Belching cows are in the spotlight as a team of international scientists hopes to breed a herd of all-star – and burp-less – cows.
According to the Evening Telegraph, the University of Aberdeen is leading the $10 million RominOmics projects. The hope is to increase the efficiency of ruminant farming, while decreasing its environmental impact.
In studying a herd of 25 dairy cows, researchers found that some animals produced less methane than others.
"Our work suggests there is considerable variability between individuals, with some producing more than others," John Wallace, who is leading the study, said. "The finding has led the team to ask whether animals which are low emitters always emit low levels under all circumstances."
Eventually, the research will extend to 1,400 animals to help researchers select which animals will have smaller impact on the environment. Read more.
The Verge notes that the team’s intentions aren’t strictly motivated by environmental concerns.
“The real hope is to increase the efficiency of cows and other ruminant, methane-producing animals,” The Verge reports. “The team says that between 2 and 10 percent of such animals' energy is used to produce methane. Minimizing this wouldn't just help the environment, it would lower feed costs.”
In 2009, the Senate passed a measure to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from levying a “cow tax” on greenhouse gases produced by livestock. Researchers at one university have even suggested adding sandalwood to some cattle feed to reduce methane production in the rumen. However, as another expert points out, cows aren’t the only animals to produce methane. Wild ruminants, including deer and elk, burp methane, too. Click here for more.