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Cow burp-catcher ‘could help reduce methane emissions by 60%’

Yahoo! News UK logo Yahoo! News UK 04/01/2021 Rob Waugh
a cow looking at the camera: The mask captures and eliminates methane as the cow releases it (Zelp) The mask captures and eliminates methane as the cow releases it (Zelp)

A burp-catching face mask for cows could prove an unlikely weapon in the battle against climate change - by reducing the methane emitted by cattle

Cattle herds and other ruminants are responsible for up to 37% of the methane emitted worldwide

The greenhouse gas is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. 

But while cow farts are often the emissions that make the headlines, cow burps are the problem - with up to 95% of methane emissions coming via their mouths, Wired reports.

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Hence the ‘burp-catching’ mask developed by UK company Zelp, which is fitted to cows at age 6-8 months. 

Speaking to Wired, Zelp co-founder Francisco Norris said, “We were aware that in every country, methane is one of the biggest contributions to global warming and we found that methane mitigation tools in agriculture are under-researched. There isn’t a lot of innovation occurring within the field.”

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Previous solutions for the methane problems have come in the form of animal feed, designed to reduce methane emissions. 

Norris told Wired, “Around 95% of the cattle’s methane emissions come from their nostrils and mouths.”

“The technology detects, captures and oxidises methane when it is exhaled by the animals.”

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Zelp’s mask fits onto cow’s heads with a zip-tie-style mechanism, and can also be used to capture data on the cows’ welfare - turning them into ‘smart cows’. 

The mask oxidises methane in real-time. 

The company writes, “We are currently trialing our beta product with live animals in order to improve the technology further and gather key data to help the planet and improve animal welfare on farm. Our last trials showed a methane reduction efficiency of 53%.

“The cattle wearable attaches to regular halters in a non-intrusive way and, as well as converting methane, it has the added capacity to improve animal welfare by capturing, analysing and processing large amounts of data on each animal.

“ This technology has also been successfully tested through numerous behavioural trials which evaluate the impact of the wearable on animal behaviour as well as production yields, rumination, rest and activity periods and feed intake.”

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