Murdoch animal experts have been conducting field trials with Perth agricultural start-up Rumin8, who have found a way to diminish cows' damaging methane emissions.
“When cattle eat a lot of carbon-based materials, like grass and grain, their digestion breaks it down and that process produces a lot of excess hydrogen,” explained Associate Professor Anne Barnes.
“The easiest thing for their body to do with that hydrogen is attach it to carbon cells and burp it up, which is what methane is – one part carbon and four parts hydrogen.
“What Rumin8 have developed is a purified, stable form of bromoform, which is a chemical found in red algae, that changes the chemical reactions in a cow’s gut so that there is less methane produced.”
Instead, that hydrogen and carbon can be used to make other compounds that that the body can process. It’s a relatively simple concept that could radically reduce the role of cattle – the greatest agricultural source of greenhouse gasses worldwide – in climate change
Dr Barnes is a veterinarian with expertise in animal behavior, welfare and production, and has been running trials to understand which formulation of the Rumin8 product cows will eat and ensure that they are happy and healthy doing so.
These results have attracted worldwide attention, with Rumin8 recently attracting funding from the Bill Gates-founded’ climate tech investing fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures as well as Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Harvest Road Group.
It’s a powerful endorsement of the Perth company on a mission to decarbonise 100 million cattle by 2030, who are investing in robust research.
“As an early-stage climate technology, it is important that our trial work is undertaken with quality research organisations so that our stakeholders can have absolutely confidence in the results we achieve,” Rumin8 Chief Technology Officer Dr Silke Jacques said.
“The proximity of Murdoch’s farm is certainly advantageous, but the ability to work with experts in the field as we undertake our ‘taste test’ trials and to tap that knowledge is incredibly valuable.”
This one of several research projects being undertaken at Murdoch’s farm, which is the only metropolitan on-campus farm in Australia, and closely aligns with the work of the Centre for Animal Production and Health.
We’re here to help develop economically efficient, sustainable and ethically produced food and fibre."
Associate Professor Anne Barnes
"Producing this in an environmentally and socially responsible way is the ultimate goal of our research and this project is a great example of that,” Dr Barnes said.
“Our on-campus farm allows us to conduct exciting research like this, and also teaching with farm animals, where we can provide high quality care and monitoring with ongoing student learning.”
Other projects conducted on the Murdoch campus farm include monitoring the behavior of cattle to determine optimal pain relief at surgery, investigating supplements that are used to enhance fertility, and assessing the behavioural responses of cattle and horses to handling.
“The projects benefit the animals, as well as being used to provide animal models of human medicine – it’s a terrific facility that’s helping us do important work,” Dr Barnes said.
This research supports United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 12 and 13, to ensure sustainable consumption and production and take action to combat climate change.