Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



The Author(s) 2019


Transl. Anim. Sci. 2019.3:775–783 doi: 10.1093/tas/txz027


The objectives of these studies were to evaluate the effects of biochar (0%, 0.8%, or 3% of diet dry matter) on diet digestibility and methane and carbon dioxide production from cattle on growing and finishing diets. The growing diet consisted of 21% brome hay, 20% wheat straw, 30% corn silage, 22% wet distillers grains plus solubles, and 7% supplement. The finishing diet consisted of 53% dry-rolled corn, 15% corn silage, 25% wet distillers grains plus solubles, and 7% supplement. In both trials biochar replaced fine ground corn in the supplement. Six crossbred steers (initial body weight [BW] 529 kg; SD = 16 kg) were used in both the growing and finishing trial. The growing diets were evaluated over 6 periods followed by the finishing trial with 3 periods. Digestibility measures were taken over 4 d after at least 8 d of adaptation to diets followed by 2 d of gas emission measurements using headbox calorimeters. Dry matter intake (DMI) was not affected (P ≥ 0.43; 7.91 kg/d) by biochar inclusion in the growing study and increased quadratically (P = 0.07) in the finishing study with 0.8% biochar inclusion having the greatest DMI (12.9 kg/d). Organic matter (OM) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) digestibility increased quadratically (P = 0.10) in the growing study whereas OM digestibility tended to linearly decrease (P = 0.13) and NDF digestibility was not affected (P ≥ 0.39) by biochar inclusion in the finishing diet. Digestible energy intake (Mcal/d) was not affected (P ≥ 0.25) by biochar inclusion in the growing or finishing study. Methane production (g/d) tended to decrease quadratically (P = 0.14) in the growing study and was decreased 10.7% for the 0.8% biochar treatment relative to the control. There were no statistical differences in methane production (g/d) in the finishing study (P ≥ 0.32) but cattle on the 0.8% biochar treatment produced numerically less (9.6%) methane than the control. Methane production as g/kg DMI of the 0.8% biochar treatment relative to the control was numerically reduced 9.5% and 18.4% in the growing and finishing studies, respectively (P ≥ 0.13). Carbon dioxide production (g/d and g/kg of intake) quadratically decreased (P ≤ 0.06) in the growing study but was not affected by treatment in the finishing study (P ≥ 0.34). Although biochar is not a U.S. Food and Drug Administration -approved feed for cattle, the initial research shows potential as a methane mitigation strategy in both growing and finishing diets.