Cow Backpacks Trap Methane Gas

Jul 11, 2008 by Lisa Zyga weblog
Cow Backpacks Trap Methane Gas
Researchers from Argentina were surprised to find that a single 550-kg cow produces between 800 to 1,000 liters of emissions each day. (Reuters)

(PhysOrg.com) -- In an attempt to understand the extent of cow flatulence on global warming, scientists in Argentina are strapping plastic bags to the backs of cows to capture their emissions.

Argentina has more than 55 million cows, making it a leading producer of beef. In the study, the scientists were surprised to discover that a standard 550-kg cow produces between 800 to 1,000 liters of emissions, including methane, each day.

Further, methane - which is also released from landfills, coal mines and leaking gas pipes - is 23 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

"When we got the first results, we were surprised," said Guillermo Berra, a researcher at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology in Argentina. "Thirty percent of Argentina´s (total greenhouse) emissions could be generated by cattle."

In their study, the researchers attached balloon-like plastic packs to the backs of at least 10 cows. A tube running to the animals´ stomachs collected the gas inside the backpacks, which were then hung from the roof of the corral for analysis.

The Argentine researchers say that the slow digestive system of the cows causes them to produce these large amounts of methane. Now, the scientists are performing trials of new diets designed to improve the cows´ digestion and reduce global warming. By feeding cows clover and alfalfa instead of grain, "you can reduce methane emissions by 25 percent," according to Silvia Valtorta of the National Council of Scientific and Technical Investigations.

via: Reuters

Explore further: Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Camels emit less methane than cows or sheep

Apr 10, 2014

When digesting ruminants exhale methane. Their contribution to this global greenhouse gas is considerable. So far the assumption had been that camels with similar digestion produce the same amount of the ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

16 hours ago

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

User comments : 34

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

aussiecarter
3.1 / 5 (16) Jul 11, 2008
i understand that 20% of greenhouse gas emmisions are caused by livestock, and that atmospheric methane causes warming for 7 years only. Therefore this could be a significant study in the pursuit of reducing global warming.
TJ_alberta
3.3 / 5 (9) Jul 11, 2008
"...now, if we could get all the cows to fart at the same time..." Ralf Kline

This is not a new subject but a fascinating one, for example: "Farmers in Estonia received their first "Cow Fart" tax demand on Monday. Following the issues of global warming, Estonia cited that a single cow produces 350 L of methane gas and 1500 L of carbon dioxide a day from flatulence and burping."
http://www.capeco...?blog=94

And for the other side, see also: http://digg.com/e...ol_Earth
brianN
4.8 / 5 (5) Jul 11, 2008
aussiecarter
7 years refers to its half life.
kombizz
3.5 / 5 (10) Jul 12, 2008
I should remind myself not to eat too many Heinz Baked Beanz because sooner or later I will receive Fart Tax! from the government.
Sparkygravity
4.4 / 5 (8) Jul 12, 2008
NEW VENTURE CAPITAL INVESTMENT!!! Now, you too can become rich in the blossoming industry of natural gas!!! With oil prices and energy costs on the rise this is the investment of a lifetime! Potential returns of 300% or more. How is this opportunity possible?! Two words.... flatulent cows!
nilbud
3.7 / 5 (10) Jul 12, 2008
Cattle are not meant to eat grain or corn which is why they have such difficulty digesting the muck. If they were fed their natural food of grasses they'd produce a lot less methane. The same applies to humans and fructose based sugars, they're cancerously bad for us, which is why we don't use them in the EU.
aussiecarter
1.9 / 5 (7) Jul 12, 2008
BrianN, thanks for correcting about the half life. It still remains that methane released by cows may have a significant impact on global warming. After energy production, it is livestock which produces second most global warming impact, which is more than from transport. Check out TED presentation about this matter on a global scale.

http://www.ted.co...eat.html
brianN
1.6 / 5 (7) Jul 12, 2008
I agree AussieCarter
zevkirsh
2.6 / 5 (12) Jul 12, 2008
wow. this is proof of the idiocy of those who have been fooled into beliveing in the immminent demise of civilization by man made global warming.

ridiculous. the problem is clear cutting land to make it into pastures for grazing cows. that's the problem. not how much ass gas they have. global warming alarmists are total morons.

