Diet may reduce farm flatulence
A change of diet could help flatulent farm animals reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, a study has said.
Government-funded research aimed at helping farmers cut their contribution to climate change shows how to reduce the amount of methane produced by cows and sheep belching and breaking wind.
Researchers at Reading University and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences found that dairy cows could emit 20% less methane for every litre of milk if fed crushed rapeseed.
Increasing the proportion of maize silage in cows' diets from 25% to 75% could reduce methane emission by 6% per litre of milk, while high-sugar grasses could reduce an animal's methane emissions by 20% for every kilo of weight gain.
A diet including a particular variety of oat could cut sheep's methane emissions by a third, the researchers said.
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: "It is very exciting that this new research has discovered that by simply changing the way we feed farm animals we have the potential to make a big difference to the environment."
Agriculture contributes about 9% cent of all UK greenhouse gas emissions, Defra said, with half of this coming from sheep, cows and goats.
Farming has been shown to account for 41% of the UK's overall methane emissions.
A Defra spokesman added: "In the longer term the benefits gained by changing animals' diets will need to be considered against other environmental impacts as well as how practical or costly they are for the farming industry to implement."