Fish oils reduce greenhouse gas emissions from flatulent cows

March 30, 2009

The benefits to animals of omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils have been well documented - helping the heart and circulatory system, improving meat quality and reducing methane emissions.

These last two benefits may only apply to cows but lowering emissions is important for the environment, as methane given off by farm animals is a major contribution to levels. Today (Monday 30 March) researchers from University College Dublin reported that by including 2% in the diet of cattle they achieved a reduction in the amount of methane released by the animals.

Speaking at the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Harrogate, Dr Lorraine Lillis, one of the researchers, said, "The fish oil affects the methane-producing bacteria in the rumen part of the cow's gut, leading to reduced emissions. Understanding which microbial species are particularly influenced by changes in diet and relating them to methane production could bring about a more targeted approach to reducing in animals."

More than a third of all methane emissions, around 900 billion tonnes every year, are produced by methanogen bacteria that live in the digestive systems of ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats. By volume, methane is 20 times more powerful at trapping solar energy than carbon dioxide making it a potent greenhouse gas.

Approximately 50% of Irish agricultural methane emissions result from farm animals; there have been suggestions that, to help combat global warming, a cap be placed on the number of animals in animal production due to their methane production but with a reduction in methane levels through diet this may not be as necessary.

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: Canada joins U.S. EPA program

Related Stories

Canada joins U.S. EPA program

July 14, 2005

Canada Thursday became the 16th nation to join the U.S. EPA's Methane to Markets Partnership to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas methane.

Methane from microbes: a fuel for the future

December 10, 2007

Microbes could provide a clean, renewable energy source and use up carbon dioxide in the process, suggested Dr James Chong at a Science Media Centre press briefing today.

Recommended for you

A common mechanism for human and bird sound production

November 27, 2015

When birds and humans sing it sounds completely different, but now new research reported in the journal Nature Communications shows that the very same physical mechanisms are at play when a bird sings and a human speaks.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2009
snakeoil works even better
1 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2009
If you want to eat a fishy tasting meat you could try Madon.....
not rated yet Apr 01, 2009
what a pleasant and convenient way to warm ourselves...flatulate to sustain warmth . Now I have an excuse to tell my wife why I farted and pulled the covers over her head!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.