Cleaner Cow Burps to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Cleaner Cow Burps to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Cow burps are a huge contributor to global climate change. In fact, livestock animals like cows, goats, and sheep, contribute to 44 percent of global methane production; and to make matters worse, methane is 18 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why in order to stop global warming, we need cleaner cow burps. Climate researchers think at a new powder added to cow feed may be just the thing.

Here’s the thing: When cows eat they go through a process of four-part digestion, and during the process they give off tons of carbon dioxide and methane in the form of cow burps. In the U.S. alone, livestock contributes to 26 percent of methane emissions. So the bottom line is that the problem is real contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the ways in which researchers have been looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is by reducing and cleaning up cow burps. And one way to do this is by cleaning up a cow’s diet.

“You could reduce emission intensities – i.e. emissions per kg meat or milk, by about 30% if people in a given region adopted the good practices of the top 10% of farmers that have the lowest methane emissions,” Johan Kuylenstierna, policy director of the Stockholm Environment Institute said by email to The Washington Post. This includes keeping animals healthier, giving them better diets, and managing their reproduction to lower their overall emissions.

And this is a win-win for farmers as well because cow burps are a loss in food energy. The less a cow burps, the faster the animal will grow and the bigger it will get.

Researchers at the material sciences Dutch company DSM have come up with a powder that when added to animal feed reduces methane emissions by 30 percent and has no negative impact on animal welfare. What’s more, new research trials prove without a doubt that the powder works.

According to The Washington Post,

[S]everal researchers from DSM, designed and carried out a trial in which 48 cows, receiving varying amounts of the inhibitor in their feed, were observed over 12 weeks. Their methane emissions were measured when they put their heads into feeding chambers which also had atmospheric measurement sensors, and also through nostril tubes attached to canisters on the backs of the cows. The result was that the inhibitor “decreased methane emissions from high-producing dairy cows by 30%,” the research found.

The Clean Cow Project, as it’s been called, also shows that the energy gained from reduced cow burps makes for cows that gain more weight, an outcome that may also motivate farmers to consider cleaner cow burps. But the trials didn’t show why the powder works and how it actually causes the cows to burp less. Plus, it also didn’t show if it could have a long term impact on cows.

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Image of a cow from Shuttershock