Scientists to make cows fart like kangaroos

Cow farts contain methane, a greenhouse gas. Kangaroo farts do not. So scientists in Australia are going to transfer intestinal bacteria of kangaroos into cattle and see what happens.
According to the government of Queensland, almost 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions from Australia come from cow farts, so this seemingly silly idea could actually make a big difference.
Link (Thanks, Marilyn Terrell!)

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  1. I think it makes sense for people to give up their addiction to beef (he says while thinking about the veal he’s going to make for dinner). I vow that I’ll eat more Kangaroos in ’08!

  2. I can see this, uhhh. . . “backfiring”, and actually harming the cows in some way, maybe causing them to not digest food properly.

    Why not just cut out the middle man and farm kangaroos for meat?

    In fact, WHEN are we going to bio-engineer “meat plants” so we don’t have to bother with cows anymore? (And what would that mean to vegetarians?)

  3. Science in 2007 told us that fat people and skinny people have different intestinal flora, and that that *may* have as much to do with obesity as diet and exercise, so why not?

  4. I don’t really get what the point of this is supposed to be.

    The carbon’s got to go somewhere…if not through flatulence, then through excretion or decomposition, or digestion further up the food chain.

    And unlike fossil fuel combustion, cow farts are basically carbon-neutral–the carbon they release into the atmosphere is just the carbon absorbed from the atmosphere by the plants they eat, not something dredged up from two miles underground where it’s been sitting for hundreds of millions of years. It’s fossil fuel consumption that’s the problem, not the normal carbon cycle of the earth’s biomass.

  5. Why not attach a balloon to the rear end of each cow to capture the emitted gas? The methane could later be utilized as fuel to, say, transport the cows to the beef processing plants. Should be as workable as that krazy kangaroo idea.

  6. Nice headline, the story doesn’t have much to do with farts though… 95% of the methane is released from the cow’s mouth (chewing the cud).

  7. #5: The carbon’s got to go somewhere…if not through flatulence, then through excretion or decomposition, or digestion further up the food chain.

    If it ends up in the manure instead of in the farts, its available to environmental bacteria who will probably digest it back into methane, true…

    But it’s also available to put in a methane digester, be trapped, and burned for power instead of just released into the atmosphere where it’s a greenhouse gas and not doing anything to help with power generation, to boot.

    It also depends on what exactly the kangaroo bacteria are producing. They may be producing carbon dioxide or another gas, instead of a solid product. If it is a gas, and the kangaroo gas is less of a greenhouse contributor than methane, we’re still ahead in this equation.

  8. Where’s the “IAMLEGEND” tag when one needs it?

    The true answer, of course, is obvious: Eat ‘Roo.

  9. Cromulent is correct. Cattle methane from whatever end it comes from is carbon neutral. But if people can figure out ways to contribute less I suppose that is a good thing. Even though it is already too late to prevent climate change.

    We have 100-200 years of global warming guaranteed as it is. Nothing can be done about that. Iceland is set to become a tropical island. Might be a good place to resettle. Your grandchildren will thank you.

  10. Noen,

    Your grandchildren will definitely thank you for moving to Iceland. The age of consent is only fifteen.

  11. my understanding of the problem is that methane has a much greater ‘greenhouse load’ per unit of carbon than other forms of carbon released through the digestive processes of other animals.

    does anyone know what the other forms of carbon are?

    as indicated above, the methane comes from cow burps, not farts.

    in fact cattle don’t strictly make the methane, but rather the microbes in their rumen (first stomach compartment). the microbes first break down the ingested plant matter into fatty acids, producing considerable amounts of methane (which is burped). cattle digest the fatty acids and dead microbes. (does this mean that cattle are not strictly herbivores?)

  12. Methane is pretty useful. It’s the primary component of the “natural gas” the utility company sells you to heat your home and run your oven. So like #7, maybe we would be better off trying to find some way to bottle and sell cow farts.

  13. An animals digestive culture is the result of generational inheritance, and is suited very specifically to the animal it’s in. It’s bizarre that they would even try this, rather than figuring out why the kangaroo’s fart’s don’t contain methane with good old fasioned science.

    That said, I wonder who’s job it was to collect kangaroo farts uintil they noticed there was little methane in them?

  14. #20: An animals digestive culture is the result of generational inheritance, and is suited very specifically to the animal it’s in.

    I agree, from a biological perspective this can’t really be very viable… maybe we’ll get cows that can’t properly absorb nutrients and die, thus removing methane producers from the equation, just in a different way than intended. In any case I doubt we’ll be seeing methane-free beef in our stores anytime soon…

  15. Okay, that’s it.

    Scientists are officially being given too damn much money.

    —————
    “Oh, yeah…this is when science didn’t have to have any specific purpose.”
    — Mike Nelson as “Michael J. Nelson” in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

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