Waikato University scientists are investigating how enzymes in the rumen, or fore-stomach, of farm livestock might be manipulated to make dairy cows more productive and reduce the greenhouse gases they produce.
Biochemists at the university are collaborating on the project with microbiologists from AgResearch.
Associate Professor Vic Arcus at the university's protein and microbes laboratory says they're looking at more than 130 enzymes produced by a particular bacterium in the rumen that AgResearch scientists have identified.
The enzymes break down organic matter such as grass and silage.
"There's two main thrusts ... one is an understanding of exactly how plant material is broken down in the rumen," he says. "The second thrust is to understand the role of the generation of waste material as a part of that process.
"Cows belch up methane, which is a significant component of New Zealand's greenhouse gases ... if you were able to interfere with the methane generation process while not interfering with the breakdown of plant material, then that would be advantageous.
"You might add something to animal feed, or provide a bolus of some description".