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Milk and wine is good news for dairy lovers and the planet

By Colin Ricketts - 08 Dec 2011 16:26:0 GMT
Milk and wine is good news for dairy lovers and the planet

Eco-Friendly Milk via Shutterstock

Milk and wine sounds a pretty disgusting mixture, but a by product of the wine making process is helping make healthier, greener milk.

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in the Australian province of Victoria have been feeding cows on the seeds, stems and skins of grapes that have been wrung of their juice by winemakers and found it's a double winner - the cows produce less of the greenhouse gas methane and their milk is better for humans.

DPI researchers at Ellinbank Centre for Dairy Excellence used the waste product, called grape marc, and were delighted to discover that their dairy herds produced a 20% reduction in the amount of methane they produced, upped their milk production by five per cent and made the milk healthier by increasing the amounts of healthy fatty acids it contained.

Methane is a major greenhouse gas and cattle have been reported to be responsible for 16% of the annual total put into the atmosphere. This experiment has produced the best ever results for emission reductions achieved by changing cattle feed.

The cattle in the study were fed a supplement of five kilos of the grape waste over 37 days and measured milk output, the make up of the milk and the methane emissions compared against cows being fed their usual diet of fodder.

DPI scientist Peter Moate said has team were astonished at the positive results.

He said: "We now know that supplementing a dairy cows' diet with dried grape marc increases the healthy fatty acids in milk by more than six times that of standard autumn fodder.

"These particular fatty acids are extremely potent in their ability to benefit heart health and are also known to help fight cancer, diabetes and arthritis."

However, this health benefit may only occur when cows are fed grape marc and not green fodder. Early results also suggest that the grape fed cows also produce milk with more anti-oxidants.

This is good news for milk lovers, the planet and the wine producers who now have a lucrative new use for something they previously threw away: Australia, a major wine producer, churns out about 200,000 tonnes of the stuff every year.

The five per cent boost to milk production was another surprise to the scientists who will now repeat their work in the early part of the cow's lactation cycle when milk yields are already higher and the increase could be even greater.

Other feeds that have produced methane emission reductions include brewery waste, canola meal, cottonseed meal, and hominy meal but grape marc's extraordinary effect could produce a reduction equal to the emissions of 200,000 cars.

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