Greenhouse Gas and Livestock

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Methane is the principal component in natural gas and is produced from a wide variety of natural and man-made processes.
In the context of livestock, methane is produced by the group of animals know as ruminants.
Cattle, sheep and goats are domestically produced ruminant animals in Australia, with other examples of ruminant animals including camels, alpacas and deers.
Ruminant animals have a digestive system that allows them to eat otherwise indigestible foods (such as tough grasses) by regurgitating it as "cud" and re-chewing it.
To aid digestion their stomachs are filled with bacteria that break down the cud, which produces methane gas in the process.
It's this amazing ruminant process that enables food to be produced on land that is otherwise unable to support any other type of food production, such as cropping or growing vegetables.
In a country like Australia that only has 7% arable land, grazing livestock is important in ensuring food security for a growing population.
Methane gas potency Methane is a potent greenhouse gas.
It's estimated to be between 21 to 23 times the potency of carbon dioxide.
Methane has a relatively short life span, meaning that reductions in methane can have a quick response in lowering carbon levels in the atmosphere.
Cows methane gas Focus has been placed on the methane gas produced by livestock in recent years.
At the same time the Australian livestock industry has been investing heavily in partnership with the Australian government to find ways to reduce cows methane gas.
Research is also underway to better understand how much methane gas is produced by cattle and sheep.
The Australian red meat industry invests in research and development to reduce emissions from cattle and sheep, manage carbon stores in vegetation and soils at the same time as increasing productivity.
The research is focused on reducing the amount of methane produced by ruminant animals in three key ways: • Manipulation of nutrition and rumen function to lower emissions • Animal breeding to select animals that produce lower emissions • Whole farm system approaches and better herd management Australian cows methane gas reduced Between 1990 and 2008 on-farm emissions per kilogram of beef produced in Australia decreased by 6.
This was due to improved productivity, the age to market of animals is decreasing yet the amount of meat being produced from each animal, on average, is increasing due to more efficient breeds and production methods.
The Australian livestock industry has an important role to play in managing the natural resources in Australia and the industry is focused on minimising the impact on natural resources at the same time as reducing methane gas.
Research is being undertaken to understand the correlation between well managed grazing pastures and carbon absorbed from the atmosphere, with several studies suggesting that well managed grazing lands can form a large part of mitigating climate change.
Cows methane gas cycle Carbon that is stored in plants is consumed by livestock when they graze.
Some of it is then released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when the animals breathe it out and as methane when the animals digest their food.
Methane in the atmosphere is eventually transformed to carbon dioxide and water.
Carbon dioxide is then re-absorbed by plants as they grow and the cycle continues.
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