Director of the Department of Physiology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover
Academic Director, Scottish Rural College
Deputy Director Agricultural Sustainability Institute, UC Davis
Professor of Animal Nutrition, Ghent University
Gerhard Breves graduated from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, and wrote his doctorate thesis at the respective Department of Physiology. After holding a postdoc-position in Hannover, he moved to the Institute of Animal Nutrition at the Federal Agricultural Research Station in Braunschweig, Germany. In 1990 he was appointed as a Professor in Veterinary Physiology at the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany. Since 1997 he has been the Director of the Department of Physiology at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover. His major research focus is gastrointestinal physiology in ruminants and monogastric animals with a special emphasis on comparative aspects of rumen and hindgut microbial metabolism, as well as mechanisms and regulation of epithelial transport processes. This includes both, functional and molecular characterisation of nutrient and electrolyte transport systems.
Prof. Kebreab holds a B.S. degree from University of Asmara, Eritrea, MS and PhD degrees from the University of Reading, United Kingdom, and holds the Sesnon Endowed Chair in Sustainable Animal Agriculture at the Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis. He serves as deputy director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute. He was appointed Associate Vice Provost of Academic Programs in Global Affairs in 2016. Ermias conducts research on reducing the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, particularly greenhouse gas emissions globally. He served on various international and national professional committees including National Academy of Science to update nutrient requirements of dairy cattle and anthropogenic methane emissions. He is contributing author to the International Panel on Climate Change update on global enteric methane emission estimates. He has received several awards for his work including Nutrition Excellence Award from American Society of Animal Science and Young Scientist Award from Canadian Society of Animal Science. He has authored over 200 peer-reviewed articles, 34 book chapters, and edited 5 books.
Jamie Newbold graduated from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with a BSc Honours in Agricultural Biochemistry and Nutrition in 1981. He went on to do his PhD on Microbial Metabolism of lactic acid in the rumen at the Hannah Research Institute in Scotland. Jamie was Professor of Animal Science at the Institute of Biological and Rural Sciences of Aberyswyth University, Wales and is now Academic Director at Scottish Rural College. Prior to joining Aberystwyth University in 2003, Jamie spent 16 years at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen. Jamie’s research interests are focused on the understanding and manipulation of gut ecosystems to improve animal productivity, while reducing the environmental impact of animal husbandry.
Veerle Fievez obtained her PhD in Applied Biological Sciences, Ghent University in 2002 and is currently Professor of Animal Nutrition at Ghent University's Department of Animal Production. Although her main expertise is on ruminant nutrition and microbial digestion and its importance in livestock production, her MSc degree was not in Animal Science. Veerle graduated in bioscientific engineering with a focus on environmental technology. This background results in a specific approach for her research group, where new developments are explored from an engineer’s perspective for potential applications. Furthermore, environmental challenges within livestock production have always been a major focus of the group.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually through belching. On average a cow produces around 500 litres of methane per day.
A cow belches once per minute
A cow pollutes more than an average car
There are 1.5 billion cows on earth
By 2050 2.5 billion cows are expected to live on earth
To understand why cows produce methane, it's important to know a bit more about how their digestive system works. Cows, goats, sheep, and several other animals belong to a class of animals called ruminants. While humans digest food in your intestines, ruminants do it via a four-compartment stomach. They eat food, regurgitate it as cud and then eat it again. This remarkable digestive ability, called enteric fermentation, enables cows to transform valuable biomass, such as grass, into high quality protein and other nutrients, which are then available for a growing human population. However, a byproduct of enteric fermentation is methane produced by bacteria in the largest stomach, the rumen.
Methane is a colourless, odourless gas. It is lighter than air, at normal temperatures and pressures.
Methane is responsible for up to 25% of global warming. Methane is the most prevalent greenhouse gas after CO2.
Methane traps over 86 times as much heat over a 20-year period as carbon dioxide.* While its lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide’s (12.8 years), it traps far more radiation.
