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Greenhouse Gas Theory: Cow's Methane Gas & Global Warming

written by: AlyssaAst•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 11/20/2010

Many factors are known to cause greenhouse gases. Recently, one study indicates methane gases produced by cows are affecting the environment. Is it possible for cows to be causing greenhouse gases?

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    Greenhouse Gases

    Methane is the second largest cause of greenhouse gases in our environment. Many factors cause methane gas to be released into the environment. Most of the commonly known contributors responsible for releasing methane are man-made. However, recently scientists believe cows may actually play a large role in contributing to the release of methane into the environment.

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    Cows

    “Cows
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    Cow's Methane Gas and Global Warming

    During a cow’s digestion process, they release an approximated 75 percent of the methane gas released by animals. Cows release so much methane because of the bacteria in the cow's multiple stomachs. The bacteria allows the cows to better process their food. Unfortunately, the bacteria is also responsible for the methane they release.

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    Why it's a Problem

    The amount of greenhouse gases produced by cows has increased over the past few years. This has to do with the economic supply and demand of cow products. Farmers and ranchers have to supply the demand of cow’s milk and meat that people want. This means ranchers and dairy farmers have to raise more cows and feed them at least three to four times per day. It is necessary to feed the livestock this amount to maintain their healthy weight. If a farmer or rancher overfeeds their cows, a larger amount of methane is released into the environment.

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    Reducing Methane

    Can anything be done to reduce the amount of methane cows release? Scientists say there are numerous things that can be done to reduce the amount of methane released into the air. If farmers and ranchers feed their cows food that contain sunflower seed oil, the amount of methane they release can be decreased by as much as 20%.

    Reducing the demand for products that come from cows can also decrease the methane released into the air as well. If the numbers of cud-chewing animals, such as cows, are decreased, the methane levels will decrease.

    It can be difficult to believe that livestock can actually be harming our environment. Although the research that has been conducted has produced fairly positive result on the greenhouse gases produced by cows, more research must still be conducted to see the full extent of cow’s effects on the environment.

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    References:

    “The Other Greenhouse Gas" By Meredith Knight, March 23, 2007 scienceline

    “Greenhouse Gases and Society" By Nick Hopwood UMICH.edu

    Photo: “Cows" By Dkmhl July 19, 2009 stock.xchng