Could the cow be carbon neutral?

Rural Exchange 26/05/2018

Farmers gathered in Wellington back in 2003 to protest a proposed tax on methane, dubbed the “flatulence tax”.

Doug Edmeades, independant soil scientist and managing director of agKnowledge, told Rural Exchange that taxing methane is pointless if you look at the bigger picture.

“It’s pointless to tax methane, it’s quite nonsensical.”

Mr Edmeades argued that a cow can be carbon neutral if the methane emitted (which eventually is converted to carbon) is equivalent to the amount of carbon ingested in dry matter.

The soil scientist clarified his bold claim in a Stuff opinion piece. He wrote that plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, where the carbon inevitably gets absorbed into the ground with the decomposition of the plant.  

“Consider for example a pasture growing 10 tonnes of dry matter (DM) per hectare per year. If the animal utilises 80 per cent then 2 tonnes of DM (mainly cellulose and carbohydrate rich in carbon) are returned to the soil,” Mr Edmeades wrote.

“The animal is both the source of the carbon in methane and it is also the sink for the equivalent amount of carbon in CO2.”

He told Rural Exchange that politicians are asking the wrong question with regards to taxing methane. Instead, there should be an initiative to capture how much methane cow produces alongside how much carbon it sinks.

Watch more on climate change from the 2018 Deer Industry Conference here.

Watch the full interview with Doug Edmeades above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE with Carter’s Tyre Service. Click here for all the ways to watch and listen.