Researchers in New Zealand are on the verge of testing a vaccine for cattle that will greatly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle are one the largest producers of methane in Australia and New Zealand. Their burps produce gases which are responsible for driving up greenhouse gas emissions.
Rick Pridmore, strategy and investment leader for sustainability at Dairy NZ, was hopeful that production of the vaccine would result in a 25 to 30 per cent reduction in methane emissions by cattle. “We’re getting very close to coming up with a possible vaccine and we are doing animal testing right now,” Pridmore told ABC Rural. “But ‘close’ in science can always be quite unsettling, if you say you are close the next experiment can show you did not get there.
“We do have in vivo tests happening right now though and we are probably as close as I feel we have been. We should know around Christmas or a little bit after how we have gone.”
As Pridmore explained the vaccine will work by creating an environment where the body itself will attack methane producing bacteria in the stomach known as methanogens. “Basically you try to find a protein or a peptide that is on these methanogens,” Pridmore said. You then create an auto-immune response to that, so the body attacks itself.
The New Zealand vaccine is not alone. Researchers in Europe have been working on a methane inhibitor too. “While we were doing that, a European company came out with a compound that can lower methane by about 25 per cent, which is very very high,” says Pridmore. “The inhibitor works on total mixed rations, or a dry diet, which is typically not a pasture diet. So we’re working with that company now to see if theirs will work on a pasture diet, which would be more applicable to Australia and New Zealand.