November 30, 2009

Australians To Breed Sheep That Burp Less

Australian scientists have said they are hoping to breed sheep that burp less as part of efforts to tackle climate change.

The scientists have been trying to identify a genetic link that causes some sheep to belch less than others.

Study leader John Groopy says twelve percent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions originate with agriculture, and some 70 percent of that amount is blamed on ruminant livestock, with most of it coming from burps.

It's a myth that most methane produced by sheep comes from flatulence, Goopy told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in a story published Sunday.

"Ninety percent of the methane that sheep and cattle and goats produce comes from the rumen, and that's burped out," he said.

"Not much goes behind; that's horses," he said.

The scientists in New South Wales have been conducting experiments in specially designed pens where they measure how much gas sheep emit by burping.

They have found, from tests on 200 sheep so far, that the more they eat, the more they belch.

The scientist said methane has about 17 times the environmental warming capacity of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.

"We're looking for natural variations so we'll steer the population that way, " said Roger Hegarty, from the Sheep Cooperative Research Council.