Brussels, 06 Jan 2006
The Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, UK, has devised a method which is hoped will reduce methane emissions in cows and other animals. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, with 32 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. A single cow can produce up to 500 litres of methane per day, mostly through belching the gas.
The institute has developed a feed additive which cuts the quantity of methane produced by the animals by 70 per cent in trials on sheep. The additive, fumaric acid (C2H2(CO2H)2), effectively reduces the production of methane by trapping hydrogen before methanogenic microbes are able to turn it into methane.
The trials have exceeded the expectations of the group, and it has subsequently submitted a patent for a commercial feed. The Rowett Research Institute has previously carried out research on reducing livestock methane gas emissions with funding from the EU's Fifth Framework Programme.
Dr John Wallace, who led the research, said: 'This is great for the environment, but it's a win-win situation as the farmer also benefits because the energy in that methane is retained in the animal's body. It means the animals grow 10 per cent more efficiently. For every kilogramme of feed they consume, they produce 10 per cent more body weight.'
The team hopes that the results noted in sheep will be replicated in cows, and that thanks to the positive impact on the bodyweight of livestock, farmers will be persuaded to invest in a feed that will have a positive impact on the environment.