Livestock and enteric methane

© FAO/Raphy Favre

Enteric methane

Enteric methane is a by-product of the natural digestive process occurring in wild and domesticated ruminant animals such as cattle, goats, sheep, and buffalos.

When microbes decompose and ferment food and fibers in the digestive tract of the ruminant and (rumen), they produce energy and nutrients for the animal, and release methane from digestible energy loss. This digestive process known as enteric fermentation is one of the important sources of methane from livestock.

Up to 12 percent of a ruminant’s energy intake is usually lost as methane through the enteric fermentation process. The amount of enteric methane expelled by the animal depends on the quantity and quality of feeds, the health state and reproductive status of the animal, and environmental factors.

Due to different regional and national conditions, farming practices and approaches to manage supply chains, the intensity of enteric methane emissions and their mitigation potential varies significantly across regions and livestock systems.

FAO and partners are working with countries to assess their greenhouse gas emissions and develop sustainable livestock systems that benefit farmers, the economy, and the planet.



Enteric methane emissions from ruminants and manure management practices account for over 32 percent of global anthropogenic methane emissions. Addressing enteric methane can deliver a quick and immediate response for climate change mitigation.