Scientists Build Fake Burping Cows to Study Methane Emissions

By Nina Bai | January 21, 2009 12:55 pm

cowAs we’ve mentioned before, about 18 percent of methane from human activities is generated in the guts of livestock. As such, cow belching, which is how much of this potent greenhouse gas sees the light of day, has become an important environmental concern. In an effort to make cows less gassy, scientists have tried everything from transferring special methane-reducing bacteria from kangaroo guts into cow guts, to garlic supplements, to promoting a switch to kangaroo-burgers.

But no one wants to be in the field measuring cow burps. Now a team of scientists from New Zealand have a designed a model cow to study the issue in the lab. In fact, they’ve built a whole herd of virtual cows, named Myrtle, Buttercup, Jesse, Ethel, Daisy and Boris. Each consists of a system of tubes, pumps, jars, monitors, and blinking lights which simulate the entire bovine digestive system.

As News 3 reports:

Food and saliva are added to the cow’s “stomachs” and the end result is perhaps inevitable.

“As the materials ferment you end up with what we call the poo jars. That is as technical as an engineer would want to get,” says [researcher Robert] Wood.

Methane gas emissions are monitored.

“Every time the little unit here flicks, we count the flicks for the amount of gas produced,” says Wood.

The scientists hope to use their virtual herd to model different feeding strategies, which can then be applied to real cows.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Kangaroo-ifying Cows to Fight Global Warming
Discoblog: Kangaroo: It’s What’s For Dinner in Australia
DISCOVER: All Aboard the Cow Train
DISCOVER: 10 Ways Methane Could Brake Global Warming—Or Break the Planet

Image: flickr / JelleS

  • http://discover priscilla saldana

    i think cows should just die cause they are causing globe warning…n that is not good…………….

  • mark

    the fact people carrying out this ‘research’ are considered scientists is testimony to the deeply desperate levels the press will stoop for a story which therefore raises the question of weather these people should be realistically considered reporters. methane gas is a minor greenhouse gas only contributed by mainly natural causes tell me will every human eventually need permission to fart!! disgraceful scientific misconceptions and amateur reporting.

  • Radically Green Mama

    Priscilla- you seem like a smart one! Wow…

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