No “silver bullet” for methane reduction on New Zealand dairy farms, but…

by | Jun 4, 2024 | News

This week, Te Puna Umanga Venture Taranaki, the regional development agency for Taranaki, hosted Mooving on Methane, an event aimed at understanding the challenges and opportunities faced by farmers and the dairy industry in addressing methane emissions.

The event featured farmers, scientists, rural professionals, and specialists from organisations such as DairyNZ, Fonterra, Nestlé, Ravensdown, LIC, AgriZeroNZ, Ministry of Primary Industries, and the Climate Change Commission, as well as entrepreneurs from pioneering tech solution companies like Ruminent Biotech, CH4 Global, and Bovaer.

 

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The New Zealand dairy industry is striving to meet emission reduction expectations from global customers like Nestlé, Kraft/Heinz, Mars, and Unilever. Mooving on Methane, a catalyst event initiated by Venture Taranaki, sought to build awareness of the emerging tools and technologies which could reduce the naturally occurring methane emissions from the burping of dairy cows, which accounts for the majority of these emissions.

“It was important to hear first-hand from those at the forefront of these solutions, their forward plans and possibilities, as well as the enablers and barriers to their successful introduction in Aotearoa New Zealand, given they could play an important role in underpinning the future success of our dairy industry”, says Anne Probert, Director of Strategic and Sector Partnerships, Venture Taranaki.

The common theme? There is no “silver bullet” for New Zealand in reducing methane emissions on-farm, but there are incremental, best-practice farming initiatives that are already being applied today, like pasture and fertiliser management, better breeding programmes, eco ponds, and planting unproductive land, to name a few.

However, the event highlighted that the ground is moving quickly on technical and entrepreneurial solutions – especially internationally – and that New Zealand needs to act quickly to ensure it was keeping pace with other major dairying countries. Potentially more impactful solutions like vaccines, methane reducing animal feed supplements, methane inhibitors, and new strains of pasture are being developed, with some already being rolled out internationally.

Within the New Zealand context, AgriZeroNZ, who is 50/50 Government/Private funded, is making some exciting investments in promising startups such as Ruminant Biotec and ArkeaBio. Additionally, DairyNZ and the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre is continuing to support research into solutions that are specifically adoptable and viable in our pastoral farms.

However, CH4 Global and Bovear, who presented at the event, highlighted how their methane reducing feed supplement solutions are already being rolled out internationally, but not in New Zealand. CH4 Global, a natural supplement with Asparagopsis seaweed, specifically cited the regulatory barriers and hurdles that exist in our country as a significant problem. As a result, although their seaweed-based product is grown and developed in New Zealand, it is being scaled and sold in Australia and other parts of the world.

Another question raised at the event, common across many sectors amid the transition to a low emissions economy, is, “who pays for the added cost of the solution?”. Unless premiums can be guaranteed by our major customers, many of the solutions don’t offer farmers and the broader industry a clear return on investment. Questions were also raised about Government support, with Denmark, for example, agreeing to help farmers by subsidising feed additivies earlier this year.

Whilst the need to ‘moove’ on methane with urgency was a key focus, Fonterra also emphasised there was much to be won through showcasing our nature-based solutions and best-practice farming methods. Other cooperatives, like Miraka have found ways to compensate their farmers with premium payments, rewarding the adoption of world leading farm sustainability practices.

“With so many livelihoods within Taranaki and Aotearoa interwoven with the dairy industry, we need to ensure its future success,” continues Probert. “By rapidly reducing methane emissions on our dairy farms, we can transform our emissions profile as one of the critical steps in ensuring we remain a global leader who meets or exceeds our consumer needs.”

Venture Taranaki is compiling a report to progress the issues and opportunities raised at the event.

 

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