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Name: Simon Quellen Field
Location: Los Gatos, California, United States

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cow Farts

Al Gore is coming to where I work to talk about Global Warming.

He will likely discuss human sources of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, and unburned methane from petroleum production.

But he might also mention the emissions from livestock.

Now while you might expect the job of measuring these emissions would involve close study of the south end of northbound animals, it turns out that most methane emissions from cattle happen at the other end.

About one third of the 10.2 million tons of methane produced by agriculture in the European Union is produced by livestock manure, while the rest comes from belching bovines, sheep, and pigs.

On the way to becoming meadow muffins, all that grass is feeding lots of bacteria in the digestive systems of ruminants, and they convert it into methane.

Methane production is far lower in volume that carbon dioxide production, but methane is a more effective greenhouse gas, making it's production a concern.

The search for ruminant diets that reduce methane is not just driven by concerns about global warming. All the energy in the methane is lost to poor Bossy, who could use it to produce more milk.

So the farmers are interested in better foods to boost production. Of milk, that is, not cow flatulence.