A great part of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide come from the bodily gas emissions of livestock. However, it might be possible to lower their impact on climate change by tinkering with microbes in their guts.
Cows from the farming science research institute AgResearch of New Zealand have been given a vaccine against some gut microbes which are responsible for producing methane gas as a food digestion by-product.
Methane is one of the most notorious gases for the environment, being 25 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, and it’s estimated that livestock is responsible for almost 14% of all greenhouse emissions from human activities.
Goal of the experiment
The experiment’s aim is to develop and produce a vaccine and other various anti-methane methods to help diminish the impact of the livestock industry on the environment.
It’s approximated that more than a third of the total emissions from agriculture are produced by sheep and cattle.
An average ruminant outputs about 250 – 500 litres of methane gas per day, and every year, livestock from all around the world produces about 3.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide.
How methane is produced
Methane is produced because of a process called enteric fermentation: Microbes inside the digestive system decompose and ferment the plant materials eaten by animals, outputting methane gas that animals burp out.
The gas output of livestock greatly depends on the food eaten: If a cow eats more fibre, it produces more methane, but in case of eating legumes and vegetal oils like linseed and soya can significantly lower their methane footprint.