Methane Reduction from Cattle
Methane is a significant green house gas that can lead to global warming. It is also commonly produced by many animals including humans and cattle. Cow belches, a major source of greenhouse gases, could be decreased by an unusual feed supplement developed by a Penn State dairy scientist.
Belching (also known as burping) involves the release of gas from the digestive tract through the mouth. It is usually accompanied with a typical sound and an odor.
Many other mammals, such as cattle, dogs, and sheep also burp. In the case of ruminants, the gas expelled is actually methane produced as a byproduct of the animal's digestive process. Anaerobic organisms such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) and methanogenic archaea produce this effect. An average cow may emit between 542 liters and 600 liters (if in a field) of methane per day through burping, making commercially farmed cattle a major contributor to the greenhouse effect.
At Penn State in a series of laboratory experiments and a live animal test, an oregano based feed supplement not only decreased methane emissions in dairy cows by 40 percent, but also improved milk production, according to Alexander Hristov, an associate professor of dairy nutrition.
Oregano is an important culinary herb. It is particularly widely used in Turkish, Palestinian, Syrian, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, Latin American, and Italian cuisine. It is the leaves that are used in cooking, and the dried herb is often more flavorful than the fresh.
Oregano is often used in tomato sauces, fried vegetables, and grilled meat. Together with basil, it contributes much to the distinctive character of many Italian dishes.
The natural methane reduction supplement could lead to a cleaner environment and more productive dairy operations.
Experiments revealed another benefit of the gas reducing supplement. It increased daily milk production by nearly three pounds of milk for each cow during the trials. The researcher anticipated the higher milk productivity from the herd.
"Since methane production is an energy loss for the animal, this isn’t really a surprise. If you decrease energy loss, the cows can use that energy for other processes, such as making milk." Hristov said.
Hristov first screened hundreds of essential oils, plants and various compounds in the laboratory before arriving at oregano as a possible solution. During the experiments, oregano consistently reduced methane without demonstrating any negative effects.
Following the laboratory experiments, Hristov conducted an experiment to study the effects of oregano on lactating cows at Penn State's dairy barns. He is currently conducting follow-up animal trials to verify the early findings and to further isolate specific compounds involved in the suppression of methane.
Hristov said that some compounds that are found in oregano, including carvacrol, geraniol and thymol, seem to play a more significant role in methane suppression. Identifying the active compounds is important because pure compounds are easier to produce commercially and more economical for farmers to use.
For further information: http://live.psu.edu/story/48055