Methane emissions from burping cattle are major contributor to global warming. Here’s an innovative way to address that using a ‘cow cocktail’

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Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Branded Kowbucha, a nod to the popular fermented drink kombucha, it’s being tested by one of the world’s biggest dairy producers, Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd., to see if it can reduce the amount of methane burped out by [New Zealand’s] 4.9 million cows.

The supplement is the latest effort by the nation’s farmers to solve an increasingly pressing problem of livestock emissions as it pledges to become carbon neutral.

The technology is still at an early stage of research and, like other potential solutions to the bovine problem, faces questions over how to deploy it in the pastures where cows spend most of their days, and whether farmers would be able to afford it. But it’s critical for New Zealand if the country is to reach net zero.

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As well as Kowbucha, Fonterra is working with red seaweed on suppressing the microbes. It has a partnership with Dutch nutrition company Royal DSM NV to speed up the deployment of Bovaer, a synthetic feed supplement that’s been shown to reduce methane emissions by about 30%. The company, which has an annual NZ$100 million ($72 million) research budget, has also worked on developing ‘climate-smart’ cows whose stomachs emit less methane, as well as vaccines.

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