GreenFeedSystem studies correlation between cattle feed consumption and greenhouse gas emissions

By Justin Goulet (@JustinGoulet21)
February 28, 2019 - 12:26pm Updated: February 28, 2019 - 2:26pm

LETHBRIDGE, AB – Exhibition Park is filled to the brim with vendors and agriculture enthusiasts for the 2019 Ag Expo.

The Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Lethbridge Research and Development Centre has a booth set up. On display is the GreenFeedSystem, a creation from South Dakota-based C-Lock Inc.

“The GreenFeedSystem is basically a feeder, so there’s pellets (fed through) on the top and it recognizes an RFID tag that each cattle have but it also has something hidden in it…a gas analyzer at the bottom,” explained Jean-François Coulombe, research technician at the Lethbridge centre.

“We measure the gas in real-time, continuously basically, depending on each cow that there is…because we do different treatments, feed additives and different diets so we can see if it lowers the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) – either methane or carbon dioxide.”

In short, the GreenFeedSystem looks at the link between cattle’s feed consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Coulombe said the system measures and logs the amount of methane and carbon dioxide individually emitted by up to 20 animals per day.

That’s compared to whole-animal climate-controlled chambers where GHG emission can only be measured from four animals per day.

There are three of these systems set up at research stations in Alberta – two in Lethbridge and one in Lacombe. Coulombe said they’ve been studying this for about two years, and the machine on display at the Ag Expo is a new addition to the Lethbridge centre.

“We’re doing different phases. It’s all good to reduce greenhouse gas but for producers we have to get towards a monetary way as well,” he said.

“Greenhouse gas reduction is one of our optics, but we also need to look at feed efficiency to see if we can reduce…to get to the same weight, can we use ten per cent less feed? That’s interesting from a producer point of view. If we can do both and get a compromise between the two, that’s even better.”

Past studies by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the University of Manitoba has shown that producing one kilogram of beef in 2011 resulted in 15 per cent less GHG emissions compared to one kilogram of beef produced in 1981.

He said studies are on-going, but their research results have proven to be “so far, so good”.

“We also use it paired with a GrowSafe feeding system. It’s basically a feed bunk on a scale. It also reads the tags, so we need which animal goes in and then we know the weight before and after. So we know how much it ate and we bring back the emission of gas to dry matter intake of feed,” Coulombe said.

He said no producers in the province use it but he envisions that farmers will take the data from the research and implement that into their operations.

Coulombe added that they’re paired with producers in Nanton who let them use their cattle and test the system in a real, big-scale feed lot, in addition to research done at the Lethbridge centre.

The GreenFeedSystem can be seen on display at the Ag Expo on at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge. The expo runs until Friday, March 1.

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