Circles of burps

Livestock – predominantly cattle – are responsible for an astonishing proportion of global warming gases – 18 per cent of the total to be precise:

  • a fifth of all emissions which is more greenhouse gas emissions than all the transport on earth
  • seventy per cent of all agricultural land is used to raise animals – that’s a third of the land surface of the entire planet
  • over a third of all cereal production goes to feed those animals
  • animal methane is more destructive than industrial CO2
  • 296 times the global warming power of carbon dioxide, sixty five per cent of human related emissions of nitrous oxide are from the nitrogen in animal manure.

[post at the BBC]

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) staff jointly with University of Melbourne scientists have made a breakthrough in reducing bovine emissions by feeding an extract from the bark of black wattle (Acacia mollisima ).

The scientists found that feeding the crystallised powder not only reduced methans but also nitrogen emissions, and increased milk production.

DPI “Greenhouse in Agriculture” team leader Dr Richard Eckard said in an interview “A tannin in the bark combined with nitrogen in the rumen making it easier to digest and giving more benefit to the animal. The nitrogen goes out in the dung and then released slowly into the environment. The tannin stopped the nitrogen going into the bloodstream, where the animal had to work hard to process it.

The cattle might spend the energy equivalent of one litre to 1½ litres of milk to excrete the nitrogen in their urine. There is evidence that tannins reduced methane and it was now necessary to develop a method easily to feed the supplement to the cattle. [via AllAboutFeed]

before condemning meats and becoming a vegan, consider these points from Ben Smith:

A critical point that is being missed is where this carbon comes from.

Cars, ships, etc.:
This carbon comes from carbon that has been buried deep underground. It is unearthed, burned, and then released into the atmosphere. Therefore, any carbon released is added to carbon already present in the atmosphere = global warming.

Cows, agriculture:
This carbon comes from the atmosphere. The plants take up the carbon dioxide. Livestock then eat the plants and release the carbon back into the atmosphere. Therefore, any carbon released by the cows was already in the atmosphere to begin with (carbon neutral) = no global warming.

The problem isn’t the re-releasing of carbon that was already in the atmosphere (livestock, agriculture), but the unearthing of new carbon sources (gas and coal) and then adding these to the atmosphere.

The Guardian reports on a new pill to trap some of the energy from the methane, which is naturally produced in the fermentation process when a cow digests grass and is later mostly burped out through their mouths.Cut down on flying, sell the car and recycle your bottles. But if you really want to tackle global warming, you should stop your cow from burping.According to scientific estimates, the methane gas produced by cows is responsible for 4% of greenhouse gas emissions. [previous post]