By Richard Shears
Putting a baa on burping sheep in the battle against climate change
It could be a major scientific breakthrough in the battle against climate change. Or just a touch of woolly thinking.
For scientists in Australia are homing in on an unlikely weapon to tackle greenhouse gases – the burp-free sheep.
Emissions from agriculture are the country’s second largest source of greenhouse gases and environmentalists have begged farmers and scientists to find a way of reducing the problem.
Scientists are working on several means of reducing methane emissions from animals and have been encouraged by experiments involving changing the microbes in the gut, altering their diet and changing the genetics of animals.
The target is to stop the main cause of the methane problem – burping sheep.
In a world-first study, the Australian Sheep Co-operative Research Centre is conducting experiments with 700 sheep from 20 different genetic lines.
Some genetically-mixed groups are being fed the same foods, while other animals are being fed a variety of menus before they are shepherded into pens so their burp outputs can be measured.
Research leader Dr Roger Hegarty said: ‘What we do know right from the start is that sheep in general burp large amounts of methane.
‘There’s been environmental pressure to see if this can be cut down.’