All that Methane.

Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), physicist, Nobel Prize 1921.

I have previously used this blog as a means to launch the most ridiculous ideas purely because it is a public platform, and is date and time-stamped. As such, it is far easier (and cheaper) than filing a patent application and provides a permanent record of an idea that can never be disputed.

I am used to being laughed at and ridiculed and am quite comfortable with the 100’s of ideas that I have had, that have never seen the light of day. It is only because of a most supportive and understanding wife that I still persevere.

Today I will present one of my strangest ideas, but before I do, I would like to give you some statistics about livestock, and in particular, cattle.

  • Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.
  • Burning fuel to produce fertiliser to grow feed, to produce meat and to transport it – and clearing vegetation for grazing – produces 9 per cent of all emissions of carbon dioxide.
  • Their wind and manure emit more than one third of emissions of methane, which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide.
  • Livestock produces more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia, one of the main causes of acid rain.
  • Ranching is “the major driver of deforestation” worldwide.
  • Overgrazing is turning a fifth of all pastures and ranges into desert.
  • Cows soak up vast amounts of water: it takes a staggering 990 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.
  • Wastes from feedlots and fertilisers used to grow their feed overnourish water, causing weeds to choke all other life.
  • Pesticides, antibiotics and hormones used to treat them get into drinking water and endanger human health.
  • The pollution washes down to the sea, killing coral reefs and creating “dead zones” devoid of life.

In all, livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet. Expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring – 70 percent of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder.

dairyenterprise_01.jpg

Now lets talk about methane in particular. This gas comes out of either end of the cow. About 5% (farts) from the rear and 95% (burps) from the front. There are numerous ideas that have been suggested to counter this problem.

Stop eating meat and drinking milk. The cow population will decline and reduce the problem.

Design feed with higher protein content. This will produce less gas and also reduce the problem.

Genetically modify the cow to produce less gas. Kangaroos, who apparently also have more than one stomach, like the cow, produce almost no gas, so it is theoretically possible.

Capture the methane. This is great, because not only do we reduce the methane emission, but we also have a new energy source to replace fossil fuels.

I would like to concentrate on the last method. Methane production from cow (and other livestock) dung is pretty old hat, but bear in mind that this only comprises 5% of the methane output of a cow. What about the other 95%?

There have been numerous suggestions (and patent applications) to capture this methane. Here is one US Patent Application. (patent#: US 6982161)

us06982161-20060103-d00000.gif

Now this seems all very nice, but can you imagine a cow walking around with something like this? What percentage of methane could you possibly hope to capture with some pipes in front of it’s mouth and nose? (even with suction hose) You can view the full patent here

My invention is similar, but in my opinion, far superior. Here goes.

The stomach of a cow has a valve. When the pressure of the gas in the stomach reaches a certain pressure, this valve opens and the gas escapes, by means of a burp, until the pressure drops and the valve closes. Dead simple.

Now what if we added a second (artificial) valve that opened at a lower pressure? Well obviously the gas would escape out of THIS valve first. Now what if we connected a surgical hose to this valve with a non-return valve and captured this gas?

How would we capture this gas? Well I reckon a rubber or sturdy plastic “saddle bag” draped over the cow would work just fine. When the cow came in for milking the saddle bag could merely be removed (or drained in place). It could be easily removed, unlike the contraption above, and the valve would merely seal with the connecting hose removed. When the cow was dipped or covered by a bull, the saddle bag could also be removed. But for the rest of the time? 100L of pure methane gas PER DAY PER COW. More than enough to provide all the electricity of a farm, and fuel for all of the vehicles, from a medium size herd. That’s also 100L less methane into the atmsophere. Also bear in mind that there are currently 1.5 billion cows on earth.

The saddle bags could even display advertising for dairies, co-ops or whatever. They could even be colour-coded in black and white to match a Friesland cows markings. The carbon credits that these simple devices could earn would be huge, and more than pay for the cost of the veterinary and saddle bag costs.

Now let’s investigate some objections.

Wouldn’t it be cruel? I don’t think so. The valve would be inserted by a veterinary surgeon and would be no more artificial than the concept of milking a cow with a milking machine.

Wouldn’t it leak or cause infections? I don’t know, only a veterinary research university could tell us this. (And I intend bouncing this idea off of a vet tomorrow.)

Like I said earlier, I am used to being laughed at, so please comment freely.

Cheers

Synaptoman

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4 Responses

  1. You have been smoking something and it is not cow kak but you have been having a gas which is great.I think the weather has been to hot for you.If you win the green blog award it will not be for your site but your choice of twak.

  2. Thanks for your support Lex, I was a bit worried about you there for a while.

  3. One question let’s look at health care and veterinary costs; can you even fathom the cost of a surgical procedure on every cow? Let’s say even at one farm with only 200 cows?

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