All dairy cows will be given “methane suppressants” to stop them belching so much under the Government’s net zero plans.
Ministers are planning to force farmers to give their livestock “compound feeds” that contain additives to reduce gassy digestion.
Cows and other farm animals produce around 14 per cent of the total carbon emissions created by human activity worldwide.
Methane is released into the air when cows belch or break wind and is one of the most potent greenhouse gases – warming the planet 25 times more effectively than carbon dioxide.
The Government’s Net Zero Growth Plan, released this week, contained new measures to help Britain reach its 2050 climate goal after the High Court ruled that existing plans were not detailed enough.
The plan said officials “anticipate entry of high efficacy methane suppressing products to the UK market from 2025” and would explore their use for cow farms “at pace”.
“This will include the ambition to mandate the introduction of products with proven safety and efficacy in compound feeds for cattle as soon as practically possible in England,” it added.
Plan could also be adopted for sheep
The news was welcomed by green campaigners who said it would help the UK to reduce methane emissions.
Britain’s commitment to the Global Methane Pledge requires it to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, but analysis by the Green Alliance suggests current plans will only cut them by 14 per cent.
Dustin Benton, a former chief analytical adviser to the Government on food strategy, said the suppressants should be given to dairy cows first but could later be adapted for sheep.
“Most dairy cows are milked twice a day, and when they're going to be milked they usually eat, so that's a pretty good way of getting it into them,” he said.
“Let's start with what we can, reduce the methane that comes from cows and work out how we can go further.”
It is estimated that the extra cost of feeding methane suppressants to cows would add around 33p per year to the cost of milk for the average consumer.
But the cost could be borne by taxpayers if ministers choose to subsidise the feed, or by supermarkets in a form of greenhouse gas levy.
Methane-suppressing feed contains additives such as seaweeds, essential oils, organic acids, probiotics, and antimicrobials that reduce the amount of methane produced during a cow’s digestion.
It is a common misconception that most methane comes from cows passing wind. In fact, belching accounts for the majority of emissions.
In 2021 agriculture and other land-use emissions accounted for 11 per cent of greenhouse gases produced in the UK.
Livestock accounted for the majority of that figure.
A Government source said: “Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions have reduced significantly thanks to innovation and advances in technology.
“With livestock still being a leading cause of farm emissions, further innovation in feed products could create major benefits for both farmers and the climate.”