Home > Cattles mind their manners – Study on reducing livestock methane emissions

Cattles mind their manners – Study on reducing livestock methane emissions

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article image CSIRO's Livestock Methane Research Cluster (LMRC)
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A new research by universities and leading world research organisations focuses on developing accurate and practical methods to measure and reduce ‘burping’ livestock.

More commonly known as methane emissions, sheep and cattle produce methane as a by-product of digesting plant materials.

CSIRO is currently involved in the Livestock Methane Research Cluster (LMRC). The three year project brings together the world’s leading scientific experts from seven universities, in Australia and overseas, to work with CSIRO to tackle this important sustainability challenge.

Among its researchers is Professor Deli Chen, project leader from the University of Melbourne, and Dr Ed Charmley, CSIRO’s research project leader.

According to CSIRO, methane emissions from grazing cattle in northern Australia account for approximately 5 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.  It was also found that up to 12 per cent of the energy ingested by cattle is lost as methane waste, resulting in the reduction of beef production and costing graziers money.

In a recent report, Prof Chen says that the LMRC is a critical step in helping agriculture. In the same report, Dr Ed Charmley states that the research will be a contributing factor in the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“The Australian Government’s Clean Energy Act sets a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent of 2000 levels by the year 2050,” says Dr Charmley.

“This research will help identify field-based measurement techniques and protocols that can support management actions and technologies that can help Australia meet such ambitious targets.”

Funded by the CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship Collaboration Fund and worth an estimated $8 million, the project’s main aim over a three year period is to advance measurement methods and animal enteric models for measuring methane in livestock systems.

It also aims to validate, integrate and further develop existing measurement technologies to quantify methane fluxes under field conditions. As a result, it will allow for the production of reliable quantified enteric methane emission measurements from the northern beef industry and identify key drivers of emissions in order to improve mitigation strategies for the livestock industry.

Complimenting the LMRC is CSIRO’s Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Program (RELRP), an extensive research program focused on developing practical solutions for significantly reducing methane emissions from sheep and cattle.

However, not all agree with such a large scale project, including Queensland’s leader of Katter’s Australian Party, Rob Katter.

In a recent statement, Katter says that LMRC’s resources would be better spent in other areas such as cancer research.

"It's a cluster all right and this sort of research into stupidity will tarnish the good name Australians have for themselves on the international stage," Mr Katter said in a statement. 

Photo: a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from CSIRO Australia.

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