Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Making cows more environmentally friendly

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Posted: 29 Mar 2017 09:26 AM PDT ScienceDaily summary here

An important discovery surrounding plants used to feed livestock has been released by scientists. They report that plants growing in warmer conditions are tougher and have lower nutritional value to grazing livestock, potentially inhibiting milk and meat yields and raising the amount of methane released by the animals. Higher amounts of methane are produced when plants are tougher to digest — an effect of a warmer environment. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, around 25 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. More than 95% of the methane produced by cows comes from their breath through eructation (belching) as they “chew the cud.”

“Our research has shown that cultivating more nutritious plants may help us to combat the challenges of warmer temperatures. We are undertaking work at Kew to identify the native forage plants that are associated with high meat and milk production and less methane, attempting to increase their presence on the grazing landscape. We are also developing our models to identify regions where livestock are going to be exposed to reductions in forage quality with greater precision. It is going to be important to put plans in place to help those countries exposed to the most severe challenges from climate change to adapt to a changing world” said Dr Mark Lee.

Mark A. Lee, Aaron P. Davis, Mizeck G. G. Chagunda, Pete Manning. Forage quality declines with rising temperatures, with implications for livestock production and methane emissions. Biogeosciences, 2017; 14 (6): 1403 DOI: 10.5194/bg-14-1403-2017

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