Scientists have a new suggestion to create more climate-friendly cows

cows

(Aurélien Lemasson-Théobald, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Charlotte Edmond, Formative Content


Belching bovines are a primary culprit when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Farmed livestock are responsible for 14.5% of all emissions related to human activity, and cows make up by far the largest proportion of that.

Although vegan diets are on the rise in countries like the UK and US, and meat alternatives are increasingly available, cattle farming is still widespread.

Image: FAO

So attention has turned to putting a cork in the volume of methane cows produce, by targeting their gut microbes.

Researchers looked at more than 1,000 cows on farms throughout Europe, and found they had a large proportion of their gut bacteria in common. By inoculating calves with targeted probiotics, the scientists suggest the mix of microbes could be altered, and the volume of methane produced limited. By eliminating the worst-offending gut bacteria, emissions could be cut in half, they say.

Livestock production around the world.

Livestock production around the world.
Image: FAO

Environmentally friendly cows?

The researchers say the gas-causing bacteria in cows’ digestive systems are linked to their genetic make-up. Longer-term, this could mean some of the most problematic microbes could potentially be eliminated by selective breeding.

Previous studies have suggested mixing seaweed into cattle feed could also be a way to cut the volume of methane produced. And it might also help cows grow bigger and stronger. However, there are still questions about how this might work in reality: growing seaweed on the scale necessary is likely to be problematic and environmentally damaging in itself.

Image: Statista

Ruminating about cow guts

Failure to mitigate the effects of climate change is one of the primary threats facing the planet, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report. And methane is one of the biggest causes of the problem, after the more commonly discussed carbon dioxide.

Given the pure number of cows in the world, farmed for beef and milk, intrepid scientists have spent a lot of time investigating their burps and belches.

But unfortunately, it would seem these aren’t the only bovine emissions we need to concern ourselves with – cattle urine is also a climate offender. It releases nitrous oxide, another harmful gas, particularly in poor-quality pastures, new research has demonstrated.

Veggie burger, anyone?

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

The digital revolution will transform the steel industry

This fascinating map shows how food moves around the US

EU Budget 2020 deal: Investing more in climate action, youth and research

The clothes of the future could be made from pineapples and bananas

UN will do ‘utmost to prevent and mitigate any risk of violence’ in DR Congo, pledges Mission chief

Brussels to point the finger to Washington for lack of commitment over TTIP

Migration crisis update: Greece could probably say goodbye to Schengen really soon

European Commission determined to conclude EU-Mercosur trade deal this year despite French concerns

UN chief urges emergency fund support as one of the ‘most effective investments’ in humanitarian action

The success story of a Chinese investment in the Greek port of Piraeus

COP24: green, gender focus, as UN’s crucial climate change conference gets underway

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Climate emergency, call to support breastfeeding, rising political heat and new investigation board for Syria

World Population Day: ‘A matter of human rights’ says UN

5 ways cities can use emerging technologies to fight climate change

Climate change: Parliament’s blueprint for long-term CO2 cuts

What is adversarial artificial intelligence and why does it matter?

FROM THE FIELD: Children in warzones denied right to education

5 technologies that will forever change global trade

Impressions of China

‘Counter and reject’ leaders who seek to ‘exploit differences’ between us, urges Guterres at historic mosque in Cairo

Promoting rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU

If we can build the International Space Station, ‘we can do anything’ – UN Champion for Space

Migration crisis: how big a security threat it is?

Human health – litmus paper for the climate change?

Amid continued suffering in Yemen, UN envoy welcomes reports of reduced violence

IQ scores have been falling for decades, new study finds

‘Ticking bomb’ health warning over deteriorating conditions facing Cyclone Idai victims

Yemen war: UN chief urges good faith as ‘milestone’ talks get underway in Sweden

Disease slashing global meat output, cereals boom, bananas under watch: FAO

European Parliament the most trusted EU institution

Autumn Fiscal Package: Commission adopts Opinions on euro area Draft Budgetary Plans

Sign language protects ‘linguistic identity and cultural diversity’ of all users, says UN chief

Trump ostracized by his party and world elites but still remains in course; how can he do it?

Biblioburro: The amazing donkey libraries of Colombia

Charlotte in Ghana

Tiny Iceland teaches the West how to treat bankers

High-flyers: China is on top of the world for skyscraper construction

What people want – ignore at your peril

Eliminating hepatitis calls for ‘bold political leadership, with investments to match,’ UN health chief says

Violence against women a barrier to peaceful future for all

Greece’s future solely in the hands of Tsipras; he can direct the poor country any way he likes

Global climate change: consequences for human health in Brazilian cities

Greenhouse gas emissions have already peaked in 30 major cities

Unemployment and exclusion brings EU cities to boiling point

May led Britain to chaos, now looks for way out with unpredictable DUP

European Business Summit 2014: Sting Report, Day I

How to bring precision medicine into the doctor’s office

Turkey to let EU alone struggle with the migrant crisis while enhancing its economic ties with Russia instead?

How to get ageing populations to invest in their health

Russia accepts what the EU has to offer and settles to negotiate with Ukraine

Scotland “shows the way” to separatist movements as Catalonia calls a vote on independence

Parlamentarians to “break up” with reality in the Google antitrust case

More unemployment and lower wages to make European workers competitive?

8 amazing facts to help you understand China today

Hate speech exacerbating societal, racial tensions with ‘deadly consequences around the world’, say UN experts

How tomorrow’s buildings will make you – and the planet – healthier

More billions needed to help Eurozone recover; ECB sidesteps German objections about QE


Re-thinking citizenship education: bringing young people back to the ballot box

EU and Japan select first Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Programmes

OECD Steel Committee concerned about excess capacity in steel sector

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s