Reducing Methane Emissions in Agriculture

Success Stories24 May 2023

Livestock inevitably emit methane. In livestock farming, cattle account for the largest share of this. In this article, you will learn how the LGD Compact laser gas detector from Axetris can help reduce methane emissions in livestock production.

Author: Melanie Wahlers, Technical Marketing Manager, Axetris Switzerland

Formation of Methane in Ruminants

It has long been known that methane (CH4) is released during the digestion of ruminants such as cattle, goats and sheep. This process also occurs in wild animals such as buffalo, deer and elk, so it is completely natural. Special microorganisms are at work here, breaking down the food into its components. During the digestion process, these microbes use hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to form methane. Most of this methane escapes through burps from the cow, namely up to 95%. Most often this happens during the transition of food from the first to the second stomach. Depending on the size and feed quantity of the cow, this produces around 300 liters or 200 grams of methane per day. This corresponds to a CO2 equivalent of 5 kilograms. According to a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), emissions from agriculture as a whole amounted to 9.3 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2018, and the figure is rising.

The Right Feed for Each Cow is Key

There are now various approaches to reducing these methane emissions. A very promising is the adaptation of the feed. This is because the easier the cow digests the feed, the less methane is produced in the digestion process. This is achieved, for example, through special concentrated feed or various plant extracts. Some studies have already shown that algae as a feed additive can reduce the amount of methane emitted by up to 82%.


In early 2023, Bill Gates therefore invested in the Australian start-up Rumin8, which specializes in methane-reducing feed for ruminants. Rumin8 uses naturally occurring compounds that have a reducing effect on methane. These compounds are then produced inexpensively as dietary supplements so that they can be used widely in livestock production. However, there is no patent recipe for the perfect mixture, because with cows it is like with people: Your digestion reacts individually. That is why it is important to develop the ideal feed and feeding concept for each cow.

Laser Spectroscopy for Accurate Measurement of Methane Emissions

But as Peter F. Drucker said: "What you can't measure, you can't direct." In order to know which cow reacts to which feed with how much methane emission, a suitable measuring technique is needed. C-Lock from the USA was one of the first companies to recognize this problem early on. With the Green Feed system developed by C-Lock, it is possible to measure the output of methane and carbon dioxide of each cow in order to optimize feeding.


In such feeding systems, the respective cow is identified by means of a chip. During feeding, the gases emitted by the cow are then measured. In this way, the influence of a feed change can be determined directly. In addition to methane, other gases may be present in the breath of cows. Carbon dioxide, in particular, is close to methane in the infrared spectrum and usually leads to cross-influence. The TDLS (Tunable Diode Laser Spectroscopy) technology used in the LGD Compact avoids these interferences. The narrow-band diode laser scans the gas absorption lines separately and also enables dual measurement of both gases. Because LGD modules are calibration-free, costs remain low for long-term use. This is a decisive advantage, especially in livestock farming, because the cost pressure of agriculturally produced products is quite high. Through these advantages, the LGD Compact from Axetris delivers crucial added value to sustainably reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.