Environmentalists get sheepish over windy pops problem

A breakthrough scientific discovery in Australia will help to protect the environment - by preventing sheep from burping and passing wind so much.

Flatulence from sheep, cows and other farm animals account for around 20% of methane emissions around the world. Methane is one of the most environmentally harmful greenhouse gases, trapping over 23 times as much heat as carbon dioxide.

However, researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Perth, Western Australia, have invented a special anti-methane vaccine in a bid to protect the planet.

The vaccine discourages the growth of archaean microbes, which contribute to the production of methane during the normal process of feed fermentation in the animal's stomach (or rumen).

With an end methane abatement of around 10%, the vaccine is a helping environmental hand, but still needs more work, according to CSIRO's Andre-Denis Wright.

He stated that the vaccine was currently effective against 20% of methanogen species in sheep - micro organisms which populate the rumen and produce methane gas. He added that he aimed to develop formulations that would hit more species and cut methane production further still.

"These methane emissions currently contribute around 12% to Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions," he confirmed.

A single sheep will emit approximately 7 kilos each year, and emissions from cattle can vary from 60-114 kilos per head per year.

Methane has caused much concern recently due to its environmental impact, and was a large contributing factor to the introduction of the Landfill Directive earlier this year (see related story).

By Jane Kettle



Waste & resource management
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