I can already see that steak on my table. Cows are notorious for their meat, their mass, and their.... gas. A great deal of their methane production happens from their burps interestingly enough. And it is here that scientists are trying to come up with a solutions. Agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, with a third of that coming from livestock.
In an attempt to stymie the growing emission levels, California has enacted several regulations requiring all dairy farmers to reduce their methane emissions by at least 40% over the next decade. However, researchers at the University of California and the University of the Sunshine Coast looked into a solution in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and just recently came up with several solutions that may get them to those goals much quicker. Two different attempts have been made to solve the issue, with significantly different methodologies.
A Big Piece of the Pie
Cattle are responsible for almost 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The majority of this stems from beef and milk production, because cows especially create so much methane.
Researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia, discovered that a certain species of seaweed that is native to the Australian coast is able to knock out cows' methane production. Not reduce. Knock out. Up to 99% reduction of emissions in cows that were given just a 2% mix of seaweed into their dry food.
One of the challenges is making sure that the cows don't notice what they added to their food, because the animals are notorious picky eaters, and will avoid eating something familiar if it looked different.
If they were able to introduce this into the feed of every cow in Australia, they would reduce the country's emissions by over 10%. Currently they are looking at ways for them to mass produce the seaweed on a level that could be nationally, or even globally distributed.
Methane has 28 times more heating potential than CO2, and because that is the major greenhouse gas emitted by cattle, its critical to reduce our methane emissions wherever possible.
Genetic markers for methane production discovered
A study of over 1,000 cows all across Europe has yielded some fascinating results. There is a microbe scientists isolated in a cow's digestive system, that is responsible for the animal's methane production. More interesting still, some cows produce more methane than others, because the microbe is inherited.
We Will Mess With the Genetics of Anything
This means that potentially, by selectively breeding cows without these inherited microbes in their gut, they could create environmentally friendly cattle, which could slow down our impact on the ozone layer and global warming significantly.
The Israeli head researcher on this project, also found that he would be able to increase milk production efficiency significantly through genetic trait isolation and breeding.