To reduce cows’ methane emissions, UVM researchers look to seaweed –

A cow in a field in Lowell on Friday, June 7, 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

BURLINGTON — Researchers at the University of Vermont are looking to the ocean to try to reduce the impact that cows have on climate change.

With the help of a mechanism that mimics bovine digestion, Dr. Sabrina Greenwood, a professor with UVM’s department of animal and veterinary sciences, is teaming up with colleagues in coastal Maine to figure out if seaweed can reduce the methane emissions of cows.

The idea has been gaining traction in recent years. A 2018 study at the University of California, Davis, found that a dozen cows fed a particular type of seaweed recorded methane output reductions of 24% to 58%. 

Methane, a greenhouse gas, is 34 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, a United Nations climate report says. Agriculture systems account for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenwood, a ruminant nutritionist, became involved with the research after the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine, received a $3 million grant in October to fund the work. The project’s leader at Bigelow, Nichole Price, emailed a colleague of Greenwood’s in hopes of connecting with a ruminant nutritionist in Vermont, Greenwood said.

“She recognized the importance of dairy in Vermont and [her email] got forwarded to me and I said ‘Yeah, let’s talk,’” Greenwood said.

Greenwood’s research involves the use of six 6-liter continuous culture fermenters, which Greenwood described as a “suped up beaker.” The fermenters, with some slight alterations made to them, mimic the rumen of a cow, or the chamber of a cow’s stomach that houses most of the digestive microbes and bacteria. 

Greenwood and the half dozen students who work with her introduce various components to the beaker to create the desired effect. This includes introducing carbon dioxide gas to remove any oxygen, wrapping the beakers in a heat blanket to keep it at the same temperature as the inside of a cow, reducing light pollution and creating fake saliva.

The last ingredient is rumen fluid. Greenwood said some cows at UVM’s farm have a fistual in their side. The surgically implanted device creates an opening on the side of the cow, so Greenwood and her students can reach inside the cow’s rumen and collect the fluid needed.

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“When you’re testing out new feed, it’s often very nice to test them on these kinds of systems before you move them to an animal,” Greenwood said. 

One particular microbe in the rumen, methanogens, produce the most methane in cows, Greenwood said. 

It’s a common misconception that cows flatulate all their methane, she said. In fact, about 85% of methane released by cows actually comes from their belching, because the methanogens are located in the rumen, the first chamber of the stomach.

Seaweeds have compounds that researchers believe can interfere with the way that cows produce methane, she said.

Price’s team at Bigelow is working to identify which types of seaweed could have the greatest effect on reducing cows’ methane output while also working to grow them sustainably as part of Maine’s large aquaculture industry.

Greenwood said Bigelow is working with thousands of different types of seaweed to understand better how they break down, what their potential methane output could be and the presence of any metals which may have been picked up in the ocean.

Once Bigelow researchers find a few promising seaweeds, they will partner with regional aquaculturalists to send samples to Greenwood and her team. Greenwood will then determine a potential diet ratio, usually 1% to 2% of body weight, and introduce the different types of seaweed and measure the methane output. She plans to repeat this process many times over until she gets a consistent result.

The research aims to figure out how much and what types of seaweed in cow feed would have the desired effect on methane output, without compromising the nutritional needs of cows.

When Greenwood finishes her research, which she hopes will be complete by the end of the summer, she will send the results back to Bigelow, where there is a microbiologist on staff. The microbiologist will then analyse how the microbes in the artificial rumen interacted with the seaweed.

Once the specific types of seaweed are selected for testing in real cows, Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment in Freeport, Maine, and the Organic Dairy Research Farm at the University of New Hampshire will begin feeding it to their herds.

“They’re going to feed it to herds and they’re going to do that likely in comparison with kelp meals that are already out there to see if these are better candidates…from a methane perspective,” Greenwood said. 

Greenwood said these tests are crucial to understanding how a seaweed diet affects cows over time. The fermenters Greenwood has in her lab mimic only the rumen, and she said researchers need to determine if milk or reproductive systems could be impacted by the changing diet. Cows at Wolfe’s Neck and UNH are expected to start on a seaweed diet either later this year, or in 2021.

None of the cows at UVM will be fed seaweed as part of the study. Their primary contribution to the research is their rumen fluid for Greenwood’s culture fermenters.

