Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) technologies to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from grazing cattle. (GRASTECH)
To what extent can we use sensors and precision farming techniques to map the methane emissions of grazing cows and reduce those emissions by management interventions? The research project 'Grastech' is looking for an answer to this question. In the controllable (feed and management) conditions of a modern dairy barn, methane emissions have already been mapped and some climate strategies have already been researched. In case of grazing, however, parameters will vary. Nevertheless, the researchers want to develop solutions for the climate impact of cows there as well. After all, enteric emissions in Flanders should be reduced by 19% by 2030 compared to 2005 (Flemish Climate Plan).
In a first phase, we look for adapted and validated measuring techniques, because it is not easy to correctly determine the digestive gases of cows on the pasture. Among others, we optimize a Methcollar (a methane measuring collar). We then look at how existing PLF (Precision Lifestock Farming) technologies (based on cow and ruminating activities) can be used to predict methane emissions: can the PLF technologies that map animal health and fertility also indirectly reduce methane emissions through their capacity to improve production efficiency?
We carry out grazing studies in three countries (Belgium, France and the UK): to what extent can we develop grazing management within the existing agreements for "pasture milk" (120 days - 6 hours a day) that also works optimally to adjust - in the barn - the total ration with methane reducing feed additives? Finally, research partner ILVO maps the impact of each step (grazing versus silage? the different grazing systems?) on the total methane emission using life cycle analysis of the entire production chain up to the farm gate.
We expect the Grastech project to have an impact on the sustainability of the Flemish dairy sector. After all, the carbon footprint of pasture milk has not been determined and is now estimated with methane emissions from grazing animals (insufficient data!) on the one hand and the carbon footprint of the feed materials used on the other hand. The expansion of the knowledge about the actual greenhouse gas emissions from grazing animals is important for the Flemish climate accounting, because in this way greenhouse gas emission reductions from grazing animals can also be taken into account. The extensive holistic analysis of a number of pasture systems (at ILVO as well as at the other EU partners) will provide at least 4 new strategies with which livestock farmers can reduce the methane emissions of their grazing animals.