Monday, March 30, 2009

Fish Oil May Come to the Rescue to Reduce Flatulence from Cows

By now, no matter what you've been reading, you know that Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils have been well documented for their positive effects on the heart and circulatory system. And in the agricultural sector, it has been found that the same fatty acids also improve meat quality. New research, however, has stumbled upon another ag-industry benefit . . . that of reducing methane emissions coming from flatulent cows.

Lowering emissions from cows is important for the environment, as methane given off by farm animals is a major contributor to greenhouse gas levels. Today researchers from University College Dublin reported that by including 2% fish oil in the diet of cattle, they achieved a significant reduction in the amount of methane gas released by these animals.

Speaking at the Society for General Microbiology meeting in the UK, Dr Lorraine Lillis, one of the researchers, said "The fish oil affects the methane-producing bacteria in the rumen part of the cows gut, leading to reduced emissions." Evidently there are certain microbial species which are particularly influenced by changes in the animals' diet and, as a result, it now seems possible for producers to bring about a much more targeted approach to reducing methane emissions. Its an easy one as well, because there's one thing that cows know how to do quite well . . . eat.

More than a third of all methane emissions, around 900 billion tons every year, are produced by methanogen bacteria that live in the digestive systems of ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats. By volume, methane is 20 times more powerful at trapping solar energy than carbon dioxide, making it a potent greenhouse gas.


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