01 April 2021- From the United Nations to individual consumers, the debate about the sustainability of livestock – particularly in terms of methane production – is showing little sign of abating. As more and more farmers work to address the global challenge, many are looking for proven solutions to help them ensure their businesses are sustainable for the long-term.
Swiss company Agolin believes it has the answers producers need. For the last 15 years, it has worked with experts around the world to develop innovative, natural products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Through its science-led approach, Agolin has created a range of botanical compounds which are not only proven to reduce the carbon footprint of ruminants, but can also help improve livestock efficiencies.
Kurt Schaller, Agolin’s managing director, tells Feedinfo about the extensive research that went into developing the company’s range of innovative plant-based products, and the global recognition the company has received for helping address livestock’s emissions challenge.
[Feedinfo] Agolin Ruminant, your company’s flagship product, has been proven to help reduce methane emissions in cattle and sheep. Can you explain how it was developed and how it works?
[Kurt Schaller] The founders of the company were involved in research projects where more than a hundred plant extracts were tested in the laboratory to understand their effect on rumen microbiota under different feeding conditions. As ruminants lose around 10% of gross energy intake as methane, the objective was to design a product lowering the cow’s methane production and consequently improving feed efficiency and milk yield.
[Feedinfo] What are the active ingredients, and what research did you do to determine its efficacy?
[Kurt Schaller] The product contains essential oils from several botanical sources including coriander and clove. Much research has been conducted into the effects of Agolin Ruminant on dairy cows and beef cattle. In the past decade, over 20 university and field trials across nine countries have been carried out. According to a meta-analysis made by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), methane emissions in dairy cattle were lowered by around 10% when diets were supplemented with Agolin Ruminant, while energy-corrected milk output and feed efficiency were improved by over 4%.
Agolin continues to work with many of the major research institutions around the world in order to further establish the effects of Agolin Ruminant.
[Feedinfo] How do producers integrate Agolin Ruminant into their systems, and what kinds of improvements can they expect?
[Kurt Schaller] Agolin Ruminant is formulated as a free-flowing coated micro granule for inclusion in feed at a rate of one gram per head and day for adult cows. This feed inclusion rate provides the optimum amount to the animal and is the level of inclusion supported by research. The product can be premixed into minerals and fed directly, or added to a TMR or pelleted feed. Extensive research has shown that feeding Agolin Ruminant at the correct feeding rate improves performance and reduces methane emissions at the same time.
[Feedinfo] Agolin Ruminant has also been shown to improve feed efficiency, particularly in dairy cattle. How are methane reduction and feed efficiency linked, ? and what production benefits have been discovered?
[Kurt Schaller] Methane production and emissions represent lost energy and are influencing the environment. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of methane is 25-times that of carbon dioxide and is considered to be a major factor in climate change. A cow loses around 10% of gross energy from feed through methane emissions. If this energy loss can be reduced then the animal can use the saved energy for other purposes, such as production and weight gain. In addition, a reduction in methane output is beneficial to the environment and improves the sustainability of our food.
[Feedinfo] Has being accredited by the Carbon Trust and the World Alliance helped producers recognise the value of Agolin’s additives? Why was gaining accreditation important to you?
[Kurt Schaller] We were very happy to be the first feed additive to be certified for methane reduction and feed efficiency by the Carbon Trust back in 2018. The Carbon Trust is a globally-recognised expert organisation providing direction to governments and major industry in the area of sustainability. Their experts assessed our body of work and agreed that Agolin Ruminant can be a tool for methane reduction in dairy, beef and sheep production. Their finding concurs with the meta-analysis carried out by the CSIC. The World Alliance has helped to promote Agolin’s work in this area also and has provided a platform for us to extend our message to the wider public.
[Feedinfo] What feedback have you have had from producers who have used Agolin Ruminant?
[Kurt Schaller] Since the initial launch of Agolin Ruminant over ten years ago our customer base has continued to grow to the point where it is currently fed to around 1.5 million cows across Europe and beyond. The combined experience of our longstanding customers encourages new business to join, and we encourage the sharing of this knowledge between our customers through regular meetings, feedback and discussion.
[Feedinfo] Livestock emissions are a huge issue for agriculture globally and an area where more feed additive products are likely to be developed. How do you plan to maintain Agolin’s leadership in the market?
[Kurt Schaller] There is no doubt that climate change is now possibly the biggest threat to society and many actions need to be taken to minimise the potential that now exists for a major shift in the ecology of our planet. In some way, Agolin is contributing to this mitigation by providing a solution in the area of food production, helping to create a more sustainable ecological footprint for our dairy and beef requirements.
[Feedinfo] What’s next in terms of research and product development?
[Kurt Schaller] Based on customer requests, we’re working on a program for the voluntary carbon market which will allow industry to produce reduced-carbon milk or meat. In addition, we are pursuing European authorisation for Agolin Ruminant as an environmental additive.
More work needs to be done, and no doubt as more funding for research becomes available, science will uncover new ways for us to move forward as a society. But for now, Agolin will continue to work to ensure that we are providing science-based solutions for animal food production with a strong return on investment for the producer, and offering the opportunity for our industry to take immediate steps to improve sustainability.
Published in association with Agolin