Scientists at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have done extensive studies into the emissions produced by cattle housed indoors, but restrictions in technology mean relatively little information is available on the amount of methane produced by animals being reared outside, SRUC said in an announcement.
After receiving £250,000 in funding from the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as part of a collaborative research project with European partners, SRUC has teamed up with the University of Strathclyde to develop and adapt existing precision livestock farming technology to mitigate and monitor methane production.
This includes animal-mounted activity sensors and systems for monitoring location, feeding behavior and weight to use with cattle outdoors, SRUC said.
The SRUC researchers said they hope the "GrASTech" project will ultimately identify the best options for managing grassland and grazing animals to reduce methane emissions.
According to SRUC, the GrASTech project will face a number of key technical challenges, including the miniaturizing of equipment, battery technology to permit long lifetime measurement periods and data transmission and capture for remote grazing environments.
“One of the key approaches for reducing methane emissions is to increase the health, fertility and longevity of animals. By adapting technologies used to monitor and manage these things for housed cattle, we expect to deliver similar benefits for grazing cattle,” SRUC professor Richard Dewhurst said.
University of Strathclyde professor Craig Michie added, “Creating a battery-powered methane sensing unit with the required performance for grazing cattle builds on our expertise both in advanced optical sensors for hostile environments and the pioneering innovation of neck-mounted collars that identify key conditions of individual animals."
SRUC said the project is due to run until September 2021.