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Cattle-burp eco menace mastered - by oregano

Herbal belch-squelch method also offers milky bonus

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A bovo-boffin in Pennsylvania says he has saved life on planet Earth from being gradually stifled into extinction by burgeoning clouds of cattle-belch methane. The solution is apparently to feed cows oregano.

"Cattle are actually a major producer of methane gas and methane is a significant greenhouse gas," says Alexander Hristov, dairy nutrition prof at Penn State uni. "In fact, worldwide, livestock emits 37 percent of anthropogenic methane."

As methane (CH4) has more than 20 times the planet-busting effect of CO2, this is a serious business. But Hristov says he has found that adding an oregano-based supplement to cattle feed cuts the burping bovines' CH4 emissions by no less than 40 per cent.

Apparently, it took Hristov six years of feeding different things to his experimental cattle to discover his herby belch-squelch technology. Apart from saving the planet, it has a worthwhile side benefit: it makes the cows produce more milk. This result was to be expected as methane is full of energy (it is a useful fuel, of course, delivered in the forms of liquefied or compressed natural gas).

"Since methane production is an energy loss for the animal, [the extra milk] isn't really a surprise," Hristov said. "If you decrease energy loss, the cows can use that energy for other processes, such as making milk."

The prof is now trying to find out what the active compounds in the oregano are, so as to make manufacturing of burp-stifling milko-boost feed cheaper and simpler. ®

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