Swiss researchers have found out that kangaroos produce lower methane emissions than cows due to faster digestion. This discovery could hold the clue to breeding more methane-efficient cows in the future and help reduce global warming.
Around 20% of the world’s methane emissions are produced by animals like cows and sheep. Kangaroos have a foregut that is quite similar to a cow’s rumen, the primary fermentation chamber where food is broken down, but produce less methane for their size. A study carried out by scientists from the University of Zurich, the Zurich Federal Institute of technology (ETHZ), and the University of Wollongong in Australia has discovered why.
The researchers concluded that kangaroos digest more rapidly than cows under normal conditions. This ensures that the food does not sit in the foregut for long, which in turn means that bacteria have less time to convert it into methane.
“If we want to reduce methane production in cows, the question is whether they can be bred so that parts of the food don’t remain in the rumen for as long,” say the researchers.
The results of the study were published in the Journal of Experimental Biology on November 4. In New Zealand work has been going on for the past five or six years to reduce methane emissions from cows and sheep. An ETHZ research project is also looking into this question.