The cow as a killer of the climate: This inglorious role of our four-legged friends, peaceful in itself, is well-enough recognised, because, with their digestion, the animals produce methane, which is expelled continuously. Now, however, a team of German scientists from the Institute of Soil Ecology of the GSF National Research Center for Environment and Health (Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres) and Czech colleagues at the Budweis Academy of Science have been able to show that bovine animals can also boost the production of this climate gas in soil.
This effect can be observed especially when the animals do not spend the cold season exclusively in the cowshed, but are kept on winter pastures. The study, carried out on a Czech farm, proved that two factors are vital for this process to take place: the amount and quality of organic material from the excrement and the strong compaction of the soil by the weight of the cattle. These changes lead to the fact that methane-producing micro-organisms from the gastro-intestinal tract of the animals can be established in the soil while, simultaneously, the process of methane oxidation is restrained.
Grass lands that are not used intensively for agriculture generally act as sink for the greenhouse gases, methane, carbon dioxide and laughing gas. However, this situation can change if intensive management of the pastures with cattle occurs. Indeed, it is known also that well-aired soils have the potential for producing methane. Hence, the scope of the study should include examination of the extent to which the over-wintering of cattle on pastures stimulates this potential, and grassland soils really becomes a methane spring. For animal protection reasons, the placing of cattle in winter on pastures - with the possibility of sleeping in a cowshed or of obtaining feed there becomes increasingly popular. The over-wintering of bovine animals is quite widespread at least in the ecological agr
|Contact: Heinz Joerg Haury|
GSF - National Research Center for Environment and Health