New study: Tannin cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 17% in livestock farming

JBS and Silvateam explained the results of a new study conducted by the São Paulo Institute of Zootechny (IZ). The study showed that a feed additive containing a blend of tannins and saponins can reduce enteric methane emissions by as much as 17% for feedlot beef cattle.

New study: Tannin cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 17% in livestock farmingJBS and Silvateam, one of the global leaders in producing plant extracts for animal feed, have recently unveiled the results of a study demonstrating the effectiveness of tannin in curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within the beef industry. This research, conducted by the São Paulo Institute of Zootechny (IZ), concluded that utilizing a feed additive called SilvaFeed BX®, containing a blend of tannins and saponins, can reduce enteric methane emissions by as much as 17% for feedlot beef cattle. Moreover, the study’s measurement methodology will enable JBS and other industry players to track emission reductions on their GHG accounting in the future.

“JBS has been a key supporter in developing various studies on food additives, including the use of tannins in feed for cattle in feedlots. This technology isn’t just of interest to our company; it’s a matter of significance for the entire livestock sector. By making these solutions accessible throughout the production chain, we are actively contributing to the promotion of low-carbon livestock farming in Brazil,” said Fabio Dias, Director of Livestock at Friboi and leader of Regenerative Agriculture at JBS Brazil.

The research was conducted by experts from IZ’s recently established Science Center for Advancing Climate Neutrality in Beef Cattle Raising. They closely monitored the cattle at JBS’s feedlot in Guaiçara (SP) for approximately six months. When applying the study’s results retroactively between 2019 and 2022, it’s evident that the use of the tannin and saponin mixture in their diet prevented the emission of more than 30,200 tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂) equivalent in JBS feedlot cattle. To put this in perspective, it’s like taking around 24,000 gasoline-powered cars off the road or planting over 2,000 trees during that timeframe.

One of the main advantages of the tannin mixture compared to other feed additives is its widespread use in Brazilian livestock farming. This product not only contributes to weight gain and the development of cattle carcasses but also results in reduced feed costs, improved feed conversion, and enhanced protein efficiency. Over time, experts and researchers have been exploring the hypothesis that tannin, by improving cattle’s intestinal health, would effectively reduce enteric emissions. The study confirmed this hypothesis.

Silvateam reports that since 2016, more than 5 million head of cattle in Brazilian feedlots have been benefiting from the tannin produced by the company. This has prevented the emission of 11,900 tons of methane or 334,766 tons of CO₂ equivalent, corresponding to the planting of 22,600 trees or the removal of 265,600 gasoline-powered cars from circulation.

“Cattle have often been associated with a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions. However, through our studies, evidence, and practical application of tannins in animal nutrition, we have demonstrated that a substantial reduction in methane emissions is possible. This shows that livestock farming actively contributes to achieving climate neutrality,” stated Marcelo Manella, director of Silvateam.

Tannins are natural chemical compounds found in various parts of plants, including fruit, leaves, seeds, and bark. Silvafeed BX, an additive used in JBS feedlots, is based on tannins extracted from quebracho trees, chestnut trees, and saponins. When introduced into cattle feed, these tannins effectively regulate and modify rumen fermentation. This leads to a reduction in enteric methane emissions, improved rumen metabolism, and, consequently, optimized animal performance.

“The research conducted in partnership with JBS and Silvateam not only benefits the participating companies but also the entire Brazilian livestock industry. It provides scientific evidence that the use of feed additives, such as tannins, effectively reduces the carbon footprint of livestock farming, leading to more sustainable operations,” explained Renata Helena Branco Arnandes, the IZ researcher responsible for the study.