Scientists Aiming to Breed Sheep That Don't Burp
Photo via Amaury Laporte
In hopes of reducing methane emission from the nation's sheep, scientists in Australia are setting out to breed sheep that don't burp. Each time an animal releases gas (from either end), methane is released into the atmosphere which contributes to the problems of global warming, and it all adds up. Currently, the agriculture sector is second only to industry in terms of greenhouse gas production--with two-thirds of that figure coming from Australia's livestock. So, by isolating and breeding sheep that burp a bit less frequently, the amount of total emissions could be reduced considerably.How to Study Sheep Burps
The 'burp' research is being conducted by the Sheep Co-operative Research Centre and is the first of its kind in the world. Around 700 sheep, representing 20 different genetic lines, will be involved in the study. After the sheep are fed, researchers will herd them to a booth where scientists will be able to measure their burp output, according to the Courier-Mail.
One scientist conducting the study, Dr. Roger Hegarty, is hoping to better understand sheep burps:
We're looking into how to reduce emissions from sheep - all over Australia teams are testing different approaches: changing the microbes in the gut, changing their diet, or changing the genetics of the animal. Our sheep studies are aiming to find out if there is genetic control over methane production and, if so, is that a good thing to pursue?
Are Cow Burps Next?
If the studies with sheep are able to isolate and promote the breed of burp-less sheep, the next step will be to apply the same research to cows--who are far more culpable in methane production in the United States.
Methane is the exhaust from livestock, and - just as you can't put your hand over the exhaust pipe of a car and expect it to keep running - we're treading carefully to reduce emissions without causing other problems. There really is a global effort on this - it will take a lot of hard yakka and time.
Hegarty and the other researchers are modest in their goals--considering even a 10 percent reduction in emissions to be "a good thing," reports the News. Such research should be hailed for its creativity in seeking a solution to the significant problem of livestock burping, and similar research should be considered by researchers in other agriculturally rich nations. Sadly, it make be a while before researchers are found bold enough to perform such a study on the other end of livestock methane production, if you know what I mean.