Technology.am (Nov 30, 2009) — Australian scientists are working hard to breed a sheep that belches less, as they come across ways to decrease detrimental methane emissions from the country’s flocks.
About 12 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gases begin with agriculture, and some 70 per cent of that total is blamed on ruminant livestock, with the majority of it coming from burps.
John Goop, the study leader, calculated the sheep’s emissions by herding them into a specifically designed booth soon after they consume food and then calculating the quantity of gas belched.
His team hopes to discover whether there is a hereditary connection between the sheep that generate the smallest amount of methane, which can then be exploited to breed low-emissions sheep.
Of the 200 sheep so far tested, about half produced much more than usual whereas the other half belched significantly less methane.
“The major sole determinant of methane production in cattle and sheep is the amount of feed they consume. But even once that is taken into account, I have found important differences between individual animals,” he said.
The scientist said methane has about 17 times the environmental warming capability of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.
He said if the methane formed by Australia’s 80 million or so sheep was condensed by just 10 or 15 per cent in the next decade, it would have “a considerable and in addition a long-term impact on our greenhouse gas emissions”.