A new study is examining the possibilities of adapting cattle husbandry and the selection processes for cow breeding, to lower the greenhouse gas emissions produced when cows beak wind.
Methane from cows is, if greenhouse gas theory is supported, a major pollutant. It is a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Air expelled from cows makes up 20 percent of greenhouse emissions from agriculture, or around 1 percent of all greenhouse gases.
To look at ways to reduce this, Phil Garnsworthy, professor of dairy science at the University of Nottingham in the UK, is steering a European-funded research project called Ruminomics. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle.
The research has shown that cattle vary by a factor of two or three in the amount of methane their stomachs produce. So, it is possible to imagine a dairy herd producing the same volume of milk for lower greenhouse gas emissions. It has also been found that different breeds of cow produce different amounts of methane.
The research group aims to select and breed lower methane producing cows by looking at diet, genetics, and the microbiology of the cow's stomach. The project is set to conclude in 2016.