Study shows potential for reduced methane from cows

Study shows potential for reduced methane from cows
Professor John Williams at the University of Adelaide's Roseworthy campus. Credit: University of Adelaide

An international team of scientists has shown it is possible to breed cattle to reduce their methane emissions.

Published in the journal Science Advances, the researchers showed that the genetics of an individual cow strongly influenced the make-up of the microorganisms in its rumen (the first stomach in the digestive system of ruminant animals which include and sheep).

"What we showed is that the level and type of -producing microbes in the cow is to a large extent controlled by the cow's ," says one of the project's leaders and co-author Professor John Williams, from the University of Adelaide's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences. "That means we could select for cattle which are less likely to have high levels of methane-producing bacteria in their rumen."

Cattle and other ruminants are significant producers of the greenhouse gas methane—contributing 37 percent of the resulting from human activity. A single cow on average produces between 70 and 120 kg of methane per year and, worldwide, there are about 1.5 billion cattle.

The study comes out of a project called RuminOmics, led by the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen and involving the Parco Tecnologico Padano in Italy (where Professor Williams used to work), the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, and a number of other institutions in Europe and the US.

The researchers analysed the microbiomes from ruminal fluid samples of 1000 cows, along with measuring the cows' feed intake, milk production, methane production and other biochemical characteristics. Although this study was carried out on , the heritability of the types of microbes in the rumen should also apply to beef cattle.

"Previously we knew it was possible to reduce methane emissions by changing the diet," says Professor Williams. "But changing the genetics is much more significant—in this way we can select for cows that permanently produce less methane."

Professor Williams says breeding for low-methane cattle will, however, depend on selection priorities and how much it compromises selection for other desired characteristics such as meat quality, milk production or .

"We now know it's possible to select for low methane production," he says. "But it depends on what else we are selecting for, and the weighting that is placed on methane—that's something that will be determined by industry or society pressures."

The researchers also found a correlation, although not as high, between the cows' microbiomes and the efficiency of milk production.

"We don't yet know, but if it turned out that low-methane production equated to greater efficiencies of production—which could turn out to be true given that energy is required to produce the methane—then that would be a win, win situation," Professor Williams says.

This research, from the Davies Research Centre at the University of Adelaide's Roseworthy campus, aligns with the University's industry engagement priority in agrifood and wine, and in tackling the grand challenge of environmental sustainability.


Explore further

Scientists discover processes to lower methane emissions from animals

More information: R. John Wallace et al. A heritable subset of the core rumen microbiome dictates dairy cow productivity and emissions, Science Advances (2019). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav8391
Journal information: Science Advances

Citation: Study shows potential for reduced methane from cows (2019, July 5) retrieved 24 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-potential-methane-cows.html
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Jul 05, 2019
Gee what could go wrong with this idea. Better to recognize that changing the way cattle are rasied from grain based industrial approach to natural grass based approach and the cattle/grass system sequesters carbon - net of all farts etc. Planting soy and corn do not achieve this, In fact grain based cattle system scores a plus 30, beyond meat a plus 3 and grass based cattle a minus three -- minus is carbon put in atmosphere. Solution is simple follow nature and restore the balance. Gates and others keep funding these crazy ideas with no consideration of the unintended consequences. Roundup resistant weeds are but one example along with tobacco plant that use Oxygen and not CO2 for photsynthesis

Jul 05, 2019
Wouldn't it be simple to search for some bacteria that can digest methane inside cows?

Jul 05, 2019
Has anyone subtracted the number of American Bison (and all other ruminants (Cape Buffalo, Wildebeest, Elk, Reindeer, deer, et. al.,)) alive in 1500 from the number of ruminants today? You may find the fart output was higher in 1500.

Jul 05, 2019
Or just eat Kangaroos.

JRi
Jul 06, 2019
How about a "Dragon" device, which would burn the methane when the cow burps.

Jul 06, 2019
This is indecent. Domesticated animals deserve better. They way they normally live and occupy the land is not the problem. Herding animals have been doing it for longer than we exist. What IS the matter is what we have done to these animals. The creation of the CAFO - the concentrated animal feeding operation - is the problem. These studies are based on this type of management, not how small organic farms raise and maintain their animals. The devil is always in the details and how, in order to ratchet up the profits, we manipulate something that is perfectly OK into something that damages the Earth. What a self-destructive species we are and in being that, we destroy everything that exists around us and that we depend on.

Jul 06, 2019
As per me This will harm the cattle because indirectly they want to reduce protein content in cattles. corporate are worst of the society they will not change their emission from coal , plastics and fossil fuels.

Jul 06, 2019
We do not need Bill Gates or any other rich person to fund these studies. There are millions of wives/girlfriends that would donate to research how to produce less farts.

Jul 06, 2019
Genetically altered ruminants

Grassfarmer
Gee what could go wrong with this idea

All the billions of animals that once roamed where people now roam
As we are still here
Just what could go wrong?
We are about to find out with genetics

Jul 06, 2019
How do you "fix" the cattle methane "problem"?
With AGW Cult "science"..er...excuse me...bullshit, of course.

Jul 07, 2019
You warmists are a hoot.

CRISPR is your friend.

50 years from now we will laugh at your climate concerns.

Jul 07, 2019
American Bison (and all other ruminants (Cape Buffalo, Wildebeest, Elk, Reindeer, deer, et. al.,)) alive... ruminants today? ...fart output
I dunno why dont you try the INTERNET?

