Global warming website helps farmers cut livestock flatulence

I wonder how much humans contribute to “global warming” via their methane expulsions? What’s next: a website dedicated to reducing human flatulence?

From The Telegraph:

By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor
Published: 6:49PM BST 21 Sep 2009

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish environment minister, unveiled a five-point action plan for the country’s agricultural sector to reduce its greenhouse gases.

A fact sheet has been produced outlining how farmers can adjust their animals’ diets to reduce methane emissions. The measures include ensuring livestock eats the right length of grass.

Although vehicles produce a far larger volume of noxious gases, methane is 21 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.

In total, methane is thought to contribute about 18 per cent towards the global warming effect, with cattle and sheep the main culprits. Scottish ministers have pledged to cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050.

Launching the action plan and website, Mr Lochhead said: “Our farmers can lead the fight against climate change and not only help our environment but help their businesses at the same time.

“By adopting these five simple steps, farming will become part of the solution to climate change. I am confident that these practical cost-effective measures will be welcomed.”

The fact sheet tells farmers that their animals emit four greenhouse gases, methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and ammonia.

Methane is produced by bacteria in the guts of livestock, and is associated with fermentation within sheep, cattle and, to a lesser extent, horses.

To reduce emissions, the fact sheet states: “It is important that good quality grass is available and this can be achieved by carefully managing the grazing.

“Graze at a target grass height to supply sufficient dry matter, but not so high that the grass has become mature and of lower digestibility.”

It also recommends using the right type of grass, and advises beef cattle producers use “high concentrate” diets for their livestock to reduce methane levels. Greenhouse gases can also be cut by using waste products from distilleries.

The New Zealand government briefly considered taxing farmers on their herds’ methane output but the proposal had to be dropped following opposition.

South of the Border, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs considered introducing a system of tradable methane permits but the system was considered too complex.

Jim McLaren, president of NFU Scotland, said farmers have already made a “significant contribution” to cutting greenhouse gases.

He added: “Further research into the roles that livestock diet, soil and nutrient management will go some way to helping agriculture fulfil its potential in this area.”

The Scottish campaign, titled Farming for a Better Climate, is being funded by the taxpayer and the website is hosted by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC).

Graham Kerr, who leads the programme for the SAC, said: “This is an issue that challenges us all and land managers can play their part in reducing carbon emissions.”

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