Study discovers a cow's genetics determine which microbes populate its gut and produce greenhouse gas

Signal of change / Study discovers a cow's genetics determine which microbes populate its gut and produce greenhouse gas

By Anirudh Shah / 15 Nov 2017

Scientists from Scotland’s Rural College have pinpointed the group of microbial genes that give the bacteria, found in cow’s guts, that produce methane. They did this by taking microbial samples from cows and comparing that to the amount of methane the cow produced.

There was a strong correlation between the quantity of the genes in the cow’s gut and the amount of methane that cow produced.

So what?

This research means that breeders can now start to identify cows that have the least amount of these genes and so produce the least amount of methane so as to use these to breed the next generation.

This is an important development as cattle account for more than 5% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Until now, the only viable way to reduce these emissions was to reduce the amount of dairy and beef that was consumed but, this research could provide a pathway to reducing the methane produced by cows. The hope is that eventually cows without methane-producing bacteria can be bred.

Sources

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/09/22/552698446/gassy-cows-warm-the-planet-scientists-think-they-know-how-to-squelch-those-belch

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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