Cow burps and farts cause explosion

January 28, 2014

Methane gas released by dairy cows has caused an explosion in a cow shed in Germany, police said.

The roof was damaged and one of the cows was injured in the blast in the central German town of Rasdorf.

Thanks to the belches and flatulence of the 90 dairy cows in the shed, high levels of the gas had built up.

Then “a static electric charge caused the gas to explode with flashes of flames” the force said in a statement quoted by Reuters news agency. . . 

Is there an alternative energy opportunity in this?

Instead of all that methane going to waste and creating the potential for explosions, could it be harnessed to produce electricity?


Dirty birds

February 18, 2013

Towards the end of last year a report from the Otago Regional Council raised concerns about deteriorating water quality in the Kakanui River.

One of the contributing factors was an increased level of E.coli.

Dairying was blamed although the council couldn’t find the source.

One of the dairy farmers decided to do his own research and canoed down the river.

He found a couple of dead sheep caught in submerged branches then he came on a large colony of seagulls nesting in a canyon.

He reported this to the council which sent a helicopter up the river and found the source of the problem.

. . .  a large colony of nesting gulls – was found in rugged terrain, about 5 km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

Water quality samples were taken immediately above and below the colony, with widely divergent results Upstream of the colony, the bacteria concentrations were 214 E.coli/100ml, whereas immediately downstream, the concentration was far greater at 1300 E.coli/100ml .

ORC manager of resource science Matt Hickey said that according to Government water quality guidelines for recreational swimming areas, those with less than 260 E.coli/100m should be safe, whereas water with more than 550 E.coli/100ml could pose a health-risk.

Mr Hickey said six colonies of gulls were found in total, on steep rocky faces, where they clearly favoured the habitat for nesting.

While they had gone undetected up until now due to the inaccessible nature of the gorge, it was likely the gulls returned each year to breed in the same places.

“Unfortunately, these nesting gull colonies are likely to continue to cause high E.coli concentrations in the upper Kakanui River, particularly during the breeding season,” Mr Hickey said.

“Bird activity, river flow, or even whether it is a cloudy or sunny day, (as E.coli often died quickly in clear water when exposed to sunlight) will influence actual bacteria numbers at Clifton Falls bridge. With hindsight, it reflects the random nature of the historical bacteria results at this site.”

Mr Hickey said the E.coli concentrations reflected a large number of birds congregating in a small area and we are fortunate this situation was not common in Otago. Historically E.coli concentrations in the lower Kakanui River have been very low, despite the gull colonies being found upstream.

The council is warning people against swimming in the river but we’ve had no warning about drinking the water, presumably because it’s treated.

Locals are very keen to solve the problem but it’s not necessarily a simple matter:

Coastal Otago biodiversity programme manager David Agnew said the Department of Conservation would look into the situation and try to identify which species of gull were nesting in the area.

Mr Agnew said the species involved would determine what could be done to remove them.

”Black-backed gulls are not protected so that’s not a problem as far as if they are causing a problem. They are not rare or threatened, they are not even protected, whereas red-billed gulls and black-billed gulls both have their own conservation concerns.”

There’s no concern about conservation with cows. If they were causing water quality problems farmers could face prosecution and would have to act quickly to address the cause.

Some gulls have a special status and if they’re the ones fouling the water the clean up will take some time.


Wine & cows part 2

December 8, 2011

Following on from the previous post, scientists think that cows fed on the dregs left over from wine making produce less methane.

New research has found a convenient and practical use for the leftover  material from wine-making that will help two sometimes fiercely competing  worlds; the environment and agriculture.

When fed the stems, seeds and skins that were left over from making red wine,  material known as grape marc, the methane emissions from dairy cows dropped by  20 per cent.

The study, conducted at the Victorian Department of Primary Industries dairy  research centre, also found that the cows’ milk production increased by 5 per  cent, while the healthy fatty acids in their milk also rose.

They don’t say how much wine we’d all have to drink to produce the feed, nor whether drinking it would negate any benefits from milk with more healthy fatty acids and antioxidents.


Cow numbers moooving up

December 8, 2010

A couple of decades ago New Zealanders used to have more than 20 sheep each – that’s when our human population was around 3 million and the ovine one topped 70 million.

Sheep numbers have declined and the number of people has increased so we now have only about 10 sheep each. However while that’s been happening the dairy population has been growing and we now have more cows than people.

Dairy statistics released by Dairy NZ and Livestock Improvement show the milking cow population is now 4.4 million, compared with 4.39 million people.

They also show:

· Nationally there was a slight increase in the number of herds. The total number of herds in the 2009/10 season increased by 73 (to 11,691).

· Consistent with the trend for the past 30 seasons, the average herd size increased to 376, an increase of 10 on the previous season. The average herd size has tripled in the last 30 years, and has increased by more than 100 cows in the last eight years.

· Nationally the number of cows in New Zealand has increased 3.4% over the previous season to 4.4 million.

· Half of all herds have 300 or more cows, a little under 15% have between 200 and 249 cows, 56% have between 100 and 349 cows. In 2009/10 49% (5762) of herds had 300 cows or more, 2444 (21%) had 500 or more cows and 400 (3%) has over 1,000 cows.

· The majority of dairy herds are located in the North Island (77%). The greatest concentration of herds is in the Waikato region (31%).

