Cows Fed Wine Dregs Emit Less Methane

I am all for cutting down on our carbon emissions but I was astonished to read some new research from Australia today. A study by Dr Peter Moate from Victoria Department of Primary Industries has discovered that cows fed the stems, seeds and skins that were left over from making red wine, (known as grape marc), the methane emissions from dairy cows dropped by 20 per cent:

The study, conducted at the Victorian Department of Primary Industries dairy research centre, also found that the cows’ milk production increased by 5 per cent, while the healthy fatty acids in their milk also rose:

Holstein dairy cows were fed five kilograms of grape marc each day for more than a month in the study, while another group was fed conventional fodder. The impact of the different diets on the cows was then assessed as scientists measured methane emissions, milk production and milk composition.

The grape marc eaten by the cows came in two forms; pelletised or in its normal state – which resembles a dark blend of coffee beans and potting mix. According to the department’s scientist Peter Moate, this latter form of grape marc smells ”like a glass of stale red wine the next day”, but when mixed with crushed wheat and hay it proved appetising to the animals.

Dr Moate believes the study is the first of its kind in the world to measure the methane emissions from cows fed grape marc, as well as the feed supplement’s impact on milk.

I was surprised by the magnitude of the [methane emission] findings, and also happy to see this improvement in the milk fatty acid composition,” he said.

‘We now know that supplementing a dairy cow’s diet with dried grape marc increases the healthy fatty acids in milk by more than six times that of standard autumn fodder,” he said.

Dr Moate said the fatty acids in question were known to help fight arthritis, diabetes and cancer, and to benefit heart health. The research also indicated that cows that had consumed grape marc produced milk with a higher level of antioxidants.

But Dr Moate said the key finding of the project was the substantial reduction in methane emissions from cows fed grape marc, which often now is simply ploughed into the soil.”

A few years back I heard that Australian farmers had put their prized Wagyu cows on a diet laced with red wine in the hope of creating an even more succulent beef. The word Wagyu refers to several Japanese beef breeds of cattle genetically predisposed to intense marbling, producing a high percentage of oleaginous unsaturated fat. Also known as Kobe-style beef, the meat from Wagyu cattle is known worldwide for its flavour, tenderness and juiciness. It’s also reckoned to be the world’s most expensive red meat.

Personally I prefer to marinade my steak in red wine – not the actual cow, but if the bovines are enjoying it – then who am I to complain?

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