datajanitor
3.2 / 5 (5) Jul 12, 2008
An interesting statistic then would be. What is the difference in area used ("clear cutting") for livestock/cattle in comparison to the area used for transport(aka. roads, parking structures, airports) both are cutting down and/or using valuable resources creating a global warming impact. Not to disregard either both are a problem, but it seems zevkirsh is trying to reveal the root of the problem.
jburchel
2.7 / 5 (12) Jul 12, 2008
Yes, meat is murder, as is capitalism, two of the cardinal sins of the religion of modern liberalism. We should all go out and get abortions now to atone for our meat murdering planet killing ways. Thank God there is a Messiah, Our Merciful Lord Barack Obama, so we can be cleansed of the evils of the right wing devils.

Seriously though... what a stupid article, just another of many along this lame vein... Please somebody invent a "fair and balanced" science news site so I can finally dump PhysOrg like I dumped CNN so long ago.
Durbonator
3.9 / 5 (7) Jul 12, 2008
Did you know that vegitarians also produce much more methane than meat eaters do. The cows produce gas so we don't have to. Most vegitarians are liberal as well, so lets put a big gas bag on their ass too. They spout enough s**t out of their mouths.
Erik
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2008
Why not add an igniter to their tails? Burn the methane into less harmful CO2.... ;-)
PresstoDigitate
5 / 5 (8) Jul 13, 2008
You dont want to reduce the cows' Methane production, you want to HARNESS it. Hermetically sealed dairy barns exist which capture 100% of the cow flatulence (and belches, another overlooked source of Methane), drawing all the air into the intake of an engine set up to burn Methane from digested manure from the same cattle. Its how all future dairy and beef cattle will be raised; most likely all pigs and chickens as well. It doesnt embarrass the cows as much as wearing that silly contraption...
p1ll
3 / 5 (4) Jul 13, 2008
so now we are going to put big fart bags on the back of all cows? maybe we should do the same with people? ;) sorry, but its just so ridiculous.. i think its a good idea to see what cows digest best, but i hope that we dont end up putting fart bags and tubes up the butt of all cattle. its just sad :(
Star_Gazer
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2008
Methane could be used a as rocket fuel to propel cows to the moooooon!
barkster
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2008
I'm calling PETA. Did anyone bothers to ASK the cows about how they feel having a tube shoved up their butt, and that fashionless bag strapped to their backs? Red plastic is sooo 80's.
Mayday
3.3 / 5 (7) Jul 13, 2008
This article and discussion have, taken together, singularly convinced me that global warming is a sham. If cow's flatulence has now become a significant problem in your lives to be solved... well then God bless you and good night.
jeffsaunders
4 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2008
I am disappointed in articles like this that blame livestock for producing gas and then in very small part of the article mention that they are being fed grain and not grazing at all.

Furthermore if the cattle were in fact grazing as cattle like to do they would produce significantly less gas than the artcle attributes to ALL cattle.

The way this article and manny others like it appear in newspapers we will soon see demands for the extermination off all cattle, wilderbeast, elephants in fact all grazing animals so they can stop producing methane gas.

Then I wonder what all those grasses will do if they are not eaten. Will that methan gas not be produced by rotting vegetation?

Is it fact the cow or the bacteria that produce the gas? Yes it is bacteria so do not bacteria exist everywhere? perhaps they are a little slower when not in the controlled environment of the gut but they do function anyway.
sardion2000
1 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2008
Is it me or do all the Anti-Democrat posts seem as if they are made by the same person?
humanist
2 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2008
I'm guessing a fart-bag for termites is next..
aussiecarter
3 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2008
Why do the global warming political activists message here? This is a science forum and your contibution consistently misses the point. Please note these things before you leave:
1. bag is for science research not long term global warming reduction technology
2. 1000L per cow per day of methane is significant
mocaorca
5 / 5 (4) Jul 14, 2008
Aussiecarter it doesn't say that it is 1000L of methane it says it's 1000L of emission, including methane. It doesn't say the percentage anywhere that I noticed. I wish people would document the important parts better instead of trying to sensationalize it by putting poor statistics like that.
jburchel
3 / 5 (6) Jul 14, 2008
No, there are just a lot of people who feel the same way, and it is so incomprehensible to you that anybody thinks outside your orthodox liberal mindset that it seems impossible, so your mind constructs a false reality in which all those people are just one mindless screamer, and you are still cozily correct and the whole world of sane people agree with you.

