Curb flatulent cows to control greenhouse gas emissions: green study

A change of diet could help farm animals - which are usually flatulent - to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, by changing their food intake, a study says.

It has long been established that animals such as cows and sheep are major consumers of the earth's resources – a reason often cited by environmentalists urging people to become vegan.

Now, UK government-funded research aimed at helping farmers cut their contribution to climate change shows how to reduce the amount of methane produced by animals belching and breaking wind.

To achieve this result, however, the researchers at Reading University and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences have prescribed a stiff and rather impractical diet. For example, they found that dairy cows could emit 20 per cent less methane for every litre of milk they produce if fed crushed rapeseed.

Similarly, increasing the proportion of maize silage in cows' diets from 25 per cent to 75 per cent could reduce methane emission by 6 per cent per litre of milk; while high-sugar grasses could reduce a cow's methane emissions by 20 per cent for every kilo of weight gain.

Presumably, similar results could be obtained with the ubiquitous water buffalo, a major source of milk (and food) in India and other South and South-East Asian countries.