Developed by the Swiss-British start-up Mootral, the supplement, made from garlic and citrus extracts, is mixed with regular cattle feed, reducing methane emissions by the equivalent of around one tonne. of carbon dioxide per cow per year.
The company is currently converting these savings into carbon credits – approved by Verra, a global voluntary carbon offset program – which are sold to companies wishing to offset their emissions.
The proceeds from the sale of carbon credits go back to farmers, subsidizing the initial cost of animal feed and encouraging them to buy more, Mootral CEO Thomas Hafner told CNN Business.
“Carbon credits are an important stimulus tool to drive the adoption of climate-friendly technologies,” says Hafner.
Brades Farm in Lancashire, North West England, is the first commercial farm to take advantage of Mootral’s carbon credit program. His herd of 440 dairy cows is fed the supplement twice a day.
Food additives help prevent microbes in a cow’s stomach from producing methane, which is typically produced as a byproduct of digesting fibrous plant material like grass.
“It’s hard to make a living from dairy farming, there are bills to pay all the time,” says Joe Towers, who runs the farm with his brother Ed. “Carbon credits are a real opportunity … to offset this cost to farmers, ”he said.
The feed supplement has an additional commercial advantage for the farm. By marketing their cows as low in methane, the brothers found a niche selling premium milk to London cafes.
Mootral’s so-called “CowCredits” don’t come cheap. They entered the market in April at a cost of around $ 80 each, with one credit offsetting a ton of CO2.
So far, Mootral has generated over 300 CowCredits. He wants to create 10,000 over the next year and is looking to raise $ 2.5 million from investors to accelerate deployment.
But there are challenges. The amount of methane reduced by the feed supplement depends on the breed and the environment of the cow. So far, Mootral has only performed extensive testing on the two breeds at Brades Farm, but Hafner says he plans to conduct further studies in different parts of the world.
Different eating habits for beef and dairy cows add another layer of complexity.
Still, Hafner is confident Mootral will find a solution, and the company will soon begin testing on a ranch in Texas with 12,000 beef cattle.
Liam Sinclair, professor of animal science at Harper Adams University, UK, says it will be necessary to monitor the effects of Mootral’s product over time as there is a risk that the change in diet will affect digestion of a cow, potentially reducing her growth rate or milk yield.
“It is also very important that the product is available and cost effective in developing countries if there is to be a significant reduction in methane production,” he adds.