Counting the Bleat
Principal investigator at New Zealand’s Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) in Palmerston North, Peter Janssen hopes that by measuring every belch and bleat of their sheepish subjects they can come up with a solution to the problem of gas emissions from livestock contributing to climate change. About 35 million sheep and 8 million cows account for half the greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand in an economy heavily reliant on primary industry. Scientists at NZAGRC will house cattle and sheep in Perspex boxes to determine methane levels and use genome sequencing to try to minimise the large amounts of gas that livestock naturally produce. “New technologies, particularly in genome sequencing, have allowed us to understand methane microbes in a way that was just not possible in the 1960s and 1970s,” Janssen said.