Laser guns are being used to measure methane emissions from dairy cows with the aim of breeding cattle for future lower emissions, research shows.

The research was conducted in Scotland’s Rural Agricultural College (SRUC) where data was taken from 207 Holstein Freisian cows after milking.

Dr. Stephanie Smith presented the research at the recent British Society of Animal Science conference and Dr. Smith said that the research found that the majority of emissions come from a cow’s mouth and nose.

According to the SRUC, the laser gun is a hand held portable gas detector that can be pointed at livestock to record their methane output and that the device is used in the environmental engineering industry to detect methane leaks from pipe-lines and landfill sites.

The research presented at the conference showed that methane was emitting from the 207 cows at regular intervals and a there was a relationship between methane emissions and when the cows were feeding.

Dr. Smith said that it might be possible to get lower methane emissions by improving feed utilisation while not compromising on the size of the animal.

The SRUC says that currently it is estimated that livestock farming accounts for about two thirds of all man made methane emissions yet estimates at individual animal level are not available in most production systems.

Measuring the emissions however, is time consuming as each cow must individually measured by the researcher, the SRUC says.