Is it me or do all the Anti-Democrat posts seem as if they are made by the same person?
Is it me or do all the Anti-Democrat posts seem as if they are made by the same person?
Is it me or do all the Anti-Democrat posts seem as if they are made by the same person?
Egnite
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 14, 2008
Very scary, cow flatulence could end our happy little world :-( Has anyone thought of strapping a bag to the back of Mt Etna Volcano? I'm quite sure her "flatulence" will be able to cause thousands of times more worry than any amount of bovine would.
Minnaloushe
3 / 5 (6) Jul 14, 2008
Gee. Are we all going to have to buy carbon cedits to eat baked beans? Maybe a monitoring sensor up the old wazoo (wonder if Al Gore would step up as a test subject...)? I'm afraid the millenarian crypto-faith that is the belief in apocalyptic global warming is just being used as the latest excuse for power-players to bring about more and more totalitarianism, both political and economic. Every age has had its own eschatological frenzies and fanatics -- undisputed masters of the contra-real who should avoid serious discourse.
I think some of the purveyors of the more extreme varieties of man-made global warming domm scenarios have confused (or ignored) the scientific criterion requiring repeatability, and have instead substituted mere rhetorical repetition.
As for me, you can say that PI is equal to 3 as passionately and as often as you like, but it'll still be 3.1414926....
Minnaloushe
2.8 / 5 (6) Jul 14, 2008
The study is what the study is, and, though done scientifically, is still making an assumption that greenhouse emissions (or effluvia as is the case here) from cow anuses is even relevant to global warming that hasn't even been established as unnatural given the planet's history. The myopia is flabbergasting considering how long the planet has been around when compared with the tiny time period during which we have real climate data to supplement what we can infer from geologic data. But I suppose since the Earth is only a few thousand years old and mammals weren't created until perhaps a few centuries ago, that the emergence of farting animals IS a recent enough development that the planet has *never* before had to endure the Venusian clouds of their incredible flatulence!

Gee. Are we all going to have to buy carbon cedits to eat baked beans? Maybe a monitoring sensor up the old wazoo (wonder if Al Gore would step up as a test subject...)? I'm afraid the millenarian crypto-faith that is the belief in apocalyptic global warming is just being used as the latest excuse for power-players to bring about more and more totalitarianism, both political and economic. Every age has had its own eschatological frenzies and fanatics -- undisputed masters of the contra-real who should avoid serious discourse.
I think some of the purveyors of the more extreme varieties of man-made global warming doom scenarios have confused (or ignored) the scientific criterion requiring repeatability, and have instead substituted mere rhetorical repetition.
As for me, you can say that PI is equal to 3 as passionately and as often as you like, but it'll still be 3.1414926....
General_Haberdashery
3.5 / 5 (4) Jul 14, 2008
Unable to harvest solar power with greater efficiency, scientists decided instead to focus on gathering said energy in new more obtuse and humorous ways.
Mercury_01
4.5 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2008
Thos cows are just plain rude.
Ridgerunner
5 / 5 (3) Jul 15, 2008
methane = lighter than air gas.

Has anyone computed how big that bag would have to be, and how many days of emissions until the cows lifted off? :)
OdinsAcolyte
4.7 / 5 (3) Jul 16, 2008
They had to study this? What fools with money there are in this world. I am inclined to file a lawsuit against those who approved the funding and wasted the republics tax money. How about the humans? They are a farty bunch...
I am sure the politicians and the tribe of attorneys from whence they came produce more gas than anything else. I would like to install fart pipelines in Washington D.C.; can I get a grant?
nilbud
1 / 5 (1) Jul 19, 2008
@Odinsa

Argentina
vlam67
5 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2008
This methane measuring experiment is fundamental in developing a fool-proof Fart-To-Meter to be used on all politicians to measure the amount of nonsensicals they spew forth during their time in the office.
chaffman
not rated yet Jul 09, 2009
Cows have four stomachs which make it nearly impossible to "fart". The gases are released when they belch up their cud.

More news stories

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...