Cow farts

Flatulent cows start fire at German dairy farm - http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/27/us-germany-cows-idUSBREA0Q1HY20140127

If these cows are putting out so much methane gas, are they being fed the wrong food?

No - it’s just what they do. Their digestion is based on fermentation processes that break down cellulose - and methane is a natural byproduct of those processes.

BBQ on the hoof. Yummy.

Believe it or not, biologists in New Zealand have been working for several years on changing the gut microbes of cows to reduce the methane output. I’m not sure what stage they are at. Propane…? :smiley:

Each cow has 4 stomachs, to break down the mostly cellulosic food. The folks at the EPA say that most of the methane comes not from the cow’s anus, but from the mouth. The cow hurks up cud from one stomach, re-chews it, and swallows it to the next stomach. It seems like a really odd way to live, but cows spend most of their time chewing cud.

The research began before greenhouse gases were a topic, as a matter of feed efficiency. Every carbon atom from the cellulose in feed that forms CH4 and drifts away is a carbon atom that has not been converted to protein or fat. Farmers only get paid for the protein/fat, so they want to increase the conversion ratio.

Saving the world is a side benefit, although it can be useful for getting grant money to assign to the problem.