Kurow is a wee town on the right side of the Waitaki River in both senses of the word ie the right bank and the Otago side of the river which separates the blue and gold province from the red and black of Canterbury.
It’s major claim to fame at the moment is that All Black captain Richie McCaw, who was brought up in the neighbouring Hakataramea Valley, played his first rugby there.
But every summer it’s also home to the Hay family:
Lincoln University scientists have recreated the digestive system of cows to help them study the production of methane so that they can then look at ways to reduce it.
Almost every aspect of the cow’s digestive system has been reproduced.
Food and saliva are added to the cow’s “stomachs” and the end result is perhaps inevitable.
“As the materials ferment you end up with what we call the poo jars. That is as technical as an engineer would want to get,” says Wood.
Methane gas emissions are monitored.
“Every time the little unit here flicks, we count the flicks for the amount of gas produced,” says Wood.
Surprisingly, the methane that cows release comes from an unexpected source.
“Cows don’t fart methane. 99% of the methane comes from their mouth.”
The collection of tubes, jars and pumps have been named Myrtle, Buttercup, Jesse, Ethel, Daisy and Boris.
I don’t think the gender of the animals makes a difference to gas production so the use of the word cows rather than cattle won’t be relevant to the study, but just for the record I think Boris is probably a bull.