Saturday, February 6, 2016

Pharmaceuticals May Aid in Reducing Methane Emissions

Researchers out New Zealand are addressing the release of methane from cattle raised in commercial agriculture. This is relevant considering the growing attention given towards methane emissions contribution to climate change.

Cattle are ruminants which use bacteria and methanogens as part of the digestion process. In order to reduce the amount methane produced during this process the Kiwi research firm AgResearch have proposed four possible solutions:

1. Drug treatments. Developing drugs that would affect the methanogens that exist in the rumen camber of a cow stomach but leave the remaining necessary digestive bacteria unaffected. This may prove difficult in cattle put out to pasture as it would require continuous treatments.

2. Vaccinations. Dr. Janssen of AgResearch has developed a vaccine that raises the antibodies in cattle that attack methanogens but only in test tubes for now.  

3. Breeding. Some cattle and other ruminants are the same size as others but produce less methane. They have smaller rumens and a lower tendency to burp leading to lower methane production. Certain ruminants produce up 10 percent less methane and if breed to only produce lower emitting offspring is a potential emissions reducing plan.

4. Diet. Feeding cattle and sheep a diet of forage rape and fodder beet, reduces methane emission by as much as 25% compared with the burps of animals fed on grass and clover. The down size to this plan arises because these plants do not regrow after grazing and require more maintenance.

None of these will solve the methane emissions problem completely but are steps in the right direction.

Works cited

Wait, what about human flatulence?

By now, some of you may be wondering why we’ve been focusing so much on cow gas emissions. After all, there are more humans than cows, should we be concerned about our own bodily gas emissions? Well, I for one thought this was a fascinating question and so I went to seek out an answer for myself and for all of you.
            Turns out, there are some fundamental differences in the digestion system of cows and humans (probably not too unexpected). Cows are what we call ruminant livestock. Ruminants have four stomachs (sort of) and store their food in the first chamber of their stomach before regurgitating it. This regurgitated food is called “cud”, which is then re-chewed to help with the digestion process. Actually, the majority of methane cows produce comes from their mouths rather than flatulence, because of this unique digestive process. So, as we can see, not all mammals are created equal when it comes to gas emissions.
            So just how do gases produced by the human body compare to gases produced by ruminants? For those of you who are less then passionate about math, I will spare you the calculations (and state my assumptions below). According to my calculations, all the cows around the world would produce about 2.75 x 108 kg per day of methane. According to some rough calculations by Brian Farley, a postdoc at UC Berkley, the world’s human population would produce about 7.3 x 104 kg of methane per day. To be clear, that is saying that the amount of methane produced by cows is nearly 10,000 times greater than all of humanity, reason being that they are ruminant livestock.
            For a clear understanding of this fascinating digestive process, you can watch this short video.

To read a little more about methane produced by ruminants, check out this link.


Methane density = 0.656kg/m3
There are 1.4 billion cows worldwide
1 cow produces 300 liters of methane a day (approximation from above source)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Oregano to Combat Methane in Danish Cattle

Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark are using a novel way to combat methane emissions produced by cows. With a goal of reducing emissions by 25%, the university has partnered with Organic Denmark in this planet-friendly experiment.

The source of the problem in cows is the rumen, which is part of their digestive process. Methane is a bi-product of the microbial process in the rumen. They hope that by incorporating organic oregano into cattle feed, the established antimicrobial properties of the oregano will help to cut out a large portion of methane production in the process.

In addition to the environmental benefits, researchers anticipate a beneficial improvement to the resulting milk's fatty acid composition.

Source: The Cattle Site

Monday, February 1, 2016

How Going Vegan Can Help the Atmosphere

Did you know that farming livestock creates 37% of methane? Although most people think of cars and emissions as the most damaging to the atmosphere, it’s actually largely due to the animals we farm for food. The fastest way to cut down methane would be to cut out meat completely from our diets. By going vegan, we also wouldn’t be putting such a high toll on our natural resources, such as the high usage of water, and the destruction of the rain forests.

Below is a fun video from Refinery29 of Lucie Fink trying out a vegan lifestyle for 5 days, take a look to see what she learns by going 5 days without meat or animal products.