(ORDO NEWS) — What may sound like a humorous question – “How to wean a cow from burping?” – has become the subject of serious scientific research in New Zealand.
And its goal is not at all to improve the moral character of domestic animals, but to combat global warming.
Grass is not the most nutritious food in the world, and in order to extract enough energy from it, cows and other ruminants must first chew it for a long time, and then digest it no less thoroughly in their multi-chambered stomachs.
During this process, massive amounts of methane are released , which is 25 times more efficient at keeping heat in the atmosphere than regular carbon dioxide.
It would seem that digestion is a natural process that cannot affect the global climate. However, it is worth considering the number of domestic animals, which is several times higher than the number of wild species: almost one and a half billion live on our planet alone.
According to the information resource Phys.org , in New Zealand the problem of cow burping is particularly acute: in this country, for five million people, there are twice as many cows and five times as many sheep.
Agriculture is central to the local economy, and about half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from farms.
In the pursuit of carbon neutrality, the New Zealand government has pledged to cut methane emissions from farm animals by 47 percent by 2050 and last month announced a plan to impose a tax on farmers for burping animals.
Naturally, the farmers were not delighted with this, and now the task of the researchers is to develop a way to solve the problem.
All means are used – from selective selection of cows with the least belching to the use of seaweed as feed. Scientists are even developing a special vaccine that can suppress the growth of opportunistic methane-producing bacteria and reduce animal emissions by about a third.
There are no less hopes for chemical drugs (they can reduce methane emissions by up to 90 percent) and for the development of new feeds through genetic modification (when digested, they will emit 20-30 percent less gases).
Unfortunately, all of these “lifelines” for New Zealand farmers are far from over – it takes at least a few years to test their safety and effectiveness.
However, livestock breeders themselves also do not “wait for the weather by the sea”: while researchers are working in laboratories, ordinary farmers are working to improve the efficiency of their farms, which will reduce the number of livestock while maintaining production volumes.
Perhaps using high yielding cows and replacing them more frequently won’t have the same impact as chemical drugs or vaccines, but it will definitely help farmers stay afloat.
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