THE hunt is on for ways to reduce flatulence in livestock as a means of slowing global warming.
A Scottish science and technology company and an Irish farm feed company are among the front runners in the race. But they could be upstaged by the English or Welsh winner of a 750,000 contract from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with this target in mind, due to be announced shortly.
The Defra project is aimed at finding better cow types or high-sugar grass varieties that lead to lower emissions of greenhouse gases - mostly methane. A Defra spokesman said these emissions from livestock accounted for about 7 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions for the UK and double that worldwide. Cars are reckoned to account for about 6 per cent.
The Defra strategy will also be homing in on the development of anaerobic digesters to deal with cattle slurry, and produce useable energy, a technology that has developed rapidly in Germany with the aid of substantial subsidies.
A 20-25 per cent reduction in methane produced by cows would be possible simply by bringing in more efficient feeding regimes, according to Keenan, the Irish animal feed-machine manufacturing firm.
Unveiling the results of Keenan's latest farm research at Harper Adams University College in Shropshire, David Beever, the company's international nutrition director, said:
"What we are offering is a better use of feed, like a better burn of fuel in cars.
"This means that more carbon, which is really energy, goes into the product while less goes to waste."