The Controversial Quest to Make Cow Burps Harm

It’s an oppressive one hot morning in the barnyard, even in the shadow of the tall structure in the open air where the cows ate. On a typical farm, they gather around a trough, but here at UC Davis they chow from special blue trash cans, seeing when and how much each one eats. It’s like the Weight Watchers, the only researchers here aren’t so much interested in the numbers of these cows, but how they weigh them.

Animal scientist Frank Mitloehner brought me another type of feeder, one that could easily be mistaken for a small wood chip. He picked up a small amount of alfalfa pellets sent to the machine when he saw that there was a cow stuck in its head. “It’s like candy to them,” Mitloehner said. I pointed my head at the machine as Mitloehner pointed to a small metal tube inside: “This test measured the methane they were emitting, and that happened every three hours for all the animals in this study. . ”

Cows, you see, have a serious problem with ejaculation. To dissolve the hard material of the plant, their stomach cavities act as fermentation vats. They are filled with methanogens, microbes that process cellulose to quickly evaporate fatty acids, which turn cattle into meat and milk. But methanogens also produce methane, a especially bad greenhouse gas that’s 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, thanks to the shaking of its molecules to absorb infrared radiation. Gases capture heat, and that means more global warming.

“Methane is a byproduct – an unintended consequence, I would say – of ruminant animals’ special ability to break down cellulose, ”Mitloehner said.But just because cattle can eat it doesn’t mean it’s easy for them .Because the plants cows eat are not nutritious, the animals have to eat a lot of food to survive, and every now and then they are brought back from their four stomachs to soften it again – that’s “chewing cud. . ”That leads to relentless burial or, as scientists call it, enteric emissions.

Now burps are increasing in many cattle populations around the world. To satisfy man’s infinite appetite for cattle and milk, a billion head of cattle orbiting the planet today. A ROLE published in September in the journal Food in Nature by an international group of researchers found that the global food system generates a staggering 35 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. The cow is responsible for a quarter of the feed excreted, with another 8 percent coming from milk production.

However, methane only lasts for about a decade in the atmosphere, while carbon dioxide persists for hundreds of centuries. If scientists figure out how to get cows to stop belting too much, that could make a big leak, and we’ll see the effects of the climate almost immediately. That’s why Mitloehner and other researchers are experimenting with food additives like seaweed, garlic, and even essential oils derived from plants such as coriander seeds, which change the environment in the intestines of animals in various ways, for example by breaking down enzymes that produce methane. They also play with biochar – charcoal, in fact – that absorbs methane in the intestine.

That’s why Mitloehner goes so far as to calculate his cattle’s diets: Using high-tech vents and snacking that provide methane detectors, he can show how good a particular method is. to reduce enteric emissions. “We’ve found that, depending on what additive you’re dealing with, we can reduce enteric emissions anywhere between 10 to 50 percent, and that’s surprising,” Mitloehner said.

Courtesy of UC Davis

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