Brit farmers breed genetically engineered sheep to make them fart and burp less

British farmers are set to breed genetically engineered sheep that fart and burp less to help with climate change.

The UK sheep sector has been awarded £2.9 million from the Government to breed sheep to emit as little methane as possible, helping farming curb greenhouse gas emissions.

In the UK, up to 60% of a sheep farm’s carbon emissions come from the methane emitted by the woolly creatures themselves when they fart and belch.

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Called Breed for CH4nge – Breeding Low Methane Sheep, the three-year initiative will measure emissions from 13,500 sheep in 45 flocks. This will show how efficient they currently are.

Nicola Lambe, of Scotland’s Rural College, said: “This will build on international research on breeding to reduce methane emissions from sheep, to the point of industry implementation in UK flocks.”

Scientists will analyse the results, including data on the size of the sheep’s rumen, which is part of the stomach.

They plan to then develop the tools required to genetically reduce methane emissions and improve the efficiency of the national flock.

The highest scorers on an ‘estimated breeding value’ scale will be selectively bred over multiple generations to create low-carbon sheep that produce less methane before.

The project will use new technologies that will eventually enable us to compare the breeding value of sheep in the flocks, identifying breeding stock that will contribute to improving our carbon footprint.

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Boffins and boffinesses have already been trying to curb cow farts with “high-efficacy methane-suppressing products”.

At the moment, there are no additives licensed and available for use in the UK that suppress methane.

But earlier this year, the Government said it expected “methane-blockers” to enter the UK market from 2025.

This could force farmers to use them on their cows and reduce their emissions of the greenhouse gas, as part of the country’s plans to achieve its climate goals.

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New Zealand scientists have already been breeding sheep to fart and burp less methane than their gassy counterparts since 2007 in a bid to cut emissions.

They have also been developing climate-friendly cows since 2020, by using specialised feed and methane inhibitors.

In 2022, the country unveiled plans to tax the burps cattle produce in a bid to tackle one of its biggest sources of greenhouse gases.

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