Do cows pollute as much as cars? The answer might surprise you!

Categories: Energy


This simple diet allows many cows to be fed, but it inhibits digestion. A perennial ryegrass diet also results in a significant number of weak and infertile cows, which have to be killed at a young age. This is where the methane comes in. The difficult-to-digest grass ferments in the cows' stomachs, where it interacts with microbes and produces gas. The exact details of the process are still being studied, and more information may allow scientists to reduce cows' methane output.

A study at the University of Bristol compared three types of naturally grown pastures to ryegrass pasture grown with chemical fertilizers. Lambs were fed on each type of pasture. The meat from lambs fed on natural pastures had less saturated fat, more omega-3 fatty acids, more vitamin E and higher levels ofconjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a "good fat" that is believed to fight cancer. The meat from these lambs was considered very high quality and scored well in flavor tests.

Because of concerns about ruminant diets, many researchers are investigating ways to alter what livestock eat and to mix the best of old cow pastures -- diverse, naturally growing, nutrient rich grasses and plants -- with the best of the new -- fast-growing and resistant to invasive species. One possibility is to increase the ability of beneficial, nutrient-rich plants and flowers to grow alongside the fast-growing grasses commonly used in pastures. Another branch of research focuses on plants that are high in tannins, which are believed to lower methane levels in ruminants and to boost milk production -- although excessively high level of tannins are harmful to a ruminant's growth.

A study by researchers in New Zealand recommends the use of plants like birdsfoot trefoil that are high in alpha-linoleic acid, which boosts CLA levels. Planting legumes and genetically engineered plants to trap airborne nitrogen will also improve nitrogen levels in the soil, which is important for rich soil and healthy plants.

Some dairy farmers use processing systems to harvest methane from cow manure. The energy is used to power the farm while excess is often sold back to the local electrical grid.

Image courtesy Alden Pellett/Associated Press

Believers in naturally grown, mixed-species pastures say that the use of them will reduce greenhouse gases, improve animal health and meat quality and reduce the use of artificial fertilizers. Efforts like methane-reducing pills or the addition of garlic may just be stopgap measures that fail to address some of the core problems of livestock, namely ground and air pollution, cutting down of forests, the production of weak animals that later have to be culled and the use of artificial fertilizers and steroids.

Another possibility exists in trapping the methane gas and using it as energy or selling it back to the electrical grid. Some farmers already extract methane from livestock waste, but that does not solve the bigger problem of belched methane. Harnessing that methane would mean trapping it in the air, perhaps by housing cattle indoors or outfitting them with special muzzles that may inhibit eating.

For more information about ruminants, methane, global warming and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

Source:  How Stuff Works

So yes, it is realistic that the methane gas produced by cows and their burps could be captured for use in large domes or to bring them into a belching ward after feeding, it seems inhumane when you understand that the belching is from upset stomach derived from poor grain choices for the cows.  Cattle are believed to produce about 51% of the worlds greenhouse gasses Our goal should be to replinish their grasses with a variety of growth that is healthy for their bellies.  The methane problem can be drastically reduced through farming techniques, so rather than just taking advantage of the fuel, we should be reducing the production of the methane in the first place.  It's nice to know that if we ever run out of fuel on this planet, that the cows produce enough of it to power every device on this planet.  Until we need that source of energy, let's keep our cows healthy and happy.  

It has been recently in the news that methane gas contributes 25 times more to greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide.  That means, all of the worlds efforts to tax and attack auto manufacturers has had little impact on the real problem, and the focus has shifted.  Methane gas is the majority of what makes up natural gas.  So this is also a contributor to the greenhouse effect.  It's amazing to think that changing the diets of the worlds cows will curtail the larger part - the 51% part of the worlds greenhouse emissions.  So the car manufactures should take a breather, realize their profits, and hurry up and get us solar powered flying cars so we don't need asphalt roads.  That will make more room for forests, and stop the need for so much de-forestation!  That is my humble opinion.  

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