Cows Bred To Burp Less Will Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Cow burps are responsible for nearly three-quarters of methane emissions  

A prototype cow which burps less is being bred in a breakthrough that could reduce a big source of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

The farm animals are responsible for nearly three-quarters of total methane emissions.

Most of the gas comes from bovine burps, which are 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Stephen Moore, a professor at the University of Alberta in Canada, is examining the genes responsible for methane produced from the animal’s four stomachs in order to breed more efficient, environmentally friendly cows.

He completed tests using traditional techniques to breed efficient animals that produce 25 per cent less methane than less efficient animals.

‘We are working on producing diagnostic markers (clues to medical causes) for efficient animals,’ said Moore.

‘We are looking at the next generation of technologies that will enable us to determine the genetics of an animal through a blood test or testing some hairs that you might pluck from the animal.’

Farmers could shrink their cattle’s ecological footprint by breeding cows that grow faster, so reducing the time spent standing in fields. Cattle could also be bred to become more efficient in converting feed into muscle and producing less methane and waste, said Moore.

Another method already being used to reduce methane emissions is feeding livestock a diet higher in energy and rich in edible oils, which ferment less than grass or low-quality feed.

New Hampshire-based Stonyfield Farm, an organic yogurt producer in which Groupe Danone holds a majority stake, reduced emissions from their cows on an average of 12 percent by adding alfalfa, flax or hemp to livestock feed on a small number of its farms.

‘If every U.S. dairy farmer reduced emissions by 12 per cent it would be equal to about half a million cars being taken off the road,’ said Nancy Hirshberg, vice president of Stonyfield’s Natural Resources department.

More work needs to be done before the long-term impact is known. Professor Moore’s study was published earlier this year in the Journal of Animal Science.

Via Daily Mail