Greenwood said she wants to strike a balance between feeding cows seaweed and the environmental impact involved with getting seaweed to farms. Seaweed would need to be shipped to landlocked states which, over a long enough distance, could counteract the net impact of methane reduction on the farm.

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Greenwood said the dairy industry “sometimes get the short end of the stick” in climate change discussions. She said over the past decade, dairy farmers have been working much harder to reduce waste and runoff on their farms.

“This isn’t a silver bullet,” she said. “If the dairy industry were to miraculously find some sort of product, like seaweed, that could completely knock out methane emissions, it doesn’t solve the world’s climate problem. There’s a lot more beyond that.”

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$10000 reward offered in cattle deaths – Lincoln County Record

A $10,000 reward is being offered by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for intentionally locking a small herd of cattle into a corral, causing death by starvation of all but one of the herd. The event occurred on or around the first week of Dec. 2019 in the Tule Spring area.

Sheriff Kerry Lee reported less than half a dozen cattle were locked into a fenced watering spring the first part of December and left unattended.

The rancher in the area, the Virgin River Valley north of Mesquite in the southeastern corner of Lincoln County, was unaware of this and did not make the discovery until the heavy snows had melted and poor road conditions improved enough to allow access.

All but one of the cattle had starved to death, Lee said. “The rancher feels this was a criminal act and done intentionally. So we are trying to gather any information from the public as to what they might know or might have seen.”

The story broke on the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page Jan. 6, and Lee said, “Within 30 minutes, we began receiving calls providing us with a few leads and some useful information. We are following up on those leads now, but as of yet, have developed no suspects.”

Lee noted the rancher, who was not named, is willing to put up a $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the criminals.

He thought the act might be prosecuted as destroying someone’s private property, cruelty to animals or several other categories it might fit under, “but it was definitely a criminal act.”

If you have any information or trail camera footage of vehicles in that area, please contact Sheriff Lee directly at, or phone the department dispatch center at (775) 962-5151, open 24/7.

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Cows talk to each other, including about food, shocking new study says – Fox News

Cows are able to “commooonicate” with each other, a startling new study says.

Published in Scientific Reports in December, the study notes that Holstein-Fresian heifer cattle are able to communicate with one another, using their own distinct moos. The researchers, including lead researcher Alexandra Green, took 333 samples of cow vocalizations and analyzed them using acoustic analysis programs. They discovered the cows are able to give cues in certain situations and express different emotions, including excitement, arousal, engagement and distress.

“We found that cattle vocal individuality is relatively stable across different emotionally loaded farming contexts,” Green said in a statement.

Cows "gossip" to each other about food and the weather, according to an astonishing new study. (Credit: SWNS)

Cows “gossip” to each other about food and the weather, according to an astonishing new study. (Credit: SWNS)


Positive signs were seen when the females were in heat and when there was anticipation of being fed. Negative contexts were spotted when they were denied access to food and during “physical and visual isolation from the rest of the herd.”

Cameron Clark, one of the study’s co-authors and Green’s academic supervisor, praised her research. “Ali’s research is truly inspired,” Clark said in the statement. “It is like she is building a Google translate for cows.”

Alexandra Green at Mayfarm, Camden. (Credit: Lynne Gardner)

Alexandra Green at Mayfarm, Camden. (Credit: Lynne Gardner)

Previous research had revealed cows and their calves are able to communicate by keeping individuality in their lowing (the vocal sounds made by cattle), but Green’s research indicates that the individuality is kept throughout their entire lives and spread across the herd.

“Cows are gregarious, social animals,” Green added. “In one sense it isn’t surprising they assert their individual identity throughout their life and not just during mother-calf imprinting. But this is the first time we have been able to analyze voice to have conclusive evidence of this trait.”

Green hopes that her research will be used by farmers and integrated into their routines to better understand their animals and improve their well being.

The study revealed how dairy cows respond to positive and negative emotional situations each with their own individual voice and linked their moods to their 'moos.' (Credit: SWNS) 

The study revealed how dairy cows respond to positive and negative emotional situations each with their own individual voice and linked their moods to their ‘moos.’ (Credit: SWNS) 

“Individual distinctiveness is likely to attract social support from conspecifics, and knowledge of these individuality cues could assist farmers in detecting individual cattle for welfare or production purposes,” the researchers wrote in the study’s abstract.


