Less grass, less gas, says cattle researcher
Linda Shepertycki, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, October 30, 2008
WINNIPEG -- A University of Manitoba scientist says he's figured out how to cut the amount of greenhouse gas belching from cows by as much as 200 litres a day -- feed them grain instead of grass.
For the past four years, Ermias Kebreab has been analysing cow burps at the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment south of Winnipeg to measure the amount of methane dairy cows produce when they are fed different types of food.
About 98 per cent of the methane from a cow is emitted through its mouth -- "only two per cent comes out the other way," said Mr. Kebreab.
Traditional wisdom holds that grass is less of a contributor to global warming than more energy-intensive crops like grain.
However, Mr. Kebreab's report, published in the Journal of Animal Science, shows that may not be the case.
The grass-fed cows produced 600 to 700 litres of methane per day, compared to about 500 litres a day per grain-fed cow, Mr. Kebreab said. Read More
This is a very interesting study to think about. It throws a wrench into everything the environmentalist crowd has been trying to sell the public about animal agriculture. Not only do grain fed cattle produce less methane than cattle on grass, but when fed a higher concentrate diet, those cattle reach market weights faster. Producing less methane with fewer days on feed makes it appear as though America’s corn fed beef is actually helping the environment. It’s doubtful you will see environmentalists touting this study anytime soon, but this is some great information to have ready to share with the consumer.