Sheep emit methane gas when they fart and belch, which is a potent substance that can trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. In fact, over a 20-year timeframe, methane gas is approximately 80 times more effective than carbon dioxide in this regard.
The Hodgkins family is embarking on a challenging journey to develop “ultra-low emission” sheep that produce less methane, a powerful greenhouse gas with over 80 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide within a 20-year span. The tracking program is the initial step in their mission.
On a sunny spring day at Rob and Jo Hodgkins’ farm in southern England, sheep were being The animals were taken individually and placed inside large metal chambers resembling massive washing machines. All 120 of them were kept inside for 50 minutes each, during which time their emissions were measured.
Sheep, like other hoofed plant-eating mammals such as cattle, goats, and buffalos, release methane while digesting food. Previous research has mainly concentrated on cows, as they emit the highest amount of methane. However, scientists in New Zealand have recently discovered that methane emissions are a heritable trait among sheep, which has motivated the Hodgkinses to investigate further.