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From Pipi's Pasture: Putting up with pushy cows – Craig Daily Press

From Pipi’s Pasture

Everyone who knows cows is aware that they live a hierarchial “lifestyle”—even though they don’t realize it. In a small herd there’s usually one cow that “rules the roost” (sometimes more than one). She manages to get the best feed and the best place to sleep at night. She pushes the others away when she wants to use her favorite scratching post or when she wants to lick the mineral block. I’ve seen a boss cow even push the bull away. Even though the boss cow is in charge, the others have their places in the herd, too, pushing and shoving others around to get feed. It’s nature’s way.

Recently, people have taken notice to how I’ve been feeding this winter. They want to know why I’m feeding cows in small bunches. After all, it requires a lot work to move bales of hay around. So that brings me to the pushy cows in our little herd.

The first little bunch of cows doesn’t have anything to do with pushy cows. They’re in the smaller part of the corral. Sarah, my 25-year-old cow, needs shelter so she’s there where she can get into a loafing shed. Her roommate is BoCo, our granddaughter Megan’s prize-winning cow, knows how to jump wire fences so that’s why she is there. Two calves are there, too. That’s bunch # 1.

The other cows chow down in the larger part of the corral, bunch # 2.  This year I’ve chosen to throw hay over the pole fence. We are used to spreading hay out on the feedlot where there’s distance among the cows, but here’s plenty of room for all of the cows to eat in the corral—if they don’t fight. That’s where the pushy cows come in.

There are about three boss cows in the little herd now. They’re all great big, red Simmental cows that weigh as much as 1700 pounds, and their names are Kitty, Moose, and Blaze. We’ve had these cows quite awhile. Because of their sizes, the cows push all of the others around when I put out the hay. As I throw more and more hay over the fence, they follow along, undoubtedly thinking they will get tastier hay or, even more probable, not wanting the others to get any. They push so-thunk!- the target cows hit the fence. In their efforts to get the hay the three boss cows stand sideways on it.

Cow Kitty is vociferous as well as pushy. Just this morning I came face-to-face with her through the corral poles. I told her I was tired of listening to whatever she was complaining about.

Long story short—the less aggressive cows have to work to get hay. So I decided to move some hay up closer to the house, to allow some cows to eat there, spreading them out. This is cow bunch # 3. And you know what? The less aggressive cows, the ones that get pushed away from the hay, come up to this hay every morning. As a result, all the cows get plenty of hay and get to eat in peace.

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Loudoun County Seeking Information on Illegal Slaughter of Cow – Loudoun Now

Loudoun County is investigating the illegal slaughter of a cow in the area of Howsers Branch Road near Aldie. 

The incident is believed to have occurred between 10 p.m., Dec. 21 and 6 a.m., Dec. 22. The cow was discovered slaughtered in the owner’s pasture and was identified by an ear tag.

Animal Control Officers arrived on the scene to find the cow missing its right front leg, both back legs from the hip joints, and a strip of back muscle. Officers also discovered an opening on the cow’s right shoulder, consistent with injury from a crossbow-type weapon.

Evidence was collected from the scene and is being processed. Animal Services, with assistance from the Sheriff’s Office, is investigating this incident, which could lead to charges of animal cruelty, trespassing and larceny.

Anyone with information regarding this crime is encouraged to call 703-777-0406. Callers may remain anonymous.

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Breaking up with your favorite foods – Harvard Health

Heartburn and indigestion are not the hallmarks of a good relationship.

They say that breaking up is hard to do, and that takes on new meaning when you’ve had a love affair with certain foods. But sometimes our bodies can no longer tolerate our favorites, forcing us to say goodbye to everything from onions, beans, and jalapeos to yogurt and marinara sauce. “Anyone over 30 knows that our body doesn’t always work the way it once did, and that gets worse as we get older. The upper and lower digestive tract seem most susceptible to the changes of aging,” says Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Suspicious sweethearts

The naturally occurring sugars known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) can become harder to digest in older age. These include sugars found in dairy products, wheat, rye, onions, garlic, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans), honey, pistachios, cashews, asparagus, and artichokes, among other foods. Some fruits (including mangos, pears, and peaches) contain FODMAPs, as do drinks with fructose or certain artificial sweeteners. Dr. Staller says we don’t always know what makes a person develop sensitivity to particular FODMAPs. We do know that eating FODMAPs can result in cramping, diarrhea, bloating, and gas.

