Scientists in Canada are using genetics to help identify cows that produce fewer "flatulence emissions," with the ultimate goal of distributing the responsible genes—conveniently transported in the form of bull semen—to areas that don’t have the resources to develop their own greener cows. Some studies have shown that “bovine emissions” contribute to greenhouse gases—it’s the methane.
Bovine air emissions weren’t much of a concern when I hand-milked our family cow in the 1960s. Personal experience taught me to be more worried about Bossy’s solid particulates. As noted Midwest writer Michael Perry says, it’s foolish to stand behind a sneezing cow. And the old Guernsey had other ways to vex a 13-year old kid, like coming in for milk time with a mud-caked udder or twitching at a fly violently enough to kick over a partially-filled bucket.
Maybe the best way to clear the air is through the use of unbiased research and scientific analysis.Two CAST publications provide science-based background information about the issues of air quality and greenhouse gasses:
*** Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in U.S. Agriculture: Challenges and Opportunities for Mitigation
These scientists study livestock behavior, stress, and other factors to enhance livestock well-being and growth. In this case, they looked at pigs, mirrors, and mats.
I must admit, I've heard of wilder pig play options. As this blog explains, researchers have developed soccer balls, high-dive platforms, and even digital distractions for pigs.
Dutch researchers created a computer game both pigs and humans can play. It’s called Pig Chase—the pigs can handle it even without opposable thumbs. The inventors “have attempted to find out whether this could meet the animals’ desire to play--and to see if different types of relationships with humans could possibly be established.” That’s good. The only porcine relationship I remember from my youth was when we’d round up a bunch of escaped pigs and force them back into their pens. A relationship that doesn’t involve squealing and swearing might be refreshing.
I'm from the "old school days" of pig farming--before air-controlled confinement buildings and precision ag production techniques. Maybe these scientists are on to something about pig behavior and attitude. After all, we wouldn't want them to go bad--check out this story about an Australian pig that stole beer, got drunk, and fought a cow.
by dan gogerty (cow graphic from rubescartoons.com, and pig pic from adorablog.org)