As much as 40% of all methane emissions may come from agriculture. Methane is a potent contributor to climate change, and reducing its emissions is critical for forestalling the impact of global warming. Anaerobic digesters to break down waste products, breeding livestock for low methane emissions, improving animal and herd efficiency, and seaweed can all be used to reduce methane emissions.
Anaerobic digesters reduce methane emissions.
The installation of anaerobic digesters on farms helps minimize methane emissions from cows. The technology eliminates oxygen in the feedstock and produces methane-rich biogas. Anaerobic digesters are increasingly popular on livestock farms, with more than 300 installed. In California, they are responsible for half of the methane emissions from dairy farms. The state has committed to reducing those emissions by 30% by 2030 as part of the Global Methane Pledge. This reduction is essential for the continued preservation of arctic sea ice.
Breeding for low methane
Selective breeding is another method to decrease methane emissions from cows. Cows emit this gas while in the field, and selective breeding can reduce this gas and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The process effectively reduces cow flatulence, as methane in cows’ flatulence is the most significant contributor to global warming. But while it can reduce flatulence and methane emissions from cows, it isn’t a sure thing.
Researchers from AgResearch in New Zealand have developed sheep with lower methane emissions. The researchers partnered with the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre to identify genes associated with low methane production. These traits are inherited by females but are rare in male sheep.
Improving animal and herd efficiency
The low carbon cow is a win-win solution that fits well into the broader neo-liberal and economic growth paradigm. By improving the productivity of cattle and other livestock, methane emissions from cows would be reduced per unit of product. And it is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions from livestock in the U.S.
However, there are several challenges associated with methane reduction research. These include cost, toxicity, and ethics. Significant challenges are also related to manipulating the complex ecosystem of a live animal’s rumen. Nevertheless, this strategy offers hope for the future of cow farming and its impact on climate change. However, further research is needed to determine whether it is feasible to isolate the herd and how methane emissions from cows could be reduced.
Seaweed reduces methane production.
The California dairy industry has expressed interest in a study showing that seaweed can reduce methane emissions from cows. According to a recent press release from the Maine Seaweed Council, a study showed that seaweed could reduce cow methane by 60% when fed to cattle. The study, however, used a weak strain of seaweed, which means farmers would have to provide more seaweed to their cows.
The study found that the Australian seaweed Asparagopsis can cut more than 80% of methane emissions. That means that a seaweed supplement fed to cows could cut methane emissions from cows by two million tons, or the equivalent of the emissions from 10 million cars. The researchers are now taking seaweed samples to study its potential for cows further.
Modern cattle have become larger and more productive than ever before, and they are also more energy-efficient, producing more milk and meat per unit of feed. In addition, methane emissions have significantly decreased over the past 50 years, according to estimates of methane sources. But a primary concern for climate change is the continued use of these cows. Here are some ways to reduce methane emissions while increasing animal production and feed efficiency.
Livestock is a significant source of climate change emissions, accounting for up to 50% of the global livestock sector’s carbon dioxide emissions. Enteric fermentation contributes about 2.8 GT of carbon dioxide equivalents, the second-largest contributor to livestock emissions. Another 6% of livestock emissions are attributable to the processing and transportation of animal products.
Methane emissions from cows are a significant source of greenhouse gases. While this gas is a natural part of the atmosphere, its presence can long-term affect climate change. It is more potent than carbon dioxide and is a greenhouse gas, and it is responsible for more than 80% of the warming observed since the 1980s. It is also the primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a hazardous air pollutant and greenhouse gas. Approximately one million people die prematurely every year because of exposure to this gas. Unlike carbon dioxide, methane has a lifetime of 12 years. In this period, methane emissions from cows will add approximately 0.6 billion tons of new carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
The methane emissions from cows are a part of the biogenic carbon cycle. Plants fix carbon dioxide in the air through photosynthesis and release it as carbon-based carbohydrates. This carbon is then stored in soil and plants until consumed by ruminants. Luckily, methane emissions from cows do not affect climate change long-term. However, cows produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases and are responsible for about 5% of the total carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.