An innovative mask to be worn by cows could cut the amount of greenhouse gas they burp into the atmosphere.

There are about 1.6 billion cattle on Earth and each produces up to 400 litres per day of methane.

The mask, which neutralises methane emissions as they are produced, was created by design group the Zero Emissions Livestock Project (Zelp). It fits around the cow’s head in a way that does not affect its ability to feed and interact with the herd.

Burped out by dairy and beef herds, methane is 80 times more warming than carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

Cows produce both methane and CO2, each of which contribute to climate change, although, contrary to common belief, about 95% of the methane is thought to be emitted from their mouths and nostrils [rather than from its nether regions], Zelp said.

The start-up, founded by Francisco Norris, uses pioneering technology where gases captured by the mask are oxidised using a catalyst and then released into the air as CO2 and water vapour.

Zelp says that data is also captured throughout the cow’s life to help optimise welfare on farms, improve productivity and create a “robust” log of greenhouse gas emissions.

The mask was designed by students from the UK’s Royal College of Art who a won £50,000 ($62,873) funding prize from British royal Prince Charles.

The students were one of four teams chosen as winners of the inaugural Terra Carter Design Lab competition.

The prize money will go towards further developing their idea.