Soaring whole milk powder (WMP) prices are lifting forecast milk price to Fonterra farmer suppliers but it is also affecting the co-op’s profitability.
The project uses potential methane-busting Kowbucha probiotics from the co-op's extensive dairy culture collection stored at Fonterra Research & Development Centre (FRDC).
Fonterra head of strategy and innovation Mark Piper says the trademarked Kowbucha is all about making the most of its peoples' skills and dairy expertise to unlock the potential of these cultures.
"The cultures have been selected over decades for their properties in producing different varieties of cheese, yoghurts, sour creams and for use as health promoting probiotics.
"Following analysis of thousands of strains from the collection, specific strains have been identified as those that could potentially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) production naturally from inside the cow.
"The solution must tick all the criteria we apply to any GHG reduction technology. It must be good for the cow, good for the environment and good for the farmer."
Working with AgResearch, Fonterra scientists have replicated the cow's rumen in the laboratory and then added Kowbucha probiotic strains which have shown to reduce methane by up to 50%.
"We're now moving to the next stage," Piper says.
Fonterra has launched its on-farm trials to see how the probiotics perform in the real environment in collaboration with the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc), Massey University and AgResearch where a group of calves will have Kowbucha as part of their regular milk feeding.
In a similar way that young children can gain lasing benefits from taking Fonterra's probiotics early in their lives, it is said the earlier the cows can take the Kowbucha the more effective it could be.
Fonterra project manager for the trial Charlotte Van Der Lee says the amount of methane emissions the calves produce will be measured, and they will be looking for a substantial reduction in emissions.
"Coming from a farming family, it's exciting to be part of this project," she says.
"The race is on to find viable solutions to the methane challenge that will allow New Zealand to achieve national emission reduction targets and further strengthen our reputation as one of the world's most sustainable milk producers."
On-farm trial results will be available in six months.
But the animals will be followed for at least 12 months to track their long-term methane emissions.