NZ study hopes to find link between burps of 300 bulls and methane emissions

Bulls - and their burps - are the focus for researchers trying for a world first here in New Zealand.

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It's the front end of bulls - not the back - that produce most of the gas. Source: 1 NEWS

Kiwi scientists want to find any genetic link for the animal's methane emissions in the hopes of cutting greenhouse gasses in dairying.

The study has the support of the government, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

“Each one of the cows that we have in New Zealand now produces a whole lot more for the same inputs that we put in maybe 20-30 years ago,” O’Connor said.

“So that kind of progressive development that we’ve seen in production, we want to now see in methane reduction.”

The latest contraption being used to help – a machine installed above some sweet treats that captures gases produced when a bull burps - aims to find a possible genetic connection which could help breed climate-friendly cows.

Livestock Improvement Corp chief scientist Richard Spelman told 1 NEWS such a link has been discovered before.

“Genetic variation has been shown in other species,” Spelman said.

“[For example] sheep, we know that genetics actually influences how much methane is produced.”

The burps of 300 bulls in Waikato are being looked at, including comparing the amount of food going in, with the methane coming out as researchers try to find if some bulls produce more gas than others and if it's hereditary.

“A bull burps probably every one or two minutes,” Spelman said.

“So we need to have them in there for that two to three minutes to capture at least one or two observations.”

The next step is to test cows bred from low-methane bulls and, all going well, there will be breeds better for the environment in the next five years.