Agriculture is responsible for an estimated 24% of the world's greenhouse gases; around 40% of that corresponds to cattle emissions. A significant portion of these emissions come from methane, whose contribution to global warming is 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over 100 years. The majority of consumers want to continue to enjoy beef and dairy and at the same time want to do their part in reducing climate change. Market research confirms that consumers are willing to pay more for climate-friendly produce, which in turn helps farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While cows are a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions, they are also very valuable as they transform biomass, such as grass, into valuable nutrients for a growing human population. The silent majority of consumers want and need beef and dairy products but are also willing to act against climate change and do good.
The current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to increase and reach 9.6 billion by 2050, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). At the same time, the demand for beef and dairy is expected to grow by 73 and 58 percent, respectively.
Cows are a crucial contributor to our environmental ecosystem and the economy. According to the FAO, two-thirds of the global agricultural area is grassland, most of which is not suitable as cropland because of its topography and/or lack of nutrients. Consequently, the land can either not be used at all or used as grazing land for animals that can put it to good use, namely ruminants. Cows – like sheep, goats, buffalo, camels, llamas, yaks and reindeers – are capable of digesting this biomass while humans are not. Through these animals, farmers, and eventually the population, can “harvest” meat, milk, fur and wool from a land that would otherwise be mostly unusable.
Our researchers have developed the novel combination of garlic and citrus extracts over 10 years.
Our researchers have proven in-vitro, ex-vivo and in-vivo efficacy in manipulating rumen fermentation and reducing methanogenesis by 20-99%.
Research has included the development of patented extraction processes and addressing the stability of garlic’s natural compounds, which has allowed the raw materials to be commercialised in a number of agricultural applications. Early efficacy trials included the rumen simulating technique (RUSITEC) with sheep and cattle rumen fluid with Prof. Jamie Newbold, the leading Professor of agricultural research at IBERS, UK showing methane reduction of 35% and 94% respectively.
In-vivo trials with cattle and sheep in the UK as performed by IBERS and DEFRA showed that initial iterations of the concept could reduce methane emissions from cattle and other ruminants by 20-27%.
Our technology was part of the large EU funded collaborative research project SMEthane which included collaboration with Professor Newbold, Dr David Yanez-Ruiz of CSIC, Professor Veerle Fievez of Ghent University and DEFRA where methane reduction was shown at up to 94%. This work was published in EU Research Agency and UK Government Agency reports as well as peer-reviewed journals.
Since the completion of the Pan-European collaborative research project, our research arm, Neem Biotech, has invested 2 years into further validating stability and efficacy of the product, which is now scalable, affordable and palatable to cows. A key consideration was to ensure ease of market entry as a feed supplement, fit for the feed chain.
We constantly undertake extensive further research in order to validate the superior competitive efficacy vs. all available and planned compounds, to gain further insights into even more cost-effective administration approaches over the lifetime of the animal, to obtain more in-depth understanding of the specific mode of action using pioneering DNA and genomics approaches and to validate the efficacy and practicality under differing local conditions (i.e. U.S. and LATAM).
The validation work included in vitro batch incubations with rumen fluid from animals on varying diets in collaboration with Prof. Veerle Fievez and further iterations of the Rusitec equipment with Prof. Gerhard Breves and Prof. Jamie Newbold.
Batch culture data shows methane reductions of 82% with an increase in volatile fatty acids indicating positive effects on the healthy growth and wellbeing of the animal as a result of supplementation. Independent verification of the batch culture data using the Hohenheim Gas Test shows reductions of methane production of over 65% using various formulations of Mootral indicating the consistency of the approach. Volatile fatty acid increases are congruent with those found earlier in batch culture again indicating positive effects on the healthy growth and wellbeing of the animal as a result of supplementation.
Rusitec data from Hannover and IBERS show reproducibility in the reduction of methane production results using rumen fluid from different species of cattle on varying diets. Methane production could be reduced significantly by up to 90%.
