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Cutting Emissions: Less Grass, Less Gas

30 October 2008

CANADA - A University of Manitoba scientist says he's figured out how to cut the amount of greenhouse gas belching from cows by as much as 200 litres a day -- feed them grain instead of grass.

For the past four years, Ermias Kebreab has been analysing cow burps at the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment south of Winnipeg to measure the amount of methane dairy cows produce when they are fed different types of food, writes Linda Shepertycki, Canwest News Service.

About 98 per cent of the methane from a cow is emitted through its mouth -- "only two per cent comes out the other way," said Mr. Kebreab.

However, Mr. Kebreab's report, published in the Journal of Animal Science, shows that may not be the case, reports Canwest.

Yesterday, in a dairy barn, Mr. Kebreab recruited a gentle old Jersey steer named George to demonstrate how the study worked.

The bovine guinea pig was guided into a Plexiglas feeding compartment with a hooded collar around his neck to trap the gases.

A hose sucked the stinking gas out of the feeding area and into a machine that measured the methane.

In the published study, Holstein dairy cows were fed grasses alternating every other week with grains.

The amount of methane they produced was measured.

The grass-fed cows produced 600 to 700 litres of methane per day, compared to about 500 litres a day per grain-fed cow, Mr. Kebreab said.

TheCattleSite News Desk



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