Beef, With A Side Of Methane

US - In our worldwide fight against global warming, we need to target all contributors: power plants, automakers, oil companies and … cows. Yes, the sedentary animals that have their own sculptures on the St. Paul campus and add their own unique smell to the world have a problem of global significance.
calendar icon 13 April 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
Methane is 21 times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide.

Most people probably don't put cows in their top five of global warming polluters, but this fixture on the farm has a gassy secret: Cows burp a lot. Along with the smell, methane is the greenhouse gas that makes the byproducts of cows a danger to the climate.

Carbon dioxide is the most famous greenhouse gas, but methane is 21 times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide. That means that it takes less methane to do the same harm as carbon dioxide. Cows are believed to be responsible for 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The average cow emits 280 liters of methane per day. With approximately 97 million head of cattle in the United States, it's easy to see this is more than a problem of hot air.

The other byproduct from cows, cow poop, is also rich with methane. This methane can be captured from the waste in an anaerobic digester, however, and turned into usable natural gas. This emerging tool has a hefty price tag, but it can turn manure into money for farmers.

Recently researchers at the University of Hohenheim in Germany announced an agricultural breakthrough that could save the planet: A pill to help cows digest the methane and, in turn, reduce the belching. In short, this Gas-X for cows might help save the planet. The fist-sized pill full of plant material, combined with a higher quality and lighter diet, reduces the amount of methane burped by cows.

This reduction in methane helps the planet and also puts more money back in dairy farmers' pockets. That's because methane is essentially feed energy that, if better digested by cows, could be used to produce more milk. A study by researchers at the University of Manitoba found that between 2 and 12 percent

Source: Minnesota Daily
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