Maxammonn - More Efficient, More Output, Lower Carbon Diet

28 Jun 2021

With a number of recent press articles raising environmental questions with urea based grain treatments, we felt it was important highlight not only the inaccuracies of these articles but also the positive performance and environmental benefits of Maxammon  Please note that there are considerable differences between urea-based systems and the following information only relates to Maxammon.

The key environmental effects of a Maxammon system:

  • Improved nitrogen efficiency and retention
  • Improved animal efficiency
  • Improved productivity/performance
  • Reduced carbon footprint

The main benefit of a Maxammon system is that it improves the efficiency of the rumen and the animal. Typically, we have seen efficiency improvements of between 5 and 10% depending on the feeding system. Improvement driven by significant increase in the rumen microbe numbers, which are a key source of protein.

Our data analysis shows that Maxammon does release a negligible amount of ammonia during the treatment process, however if you compare this to the overall net carbon impact then Maxammon can improves carbon score on farm. As with any industry, it is important to look at the whole picture rather than just one aspect, if you look at electric cars, the production of the car and the battery is 40% worse in terms of CO2 emissions than producing a diesel or petrol car. However, the overall net impact of the car during its usage is 50% better for the environment with less CO2 emissions, so it is important that farmers adopt this kind approach to livestock production. 

In the past 12 months two peer, reviewed scientific papers have confirmed the benefits of Maxammon, showing significant improvement in rumen function and performance. The studies compared Maxammon protein with soya protein or urea protein and assumed 100% retention of the Maxammon protein in the treated grain i.e. no ammonia losses. If there were significant ammonia losses then it would be impossible to get any rumen protein benefits. Customers’ who have worked with Maxammon will know ammonia is produced, however the ammonia then reacts with different components of the grain and the vast majority of the converted urea is retained. Over the past 10 years we have analysed more than 10,000 samples of treated grain and have achieved recovery rates of around 93%. This small loss is more than offset by the efficiency improvements. The recent University of Poznan dairy study resulted in 100g more milk protein per day from the same level of dietary protein, this equates to 16g more nitrogen in the output from the animals. The nitrogen loss due to ammonia would have been around 2g/day. In our studies the overall nitrogen balance shows substantial benefits of a Maxammon system. The increased rumen microbial protein production means more efficient nitrogen retention from the whole diet and also enables us to ration animals with lower dietary protein levels. It is obviously important to minimise any ammonia losses. To reduce losses we recommend clamps are covered for the first two weeks whilst the ammonia is being created and reacting with the grain. One further thing to consider is that by feeding ammonia nitrogen directly to the rumen the small losses of the Maxammon system will be far less than fertilising ground for plants to capture nitrogen.

Unlike methane and carbon dioxide ammonia is not a greenhouse gas. It is however an air pollutant and efforts should be made to reduce overall emissions. Despite the small losses, which occur during the Maxammon process the improvements in nitrogen efficiency mean it will reduce overall nitrogen losses. In the dairy trial, previously mentioned 32.3% of the dietary nitrogen was retained as milk protein in the Maxammon group compared with 29.7% in the control group – an 8.8% improvement.

The key environmental driver for all animal production systems is feed efficiency. Maxammon consistently improves feed efficiency in ruminants. In a Scottish beef trial, conducted in conjunction with Glasgow University Vet School, we saw an 11% improvement in feed conversion efficiency i.e. 11% less feed for every kg of gain. The Maxammon fed animals were also finished at a younger age, a benefit all of our customers see.  Lowering the age at slaughter reduces the environmental impact as there are fewer days alive where animals emit methane. Lowering methane emissions is the key environmental driver in ruminant production systems.

The effects of Maxammon on ruminant efficiency and production and subsequent impact on methane emissions will far outweigh the very small losses of ammonia associated with the process. We have recently commissioned environmental scientists to fully model this. In the most recent Maxammon studies the researchers looked at rumen methane production and saw significant reductions of up to 19%. Further studies are being conducted to clarify this effect.

More efficient animals also tend to leave better returns for the producers. 

Key to the efficacy of Maxammon is ensuring complete conversion of urea to ammonia. At Harbro we uniquely guarantee the activity of Maxammon. This has been a central focus of our research team in recent years, this year we have enhanced the activity level further to ensure urea conversion and rumen performance benefits.

It is important to point out that the negative press articles have been sponsored by individuals or businesses with commercial interests in alternative, acid based, grain treatment systems. Whilst an excellent preservation system, acid treatments do not improve rumen efficiency in the way Maxammon does.


Belanche et al, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Mar 2021

Libera et al, Annals of Animal Science, Nov 2020

Agricultural Emissions – greenhouse gases and ammonia; Teagasc Factsheet July 2020

Jonsson, Wolff & MacKenzie, Proceedings of the Nordic Feed Science Conference 2018

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