Every time a cow burps, it releases a bit of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps more heat than carbon-dioxide.

The livestock sector accounts for a significant 14.5 per cent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions and, in the Asia Pacific region, demand for dairy products is growing along with its middle class.

Driven by the growing number of cattle farms, methane emissions are at an all-time high, and could cause a disastrous global temperature rise of three to four degrees Celsius by 2100 if left unchecked, according to a recent Stanford University study.

“Emissions from cattle and other ruminants (herbivorous mammals) are almost as large as those from the fossil fuel industry for methane,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at the university who led the study. “People joke about burping cows without realising how big the source really is.”

With demand for beef and other meats expected to increase in tandem with growing wealth in countries such as China and India, some companies are taking steps to help the animal farming industry reduce its environmental impact.

Global nutrition, health and sustainable living company DSM, one of the world’s leading producers of nutritional ingredients, is testing an animal feed additive for cows that has reduced their methane emissions by about 30 per cent in previous and ongoing trials.

In August, the firm also launched a strategic initiative called “We Make It Possible” to make animal farming sustainable. It takes as its targets the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 12, 13 and 14, which aim for zero hunger, good health and well-being for all, responsible consumption and production, action against climate change, and sustainable use of marine resources respectively by 2030.

To feed a world population of 9.7 billion by 2050, scientists have highlighted the need to avoid further deforestation, grow more efficiently on existing farms and shift to less meat-intensive diets, among other measures.

Read the full article about sustainable animal farming by Feng Zengkun at Eco-Business .