Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Methane gas from cows: The proof is in the feces

Date:
June 7, 2011
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
Scientists could have a revolutionary new way of measuring how much of the potent greenhouse gas methane is produced by cows and other ruminants, thanks to a surprising discovery in their feces.

Scientists could have a revolutionary new way of measuring how much of the potent greenhouse gas methane is produced by cows and other ruminants, thanks to a surprising discovery in their poo.
Credit: PinkShot / Fotolia

Scientists could have a revolutionary new way of measuring how much of the potent greenhouse gas methane is produced by cows and other ruminants, thanks to a surprising discovery in their poo.

Researchers from the University of Bristol and the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research Centre in Ireland, have found a link between methane production and levels of a compound called archaeol in the feces of several fore-gut fermenting animals including cows, sheep and deer.

The compound could potentially be developed as a biomarker to estimate the methane production from domestic and wild animals, allowing scientists to more accurately assess the contribution that ruminants make to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Co-author Dr Fiona Gill, who conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher at Bristol and is now at the University of Leeds, said: "When it comes to calculating carbon budgets there is currently a lot of uncertainty surrounding animal methane contributions, particularly from wild ruminants.

"We're quite good at measuring man-made CO2 emissions, but techniques to measure the animal production of methane -- a much more potent greenhouse gas -- have serious limitations.

"If we can identify a simple biomarker for methane production in animal stools, then we can use this along with information on diet and animal population numbers to estimate their total contribution to global methane levels."

Cows, sheep and other ruminants are thought to be responsible for around one-fifth of global methane production but the precise amount has proved difficult to quantify. Methane production from animals is often measured using respiration chambers, which can be laborious and are unsuitable for grazing animals.

Archaeol is thought to come from organisms called archaea, which are symbiotic or 'friendly' microbes that live in the foregut of ruminant animals. These microbes produce methane as a by-product of their metabolism and this is then released by the animal as burping and flatulence.

Principal investigator, Dr Ian Bull of Bristol's School of Chemistry said: "We initially detected archaeol in the feces of several foregut fermenters including camels, cows, giraffes, sheep and llamas. We then expanded the study to evaluate the quantities of this compound in the feces of cows with different diets.

"Two groups of cows were fed on different diets and then their methane production and fecal archaeol concentration were measured. The animals that were allowed to graze on as much silage as they wanted emitted significantly more methane and produced feces with higher concentrations of archaeol than those given a fixed amount of silage, supplemented by concentrate feed.

"This confirms that manipulating the diet of domestic livestock could also be an important way of controlling methane gas emissions."

The work was carried out at the University of Bristol and the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research Centre in Ireland. The research was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

The research is published in the journal Animal Feed Science and Technology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. F.L. Gill, R.J. Dewhurst, R.P. Evershed, E. McGeough, P. O’Kiely, R.D. Pancost, I.D. Bull. Analysis of archaeal ether lipids in bovine faeces. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2011.04.006

Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "Methane gas from cows: The proof is in the feces." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110606112822.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2011, June 7). Methane gas from cows: The proof is in the feces. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110606112822.htm
University of Leeds. "Methane gas from cows: The proof is in the feces." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110606112822.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins