Leveraging Physiological and Nutritional Factors to Reduce Methane Emission from the Beef Cowherd


Dr. Josh McCann (PI)- Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois

Dr. Dan Shike- Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois

Dr. Darren Henry- Department of Animal and Food Science, Texas Tech University

Dr. Angela Green- Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Illinois


Cattle are the largest contributors within the livestock sector to methane emissions. In addition, within the beef industry, approximately 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions are from the cow-calf sector. Methane emissions from cattle are a problem that extends further than environmental sustainability. Eructated methane accounts for approximately 2 – 12% loss of energy consumed depending on the diet. Thus, strategies developed to reduce methane emissions from enteric fermentation can potentially decrease energy loss and increase production efficiency. Scientific steps toward improving production efficiency are critical to feeding the growing global population.

Within the gastrointestinal tract, the rate of passage of liquid and solid digesta from the rumen to the lower tract is an important component to understand the overall digestive processes. Critically, rate of passage is strongly related to digestibility and energy utilization from the diet which dictates overall animal efficiency. While an increase in passage rate from particle size reduction will decrease methane production due to lesser fermentation, other factors may also control passage rate without affecting digestibility.

The variety of factors driving passage rate such as particle size, feedstuff degradability, and rumen motility will alter the energy retained by the animal and the energy lost as methane. Recent discoveries on methane differences between contemporaries have been consistently pointing to passage rate differences. The data generated by this proposal will give insight to which avenue of altering passage rate will have the greatest opportunity to benefit production efficiency and environmental sustainability.

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