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Science & Technology

Mystery methane surge is due to flatulent cows

By T.K. Randall
October 2, 2017 · Comment icon 19 comments

Just how much do cows contribute to global warming ? Image Credit: Keith Weller/USDA
A new US study has revealed that cow flatulence is responsible for a recent rise in atmospheric methane.
Published on Thursday by three scientists with the Joint Global Change Research Institute, the study puts forward the notion that cattle and other livestock are most likely to blame for a mysterious rise in atmospheric methane over the last few years.

"Just from livestock methane emissions, our revisions resulted in 11 per cent more methane in a recent year than what we were previously estimating," said study lead author Julie Wolf.

"It's not the biggest contributor to the annual methane budget in the atmosphere, but it may be the biggest contributor to increases in the atmospheric budget over recent years."
Cows typically produce methane in to the atmosphere through 'enteric fermentation', which is a technical term for the digestion of food within the animals' stomachs.

"In most developed regions, the livestock have been bred to be larger - they are more productive, especially with dairy cows, and that will result in a larger estimate of methane emitted," said Wolf.

Exactly how farmers can move to address these issue however remains unclear.

Source: | Comments (19)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #10 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
Why do you think cows produce such great fertilizer?  At least we humans aren't being directly blamed for a change.  Indirectly of course as hamburgers are great!   Doug - Even if the argument held water, who could or would want to eat grain all the time if you had another choice?  Think of the carbs! Think about the people that can't eat gluten!  We are what we are - meat eaters. Wait!  Are we sure we didn't come from dinos as well as the other "lizards"?
Comment icon #11 Posted by Doug1029 7 years ago
Optimum use of resources would still include some meat in the diet.  There are lots of places where you can't grow grain, but you can raise cattle, goats, etc.  These "everlasting hills of Oklahoma" aren't very good at grain production, but they do produce good beef. One other source of methane from cattle:  feedlots, themselves.  On a wet site, all that manure decomposes anaerobically, producing methane. Doug
Comment icon #12 Posted by Big Jim 7 years ago
The article quotes a scientist as saying that methane emissions are higher than they estimated previously.  Maybe it's just that their estimates were wrong.  
Comment icon #13 Posted by Doug1029 7 years ago
Or maybe it's this one that's wrong.  Have to do another study to decide which.  Is this really worth the expense and trouble of finding out? Doug
Comment icon #14 Posted by Calibeliever 7 years ago
Sorry to be "that guy", but 1.4 billion / 60 million is +20X more, not 2X. 
Comment icon #15 Posted by RayvenRed 7 years ago
I like the smelled it, dealt it guy the best. IMNSHO My late husband could have used a cart catcher. 
Comment icon #16 Posted by mysticwerewolf 7 years ago
I always thought that methane gas was tinged greenish in large quantities. I wonder if they took into account the gas caused craters in Siberia.?
Comment icon #17 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
Methane is also produced during the break down of their poo.  There's a Lot of fuel lying around a cows paddock at any one time. Even without a desire for beef the world's appetite for milk and butter is insatiable.  The negative byproduct of intensive dairy farming is destructive nitrates in the water tables.  Rivers lakes and aquaculture being destroyed at extrapolating rates. Huge, huge problem of utmost urgency. 
Comment icon #18 Posted by ChaosRose 7 years ago
They should make Gas-X for cows.
Comment icon #19 Posted by UFOwatcher 7 years ago
Isn't methane lighter than air and explosive? Why isn't it blowing the roofs off barns?  Somewhere I read they had a fix for this by mixing seaweed with the cows food. Still sounds like a lot of hot air.

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