Cattle may no longer be blamed for greenhouse gas emissions thanks to a novel idea to change the bacteria in cattle rumens to behave more like those in kangaroos’ fore-stomachs.

Microbiologist at The University of Queensland, Associate Professor Athol Klieve is working with a team of microbiologists and genetic researchers to make cattle guts behave like kangaroos’. His idea is to replace the bacteria called methanogens that breakdown plant matter in cattle guts with a different type of bacteria called reductive acetogens.

“Both cattle and kangaroos eat grass that is fermented in an enlarged portion of the stomach, but while cattle belch large amounts of methane, kangaroos release very little,” Dr Klieve said.

“The bacteria in the foregut of kangaroos produces mainly acetic acid that is digested by the kangaroo.”

Dr Klieve’s team has identified several species of reductive acetogen bacteria from the gut of kangaroos and he is currently investigating how they compete with methanogens and whether similar conditions can be achieved in the rumen of cattle.

“We can hopefully identify how to improve the ability of reductive acetogens to out-compete the methanogens in cattle, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also increase feed conversion efficiency.”

Contact: Assoc Prof Athol Klieve is Associate Professor in Animal Nutrition at UQ, Senior Principal Research Scientist at Agri-Science Queensland and Director, Queensland Enteric Methane Hub.

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