Whatever happened to these?


Well over a year ago, the Argies came up with this solution to global warming: collecting cow farts in backpacks.

Cows are by far the biggest producers, contributing to around 25 per cent of all methane produced on the planet.

As one of the biggest beef producers with some 55 million heads of cattle, around 30 per cent of Argentina’s total greenhouse emissions could be generated by cows.

As well as fartpacks, scientists are working to develop new diets for cows that could make it easier for them to digest food, moving them away from grains to plants like alfalfa and clover.

An earlier study found that by using tannins, researchers can reduce methane emissions by 25 per cent.

New Zealand isn’t going with huge fart bags.? Initial trials on dietary supplements have indicated a reduction of methane of up to 90%.

New Zealand scientists have unveiled major leaps toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions from our belching sheep and cattle, with animal-safe compounds that can slash methane emissions by up to 90 per cent.

Curbing the release of methane gas from ruminant livestock, such as sheep and cattle, has been a long-standing headache among farmers and scientists.

The methane emissions amount to almost a third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, and is the largest contributor compared with other sources.

According to the the inventory of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, methane emissions from ruminants have increased by 10 per cent since 1990, and in 2003, the Government proposed the infamous agricultural emissions research levy, dubbed “fart tax”, to boost research efforts.

So where are we at?? Dr Harry Clark, New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, answers some questions:

How do ruminant animals like sheep and cows actually produce methane?

“It comes from the breakdown of feed. The feeds break down in the rumen, producing carbon dioxide and hydrogen, and there is a specialised group of micro-organisms which utilises the hydrogen and carbon dioxide and makes methane. This natural process has been occurring in ruminants for millions of years.”

How would these newfound compounds work?

“They basically stop the activity of the micro-organisms that are converting the carbon dioxide and hydrogen to methane. It’s very simple – it kills them or severely suppresses their activity.”

How promising do the early results look?

“I think what we have to do is recognise that we are at an early stage, but this is a very strong scientific breakthrough in the sense that we now have identified some compounds that when fed to animals, reduce emissions between 30 and 90 per cent. But these are short-term animal trials and now have to be repeated in longer-term animal trials, because sometimes, products may work for a few days and not work in the longer term. And we have to check they are safe for the animals and safe for the consumer.”

Goes to show New Zealand should not be too keen to start handing out the old carbon dollars because, given a little time, it appears that John Key might be right: technology will solve our international obligations for us.


– Daily Mail, NZ Herald