|Cows in the beef herd are seen as they feed at Offham Farm, a supplier to Tesco, in Arundel southern England November 30, 2012. (REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)
Are cow burps fouling up your barn? Try feeding them flaxseed.
That's the goal of the Cow2 pilot project aimed at reducing greenhouse gases produced by dairy cows.
Cow burps are more than an annoyance. Researchers say one cow produces as much greenhouse gas in a year as a car.
Laval University in Quebec City, the Danone milk-products company and Quebec's federation of dairy producers will run a $500,000 pilot project to feed flaxseed to cows on 30 farms.
Cow gas is of particular concern in Quebec, which is Canada's largest dairy producing province with 13,000 farms and three billion litres of milk produced annually.
"We have reduced our emissions by 25% since 1981, and any new way to help us to further reduce greenhouse gasses is interesting," said dairy federation spokesman Francois Dumontier.
Flaxseed will be crushed and added to the cow feed beginning this winter. Fat samples will then be analyzed to evaluate how much methane gas the animals are releasing into the air.
There's an unintended benefit to the flaxseed diet — the cows' milk can produce more Omega-3, a fatty acid believed to boost heart health.
The seeds might even improve the health of the cows themselves, said Danone spokesman Didier Rancourt.
"We don't yet know the impact this will have on the cow, but it could increase their fertility," he said.
The Cow2 project has already shown promise elsewhere.
Greenhouse gas cow emissions were reduced by 12%, according to studies in Europe, the United States and Brazil.