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Burping Cows Will Be A Political Issue

The typical cow belches 280 litres of methane gas a day, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in greenhouse gas emissions, according to an Australian CSIRO study. A cow-burp tax might help solve the problem. John Howard reports.

CSIRO modelling has estimated that cow and sheep burps in Australia produce 3 million tonnes of methane into the atmosphere but age, growing rate and feed type can affect output. The Central Queensland University has now published a booklet teaching farmers how to calculate methane volumes produced by belching livestock.

Reseach co-ordinator Dr, Jim Rolfe, predicted cow gas would become a political issue as countries were forced to address agriculture's contribution to greenhouse gases.

"A cow-burp tax would be one way of tackling the problem," he said.

Researchers are also looking at ways to reduce gases with the tropical beef centre in central Queensland investigating how different types of feed additives reduce methane production.

One antibiotic, Monensin, substantially cut methane output when added to feed. Another supplement tested by the CSIRO blocked methane completely but its composition of chlorine and bromine raised safety issues for beef-eating humans.

CSIRO livestock system analyst, Dr Graeme McCrabbe said, "Everyone thinks it's amusing but they stop laughing when you tell them the size of the contribution that livestock makes (to greenhouse gases). "

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