"Exploring the influence of ancient and historic
megaherbivore extirpations on the global
methane budget
"Globally, large-bodied wild mammals are in peril. Because "mega-
mammals" have a disproportionate influence on vegetation, tro-
phic interactions, and ecosystem function, declining populations
are of considerable conservation concern. However, this is not
new; trophic downgrading occurred in the past, including the Af-
rican rinderpest epizootic of the 1890s, the massive Great Plains
bison kill-off in the 1860s, and the terminal Pleistocene extinction of
megafauna. Examining the consequences of these earlier events
yields insights into contemporary ecosystem function. Here, we focus
on changes in methane emissions, produced as a byproduct of enteric
fermentation by herbivores."

Jul 07, 2019
There is even a very informative table in the study

"Fig. 2. Enteric methane emissions by wild (teal) and domestic (spotted)
herbivores. The reduction in CH4 emissions resulting from extinctions or
extirpation of animals is indicated in red. For the rinderpest epizootic, both
domestic and wild animal sectors were affected. Emissions by domestic an-
imals outpaced wild mammals just before 1800 AD. Contributions by wildlife
may be slightly underestimated for 1800 and the 1860s because the density
equation used was posthuman impact; we would expect the summed con-
tribution of wildlife and domestic livestock to be approximately constant
until the modern era when increased crop yield has led to higher production."

Jul 07, 2019
This is indecent. Domesticated animals deserve better
They deserve not to exist.
They way they normally live and occupy the land is not the problem
Of course it is.
Herding animals have been doing it for longer than we exist
WILD animals... see the above study I refed.
What IS the matter is what we have done to these animals
THESE animals are entirely artificial. They have been designed to provide meat and other products, sometimes for work. Tech has replaced most of these functions. And soon we won't need them for meat or dairy.

And we certainly cannot let them loose...

"Wild hogs are in at least 39 states and cause up to $2.5 billion in damage annually. More than 5 million of the feral swine roam the U.S., with Texas having the biggest share. The pigs are a menace for agriculture but also a health risk and threat to native wildlife." [see salmonella in your romaine]

-They are all temporary. Their days are numbered.

Jul 07, 2019
If you reduce the efficiency that ruminants process grass, etc., you reduce their efficiency in growth, milk production, etc.

Farmers will not sit idly by while their cattle are changed into higher cost, slower growing and poorer milk producing animals.

Jul 07, 2019
Farmers will not sit idly by while their cattle are changed into higher cost, slower growing and poorer milk producing animals.
Their industry is already dying.

"The meat industry's future in recent years isn't exactly looking bright. And as meat demand wanes, Wall Street is watching. NASDAQ published an article headlined How the 'Death of Meat' Could Impact Your Portfolio... In 2007, the U.S. raised and killed 9.5 billion land animals for food—a statistic that had been steadily increasing each year for decades. Today, that number has plummeted by 400 million individual animals—to 9.1 billion. What that means is that compared to 2007, last year almost half a billion fewer animals..."

-But consumers are already opting for more expensive alternatives;

"2010, the natural and organic beef market share was at 1.6 percent. In April 2014, the USDA Economic Research Service indicated organic sales accounted for more than 4 percent of U.S. food sales"

Jul 07, 2019
@shooty, the idiot who can't internet
from the number of ruminants today? You may find the fart output was higher in 1500.
ya should learn to internet
Methane is produced in the guts of ruminant livestock as a result of methanogenic microorganisms (belonging to the Archaea)
http://www.ghgonl...ants.htm

Ruminants are animals that digest their food through fermentation carried out by microorganisms living in the rumen. This process produces organic acids... But in addition, the process also produces methane, which escapes into the atmosphere in the form of gas
https://phys.org/...nts.html

we've known this for a few years... at least since 1965
Blaxter, Clapperton (1965)

excellent read by Crutzen, I Aselmann, W Seiler (1986, Max Plank Institute) about enteric fermentation if you can read

Jul 08, 2019
What difference does it make whether plant matter is digested (decomposed) within cattle or without, laying on the ground? The carbon that makes up plant matter is released into the atmosphere one way or the other. It cannot be prevented. How is this whole idea not completely absurd?

Jul 08, 2019
I have a much simpler and more effective solution;
Don't eat farm grown cows and don't farm cows for their meat.
This would greatly reduce their total methane production.

Jul 08, 2019
So basically everyone is against breeding cows to make less methane?

Jul 08, 2019
So basically everyone is against breeding cows to make less methane?
says Schneib

humy has said that he is a vegan, but also eats and drinks dairy products. I assume that means milk and ice cream, and perhaps cheese. But dairy products come from cow udders, and cows and steers produce methane. Come to think of it, so do humans.

Jul 08, 2019
humy has said that he is a vegan,
Surveillance_Egg_Unit

No, I clearly didn't. I am NOT a vegan and never said I was. I said I consume dairy products. I also said I don't eat meat. Have you got a problem with that?

Jul 08, 2019
That atm spam post has been up for a day now. I wonder if physorg has any mods left-

Jul 08, 2019
humy has said that he is a vegan,
Surveillance_Egg_Unit

No, I clearly didn't. I am NOT a vegan and never said I was. I said I consume dairy products. I also said I don't eat meat. Have you got a problem with that?
says humy

In the phorum about sharks and plastics, you said:

"humy
Jul 07, 2019
Unfortunately, humans are a meat-eating animal and the nutrients found in animal meat are required by the human body.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit

All the essential nutrients required by the human body can be obtained from eating only dairy products and plant matter alone thus there is absolutely no need for any of us to eat animal meat.
I am one of many people that never eat animal meat and we have shown no ill-health from merely doing this."

I have no problem with you not eating meat. Why would I? It's your free choice. For some humans, cheese, whole milk makes them gassy, by the way. And you are consuming milk and cheese that come from farm animals.

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