, whilst slowing the effects of climate change – win-win.”

Quote from ProAgni Co-founder and Chief Financial Officer Fiona Soulsby:

Being part of this prestigious consortium validates ProAgni’s approach to reducing methane emissions and antibiotic use in animal agriculture,” she said.

Reducing the environmental footprint of animal agriculture without increasing production costs is why we started ProAgni.

“For a small Australian company to be part of a consortium of this global stature says a great deal, not only about ProAgni’s technology, but about the strength of innovation in Australian agriculture in general.”

Quote from University of California Davis Associate Professor Dr Matthias Hess:

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work closely with our colleagues from Down Under to study the rumen microbiome to address a global problem I deeply care about,” he said.

“Methane from cattle is a global problem and we need more multi-institutional and international collaborations like those funded through the Greener Cattle Initiative.”

For more information on the Greener Cattle Initiative: Greener Cattle Initiative - Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (

Explainer/fast fact and or further information:

Value: $US3.2 million over 3 years. ProAgni/DAF will receive $US158,594 (about $A245,000). 

FFAR media release: