Traces of cow’s methane emissions in the milk

May 27, 2011

Wageningen University researchers in the Netherlands are able to determine cows' methane emissions using the composition of fatty acids in their milk. This opens up the prospect of a method for reducing methane production by cows.

Methane is the main produced by cows but it is difficult to measure the quantity in practice. The FAO estimates that methane accounts for 52 percent of all produced by the dairy sector. Wageningen UR uses so-called climate respiration chambers to get precise measurements of cows' methane production, but that is an expensive technique. These measurements do show that Dutch cows emit 20 grams of methane on average per kilogram of feed, with emissions ranging from 15 to 25 grams. The variation is determined primarily by the , which is interesting as it means farmers may be able to influence emissions.

The Wageningen UR researchers determined the of one hundred cows on ten different feed rations using climate respiration chambers. They also took milk samples from these cows to determine the composition of the for each cow. Milk fat consists of hundreds of different fatty acids. Fourteen of these fatty acids turned out to have a significant relationship to the methane production. The researchers developed a formula allowing them to predict methane emissions using four fatty acids. These fatty acids are produced partly in the cow's intestines, where microorganisms convert the feed into nutrients for the cow but also produce methane.

The researchers can now use the milk's fatty acid profile to predict the methane production per cow or per farm. Determining the fatty acid composition is a fairly simple operation, which opens up the possibility of measuring methane emissions per dairy farm or cow, says researcher Jan Dijkstra of the Animal Nutrition Group. Moreover, that could lead to recommendations for feed that can reduce methane emissions. The animal feed producer Provimi and the microbiological R&D company Alimetrics were partners in the research project.

However, they are not there yet. 'The relationship between the fatty acid composition and is based on a relatively small dataset. We need more data to develop a robust indicator. We intend to gather that data in collaboration with international partners.' Dijkstra published his research at the start of this month in Animal Feed Science and Technology.

Explore further: Study casts doubt on climate benefit of biofuels from corn residue

Provided by Wageningen University

1 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Special feed halves methane production

Dec 20, 2010

It is not garlic but nitrate and sulphate that reduces methane production in the stomachs of cows and sheep. If their feed contains a small percentage of these substances the amount of this powerful greenhouse gas produced ...

Vt. farmers cut cows' emissions by altering diets

Jun 21, 2009

(AP) -- Vermont dairy farmers Tim Maikshilo and Kristen Dellert, mindful of shrinking their carbon footprint, have changed their cows' diet to reduce the amount of gas the animals burp - dairy cows' contribution ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

( —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (2) May 27, 2011
The FAO estimates that methane accounts for 52 percent of all greenhouse gases produced by the dairy sector. . . .The Wageningen UR researchers determined the methane emissions of one hundred cows on ten different feed rations using climate respiration chambers. . . . Moreover, that could lead to recommendations for feed that can reduce methane emissions.

Is this a comedy or serious science?

What is FAO and whose money are they spending?

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.