Two recent studies at the University of Western Australia and the University of Lethbridge are evaluating biochar as cattle feed additive. Over the course of their lives, cattle emit large amounts of methane, both through their manure and through minute-by-minute belching and flatulence. It has been estimated that this methane production accounts for over a third of all greenhouse gas emissions produced by Canada’s agriculture sector. Both studies aim to show that adding a small amount of biochar to the daily feed ration can reduce the amount of methane produced by the animals substantially, as well as increasing the animals’ feed efficiency and increasing their overall bulk.
It is believed that the high porosity of biochar increases the amount of bacterial activity in the cattle’s digestive system. This bacterial activity helps to inhibit the number of microbes that produce methane. In addition to reducing methane produced by the cattle, biochar as a feed additive can improve the health of the soil after the animal has excreted the biochar. Not only does the biochar reduce the amount of methane released from the manure, it helps to improve soil health.
IRSI will be keeping a close eye on both of these studies. We are excited to see another environmentally beneficial use for the biochar being developed and supported in Canada and across the world.