In 2017, Mootral was subject to a palatability trial in beef cattle in Italy and Belgium. It was concluded that Mootral was very well accepted by the animals and no impact on feed intake was noted. Furthermore, Mootral was tested in a six week feeding trial on a commercial dairy farm in the Netherlands under normal operational conditions. Mootral had positive effects on the milk yield and the composition of the milk. It was also noted that the somatic cell count in milk as an indicator of udder health decreased in the Mootral group. Results from this trial were presented on a poster at the IDF World Dairy Summit in Belfast.
Breaking new scientific ground
As our data strongly suggests that the effect of our solution, in contrast to other historically studied alternatives, is not transient, we have decided to validate the on-going changes in the gut microbiome at a genomic level.
This is specifically to show that the changes in the rumen microbiome that are evidenced are not transient but show a stable transition in the bacterial population from one geared to methane production to one promoting growth. This is in comparison to work done previously, which only considers the before/after genomics but does not consider the stability of any changes affected by the dietary intervention.
The aim is to use the data to refine our intervention, and intervention strategy to further improve the reduction in methanogenesis whilst promoting the production of the specific short-chain fatty acids that promote animal growth.
We are currently working with three research institutes in Hannover (Germany), Ghent (Belgium) and Aberystwyth (Wales) in independent trials to validate this approach.
 Hart, K. J., Girdwood, S.E., Taylor, S., Tanez-Ruiz, D.R., Newbold, C.J., 2006. Effect of allicin on fermentation and microbial populations in the rumen simulation fermenter Rusitec. Reprod. Nutri. Dev. 46 (Suppl. 1), S97
 Hart, K.J., D.R. Yanez-Ruiz, S.M. Duval, N.R. McEwan, and Newbold, C.J., 2007. Plant extracts to manipulate rumen fermentation." Animal Feed Science and Technology.
 European Commission Research Executive Agency Report, 2013. Technological platform to develop additives to reduce methane emissions from ruminants. Project No. 262270.
 UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Project Report, 2010. Ruminant Nutrition Regimes to Reduce Methane & Nitrogen Emissions. DEFRA Project Code: AC0209
 Veneman, J.B., Muetzel, S., Hart, K., Faulkner, C.L., Moorby, J.M., Perdok, H.N. and Newbold, C.J., 2015. Does Dietary Mitigation of Enteric Methane Production Affect Rumen Fermentation and Animal Productivity in Dairy Cows?. Plos One DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0140282.
Natural plant extracts are an attractive and effective alternative to synthetic products in animal health and have been shown to have significant ability in modulating rumen fermentation. Natural compounds from garlic have shown consistent methane reducing and propionate increasing capacity. These health-promoting effects on ruminants have been confirmed with in-vitro, in-vivo and ex-vivo methods.
Natural plant flavonoids including citrus extracts are known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and recent studies have revealed their ability to improve rumen fermentation. Neem Biotech, Mootral’s research arm, has put extensive resources into investigating the combination of these natural compounds and their synergistic relationship.
All this to say, just a few grams of Mootral into the feed not only makes the ruminant climate-friendly but contains no harmful chemicals, all resulting in better health and performance prospects for the herd.
 Martin, C., Morgavi D.P. and Doreau, M. 2010. Methane mitigation in ruminants: from microbe to farm scale. Animal 4(3): 351-365.
 Cieslak, A, Szumacher-Strabel, M., Stochmal, A. and Oleszek, W., 2013. Plant components with specific activities against rumen methanogens. Animal 7(S2): 253-265.
 Kamra, D.N., Agarwal, N. Sakthivel, P.C. and Chaudhary, L.C., 2010. Garlic as a rumen modifier for eco-friendly and economic livestock production. Journal of Applied Animal Research. 40(2): 90-96.
 Zafarian, R., Manafi, M., 2013. Effect of Garlic Powder on Methane Production, Rumen Fermentation and Milk Production of Buffaloes. Annual Review & Research in Biology 3(4): 1013-1019