Missing from the relationship

Some people have difficulty digesting dairy products because their bodies don’t produce enough lactase — the enzyme necessary to break down lactose, a naturally occurring sugar in dairy foods. A small number of people are born lactose intolerant; in most other cases, lactase production declines over time, so that people lose their ability to digest lactose as they get older. “For reasons we don’t fully understand, the genes that control the ability to make lactase can be switched off as we age,” Dr. Staller says.

Burned by love

Peppers, tomato sauces, and many other foods (such as citrus, chocolate, peppermint, and fatty and fried foods) can worsen heartburn caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth and stomach, usually because the ringlike muscles that prevent backflow stop working properly. GERD can cause a burning feeling in the chest, a sour taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, a sore throat, or coughing.

You deserve better

Rather than suffer the consequences of an unhappy digestive tract, stop fighting and move on. There are plenty of fish in the sea — or in this case, options for new foods to love.

Replacing dairy products is easiest. You can find lactose-free milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products that have had the offending sugar removed. You can also try plant-based “milk” products, such as almond, cashew, oat, rice, and hemp milks; yogurts; and even ice cream. Soy and lactose-free milks are good sources of calcium and protein.

“But you will have to make sure grain and nut milk products are fortified,” advises registered dietitian Kathy McManus, the director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “And watch out for added sugars. Many of these milks are flavored, and some of them have almost as much sugar as soda. Go for the unsweetened kind.”

Spice up your food life

There are many alternatives that may satisfy your need for spicy food without triggering heartburn. “Ground ginger, horseradish, wasabi, cinnamon, hot mustard — those kinds of things may bring a little spice or heat without all that pepper or red sauce,” McManus suggests. “But introduce foods slowly, to see how they’re tolerated, and back off if symptoms return.”

Where have you “bean” all my life?

Beans and other legumes are a major source of plant-based protein for many people. If those FODMAPs don’t agree with you, consider protein-rich firm tofu (made from soybeans, with FODMAPs removed). If it’s the bean texture you’ll miss, try rice (ideally brown, not white), quinoa, polenta, and gluten-free breads or pastas, which are all FODMAP-free.

In fact, there are replacement possibilities for all FODMAP foods. Instead of blackberries, try blueberries; ditch onions for fennel bulbs or the greens of scallions; swap out pistachios or cashews for almonds or peanuts; and pass up peaches in favor of papayas. For more information, check out the Harvard Medical School Guide Managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (

Reuniting with an old flame

Can’t stay away from your favorite foods? Take heart. “You might not get symptoms if you eat smaller amounts,” Dr. Staller says.

Other tips:

  • “You can reduce the heat in fiery dishes by adding a dollop of dairy — such as sour cream — or increasing the amount of other ingredients, such as vegetables, to dilute the heat,” McManus suggests.
  • Tamp down the heat in peppers before cooking by rinsing them, removing the seeds and ribs, roasting them, and removing the skin.
  • Rinse canned beans before cooking them to reduce the amount of gas-producing sugars.
  • Use an enzyme supplement with lactase to help you digest dairy; or use Beano, a natural enzyme product that helps sensitive guts digest oligosaccharides.

And remember: healthy, long-term relationships — including with food — take work. With a little effort, you can enjoy many more years of symptom-free food bliss.

Image: Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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Ben & Jerry's asks judge to dismiss 'happy cow' lawsuit – Fox Business

Ben & Jerry’s has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that slams the Vermont-based ice cream company for falsely characterizing its dairy products as coming solely from “happy cows” because the suit allegedly fails to make any actual claim against the company, court papers state.

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“How happy is a cow?” states the motion to dismiss, which was filed by defendants Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on Monday in federal court in Vermont. “What should be the first line of a riddle is now the major premise of a lawsuit…to the extent a reasonable consumer bought Ben & Jerry’s ice cream because he wanted to support the humane treatment of cows, he got exactly what he paid for.”

