Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stonyfield Farm Says Adding Flax to Their Cows' Diet Reduces the Production of the Greenhouse Gas Methane

My grandfather was a veterinarian who built a small mill in the 1920s that manufactured scientifically-formulated feed for livestock, so this story on CNN about feeding cows interested me.

According to the dairy farmers at Stonyfield Farm in Vermont, the greenhouse gas methane comes mainly from the silent burps of cows and not, as most of us would suppose, from the other end! According to the New York Times (6-4-09), "the average cow expels — through burps mostly, but some flatulence — 200 to 400 pounds of methane a year." [See this informative NYT article, "Greening the Herds: A New Diet to Cap Gas"]

The Stonyfield farmers say that giving the cows cooked flax in their diet reduces the methane they burp. The milk is also richer in omega-3.

CNN (4-23/24-10) has been airing this story during its "Green Solutions in Focus," segment [See video and story here], but the story is published on the internet at Lexis-Nexis News:

PHILLIPS: We've all heard the environmental talk about man's carbon foot print, but did you know that cows leave a pretty big hoof print of their own? It comes in the form of gas, methane gas.

Photojournalist Bob Foley (ph) found a farm in Vermont where all they want out of their cows is the milk and the moos.


NANCY HIRSCHBERG, STONEYFIELD FARM: Vermont has a long history of being a huge milk state. My name's Nancy Hirschberg (ph). I'm the vice president of natural resources for Stoneyfield Farm. We make organic yogurt and dairy products.

The Fourniers are one of about 180 organic dairy farms in the state of Vermont.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can milk up to eight a time.

HIRSCHBERG: He's one of the 1,400 members of Organic Valley Crop Cooperative. The Stoneyfield Farm greener cow project was an effort on our behalf to find a way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from milk production.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on girl. Go. Come on.

HIRSCHBERG: We thought our factory was going to be the biggest part of our contribution to climate change and lo and behold it was actually the milk production. The cows themselves and their burps.

Cows release methane which is a very potent greenhouse gas. A lot of people think when they hear gas from cows that is coming from the rear end and it's actually coming from the mouths in silent burps.

This is a cooked flax. We're adding just a few pounds a day to their diet and what it does is it rebalances their stomach, so they actually produce less methane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The numbers that we've got so far on this farm somewhere in the range of 12 percent to 15 percent improvement reducing methane emissions from the cows.

HIRSCHBERG: There's been a huge health benefit as well. We were able to increase the omega-3 in the milk by almost a third.

EARL FOURNIER, DAIRY FARMER: I want to do my share. This is part of the reason why we farm in a sustainable manner and this just makes it better.

HIRSCHBERG: The benefits are not only for the greenhouse gas emission, but it's for the animals' health, for our human health as well as the planet.


PHILLIPS: You can tune in tomorrow afternoon for Green Solutions in Focus. CNN's award-winning photojournalists look at the people behind this global environmental movement and the positive impact they've made in their neighborhood and beyond. That's "Green Solutions in Focus", tomorrow, 3:00 p.m. Eastern.


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