Research to reduce sheeps' production of methane - one of the most potent greenhouse gases - received a boost recently with the installation of four new methane chambers at CSIRO Livestock Industries' facilities in Perth.
Shaped like cubicles, the see-through chambers enable researchers to accurately measure the continuous volume of methane produced by sheep over a 24-hour period.
They have been operating efficiently for more than four months in a trial to measure the response of sheep to products designed to reduce methane gas emissions.
Anti-methanogen project leader, Dr Andrι-Denis Wright, says the new chambers are a significant improvement on the previous method of measuring sheep emissions - tanks attached to the animal's backs - and will complement the cattle respiration chambers at the CSIRO's facilities in Rockhampton, Queensland.
"The chambers have an open-air system that allows uninterrupted, real-time measurements, making it considerably more accurate and more time and cost efficient," Dr Wright says.
"The sheep can also see each other and the researchers while in the cubicles, making them less stressed, so they behave naturally and their feed consumption is not affected."
Designed and developed by CSIRO Livestock Industries, the new chambers will be available for use for other research projects both within and outside CSIRO.
"Given that livestock account for 12 per cent of Australia's man-made greenhouse gases, it is important that we develop strategies to mitigate methane emissions," Dr Wright says.
"CSIRO will be addressing this via other projects to examine plant and feed additives, as well as strategies to manipulate methane-producing microbes in the guts of livestock animals."
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