An online version of the motion was posted by


Environmental activist James Ehlers filed the lawsuit in late October alleging false advertising on the product labeling and the website for purporting that the milk and dairy products come exclusively from happy cows, according to the recent filing. Ehlers’ attorney did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment.

Ehlers said many of the farms that produce the milk and cream are factory-style, mass-production dairy operations.


“[H]e alleges that the website then led him to believe that all the dairy Ben & Jerry’s uses is exclusively ‘sourced from ‘happy cows’ on special farms,’” the motion states. “But the website also does not make this claim. It contains dozens of links that provide information on Ben & Jerry’s social and environmental programs, including its ‘Caring Dairy’ program.”

But still, Ehlers apparently came to his “happy cow” conclusion from a heading on the company’s website that states: “Basic standards for being a Caring Dairy farmer (required for all farmers),” the document states.


The Caring Dairy program – meant to promote humane dairy practices among qualifying farms by offering premiums – is voluntary, according to court papers.

“Plaintiff appears to be alleging that he interpreted ‘all farmers’ to mean ‘all farmers that supply dairy to Ben & Jerry’s,’ rather than all farmers participating in the Caring Dairy program,” the motion states.

In court papers filed Tuesday, Ben & Jerry’s attorney Walter E. Judge submitted a screengrab of an archived webpage, which showed the header that Ehlers would have seen. He also provided examples of the carton labels for Phish Food, Americone Dream, The Tonight Dough, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Mint Chocolate Cookie and New York Super Fudge.

The webpage heading in question has since been changed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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How Now Unhappy Cow? Ben & Jerry's Drops Claims Of Contented Bovines – Vermont Public Radio

Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. has dropped the claim that the milk for its ice cream comes from “happy” cows.

The word that the cows may not be contented comes in the company’s response to a federal consumer fraud lawsuit. That case, filed in October, alleges the Vermont ice cream maker misleads the public about how its farms treat their animals and protect the environment.

The company filed a motion to dismiss the case this week in federal court.

“The phrase ‘happy cows’ has already been removed from the packaging,” the motion said. “The cartoon cows remain [on the packaging] but … they did not look happy to begin with.”

“The cartoon cows remain [on the packaging] but … they did not look happy to begin with.” — Ben & Jerry’s legal motion

Activist Michael Colby and his group Regeneration Vermont has been pressuring Ben & Jerry’s to use its influence to change farming practices in Vermont. He said there’s both good news and bad news in the Ben & Jerry’s decision.

“We applaud their honesty, and it’s a great victory for them to remove what we believe to be misleading information from their packaging,” Colby said.

“That’s certainly a retreat,” he added. “But the bad news is, it’s a retreat to basically admitting that they can’t make claims about where their dairy is coming from and that they are still heavily involved in industrial agriculture practices, GMO corn, pesticides, antibiotics for the cows, and confinement for these cows.”

“It’s a retreat to basically admitting that they can’t make claims about where their dairy is coming from and that they are still heavily involved in industrial agriculture practices, GMO corn, pesticides, antibiotics for the cows, and confinement for these cows.” — Michael Colby, activist

A Ben & Jerry’s spokeswoman said the company rewards farms under its “Caring Dairy” program, if they agree to follow strong animal welfare and environmental standards.

“While we haven’t done an official survey of our cows’ happiness, we’re proud of the work we’ve done with Vermont’s family farmers over the past 35 years,”  spokeswoman Laura Peterson said in a statement. “And we believe our Caring Dairy program is the most progressive in the industry. We’re committed to building a resilient, regenerative dairy supply that benefits animals, people, and the planet.”

The motion to dismiss, however, said the company’s claims about happy cows was “puffery” and did not need to be substantiated:

“As an initial matter, ‘happy cows’ is non-actionable puffery because it is a statement of opinion, not a statement of fact. Happiness cannot be measured objectively, and [the plaintiff]  could not take a cow’s deposition to ask how it feels.”

“‘Happy cows’ is non-actionable puffery because it is a statement of opinion, not a statement of fact.” — Ben & Jerry’s legal motion

And, the lawyers added in a footnote, maybe people just like the ice cream but don’t buy the company’s alleged social values.

“Many consumers buy the ice cream simply because they like the taste and the flavors, not because of the company’s position on social and environmental issues, “ the motion said. 

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