· Although South Island dairy herds account for a little less than one-quarter of the national total, they contain over one third of all cows.

· There are more than 1.5 million cows in the South Island and the South Island average herd sizes are increasing faster than the North Island.

· The highest average production per herd, and per hectare was recorded in North Canterbury at 280,935 kilograms of milksolids.

· There are now 11,691 dairy herds in New Zealand.

· Holstein Friesian and crossbred cows show highest milksolids (Kg) production (herd test statistics).

· In the 2009/2010 season 3.15 million cows were mated to artificial breeding.

South Island herds are generally bigger than those in the north but there is a trend back to smaller herds.

We started with 400 cows, increased over a couple of seasons to 600 then built another shed and got up to 1200 cows. We’re now in the middle of preparations to build a third shed and run three smaller herds.

We think that will be better for staff and stock.

When you get up to 1200 cows your manager has to manage people and it’s not easy to find people who can do that well.

With smaller herds you can employ lower order sharemilkers who are generally highly motivated. Many of those looking for jobs are couples who are very good at managing stock and feed and have to employ only one other fulltime worker.

Larger herds increase milking time which means longer days for staff. It also means more time off-feed for cows and they have to walk further to get to the shed.

One of the big concerns with bigger herds is effluent. With three smaller herds and three separate sheds if something goes wrong with one we can be reasonably sure it’s due to either an equipment or people problem rather than something wrong with the system.

We’re interviewing staff at the moment and have been very impressed by the calibre and enthusiasm of applicants. By this time next year we’ll have a good idea whether reducing the herd sizes is the right mo(oo)ve.


More milk, less lamb

May 14, 2010

Dairy cattle numbers continued to increase and  the lamb population fell in the year to June 2009 Statistics New Zealand’s Agriculture Production Survey.

The South Island dairy herd grew by 13 % to 2.1 million. Canterbury had the most cows with a 10% increase to reach a herd size of 918,000. In Southland, numbers grew 19 percent to reach 589,000.

National dairy herd numbers reached a record high of 5.9 million at 30 June 2009, up 282,000 since 2008. The size of the North Island herd remained stable at 3.8 million.

Factors contributing to the South Island growth include continued dairy conversions, a smaller number of dairy cows and heifers going to the beef herd, more older cows remaining in milking herds, and the sourcing of dairy heifers from the North Island.

“In 2009, South Island dairy cattle numbers were almost seven times larger than 20 years ago when there were 312,000 dairy cattle,” said agricultural statistics manager Gary Dunnet. “North Island numbers increased from 3.0 million to 3.8 million over the same period.”

While dairy herds increased in number and size, the sheep population fell to 32.4 million, deer numbers were down to 1.1 million, and beef numbers remained stable at 4.1 million.

An email to shareholders from Fonterra chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden today reported the European Union butter marked prices have jumped to more than EU3200 per tonne. Prices are now near the peak levels of 2007/08 and demand is remaining steady.

That news may tempt more people to convert to dairying. However, lamb prices are holding up too which will give some encouragement to farmers who by choice or necessity are sticking with sheep.

We’re doing out bit to reverse falling sheep numbers – we put 15,000 ewes to the ram this autumn and will be lambing again in spring for the first time in more than 12 years.


Waitrose won’t buy factory farm butter?

January 7, 2010

UK supermarket chain Waitrose says it won’t buy factory farm butter from NZ.

At least that’s what the headline says but if you read futher you find out:

The company’s Communications Manager (Agriculture), Amy Hayward-Paine, told KIN the supermarket chain would not buy produce from dairy factory farms. . .

She says: “I can assure you that, in line with our policies, Waitrose would not source own-label dairy products from farmers in New Zealand that did not allow their cows to roam freely outside, or to have the best welfare standards.”

Note the or to have the best welfare standards.

The comapny’s concern is animal welfare not whether or not the cows are free range.

Given that most UK cows spend at least some of their time indoors, and many are housed most of the time, it would be difficult for the company to turn down the butter because it came from cows which were kept inside in New Zealand.

 Whether the cows are free range or housed, farms in New Zealand have to maintain high standards of animal welfare.  Waitrose will have no grounds for turning down butter just because the cows which produced the milk from which it was made spent most of their time inside rather than grazing paddocks as most of our cattle do.


The bull still has a place

December 10, 2009

I wouldn’t normally presume to advise either Cactus Kate or Roarprawn on anything to do with sex but I’m entering the debate between them this time because the sex is of the bovine variety.

In a post supporting the proposed dairy operation in the Mackenzie Basin Cactus Kate wrote:

Their whole purpose is to be impregnated by a bull who engages in random group sexual acts with the entire herd in a fashion only an NRL team could understand.

Roarprawn responded with a great cartoon and said:

She also misses on one critical point and stunningly its about sex and cows or sex with cows and bulls.
There is no one time coupling with a rampant bull – nope.The closest a cow gets to the bovine hanky panky is a brief encounter with a sterile straw of semen. The poor cows don’t even get to have a bit of natural nooky.

Both are only half right.

Dairy farms use artificial insemination but not all cows conceive that way and those which don’t get to play with the bulls.

Most of the AI semen is usually from dairy breeds like Jerseys or Friesians and the heifer calves which are produced will be kept as replacements for older cows.

The bulls are usually beef breeds and the offspring sold as bobby calves or, if like us you have beef cattle too, they’re kept and raised for the meat market.


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