Face of the day


Some scientists have been studying farts and burps.

More precisely, sheep farts and burps.

The world is a step closer to a low-emission sheep, thanks to leading work by Kiwi and US researchers.

Methane belched from sheep and other ruminants, such as cows, accounts for around 28 per cent of global methane emissions from human-related activities.

The methane is produced in the rumen by microbes called methanogens and the work targeting these organisms is aimed at reducing methane emissions from ruminants.

New Zealand has the largest methane emission rate — six times the global average — and this primarily comes from enteric fermentation in ruminant livestock, with sheep the greatest single source.

Research published today shows scientists have pin-pointed the microbial differences in the rumens of sheep with high or low methane emissions.

The work is part of a Global Partnerships in Livestock Emissions Research project and has been carried out by the Rumen Microbiology team at AgResearch Grasslands in Palmerston North, and at the US Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in San Francisco.

AgResearch scientist and project leader Dr Graeme Attwood said the results, revealed in the journal Genome Research, were one of the first major findings of the four-year project.

The study was funded through the New Zealand Government in support of the objectives of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases and its Livestock Research Group, and built on previous work by a combined New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGGRC) and NZ Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium programme in which a large number of sheep had been screened to identify naturally low or high methane-emitting animals.

The programme aimed to breed sheep for New Zealand farms which are low methane-emitters but also maintain their ability to reproduce and retain or improve their meat and wool production.


Meanwhile, scientists are also looking at how to slash the methane emitted from cows.

-NZ Herald


Why can’t they focus on something useful like reducing my husband’s emissions?