Australia's cows aren't as flatulent as we thought they were

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Australia’s cattle herd isn’t creating as much greenhouse gas, a key factor in global warming, as previously thought.

Scientists have recalculated the methane output from the cattle herd and found it is 24% lower than previously estimated.

The Australian herd, estimated at 26.8 million in 2015, produces the equivalent to 12.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

The study was based on data collected over eight years of research into ways to reduce emissions in livestock as part of Meat and Livestock Australia’s methane abatement program.

The methodology also brings the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory in line with the estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international body on the assessment of climate change established by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organisation in 1988.

CSIRO’s Ed Charmley says the work was conducted because of concerns and doubt surrounding the accuracy of previous calculations.

“Different methods used to calculate emissions from livestock in temperate and tropical regions were based on studies done in the 1960s and 1990s, mainly with dairy cattle,” says Dr Charmley.

“Both of these past methods were found to be likely over-estimating the emissions from cattle.”

The analysis of Australian cattle research data was conducted by CSIRO, the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, the University of New England and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, with technical input from the Australian Government Department of Environment.

The new method has been published in the journal Animal Production Science.

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