Monday, January 18, 2010

The Odd Blog (I warned you about)

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

If scientists have their way, one day these adorable little sheep will be engineered to never, ever burp. It has nothing to do with polite manners; but, rather the methane that is released every time an animal releases gas – from either end of the digestive tract.

As we all know, methane is one of the greenhouse gases that contributes to global warming. Usually, cows are the brunt of the methane diatribes; but, they are by no means the only culprits. In Australia at the present time, the agriculture sector is second only to industry in production of greenhouse gases. Agriculture accounts for 16% of total emissions with two-thirds of this gas being released from Australia’s livestock.

Scientists are working on the premise that by breeding sheep that burp less, the amount of total emissions will be considerably reduced.

The Sheep Co-operative Research Centre is doing this one-of-a-kind “burp” research. They will be using approximately 700 sheep representing 20 different genetic lines. After meals, the sheep will be herded into a booth where scientists will measure their burp/methane output.

One scientist conducting the study, Dr. Roger Hegarty, is hoping to better understand sheep burps:
“We're looking into how to reduce emissions from sheep - all over Australia teams are testing different approaches: changing the microbes in the gut, changing their diet, or changing the genetics of the animal. Our sheep studies are aiming to find out if there is genetic control over methane production and, if so, is that a good thing to pursue?”

“Methane is the exhaust from livestock, and - just as you can't put your hand over the exhaust pipe of a car and expect it to keep running - we're treading carefully to reduce emissions without causing other problems. There really is a global effort on this - it will take a lot of hard yakka (talk) and time.”

Dr. John Goopy of the NSW Department of Industry and Innovation says even a reduction 10% would be a good thing.

He went on to say, "Once we work out how to reduce methane emissions, and if our strategies prove to be valid, we will keep gaining advantage and over time there will be larger decreases in methane emissions," he said.

Dr Hegarty said scientists were also looking to do a similar thing with beef cattle if these studies proved successful.

Via TreeHugger, and couriermail

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