Cow burps and farts cause explosion


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


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


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


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


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?


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


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.

Acts of cow


A Tennessee man has been a victim of an act of cow.

Jerry Lynn Davis called the Hawkins County Sheriff’s office, complaining that a neighbour’s cows had been licking his house.

In the process, Davis says the curious bovines did about US$100 in damage by ripping off a screen window, cracking the glass and pulling down a gutter.

These cattle just poked their heads through a fence, it could have been much worse.

Friends woke up one night to the sound of mooing. When they looked outside they discovered a herd of cows had come up their drive; passed under an arch pulling it, and the rose which had been growing up it down in the process; trampled their lawn and were lined up at their verandah as if they were in a milking shed.

We’ve had a herd or two of cows find their way in to our garden but they made enough noise to alert us to their presence before they did any damage.

Sheep tend to be quieter and when the fence between the garden and the pet lamb paddock wasn’t as secure as it needed to be we often found wandering stock had done some radical pruning of favourite plants.

One such incursion happened just after I’d had one of the children and was still in hospital. A friend had picked a huge bucket of roses and given them to my farmer to down to me. He’d put them on the porch where he’d be sure to see them on his way out but when he opened the door he was confronted by a bucket of stalks and lots of sheep droppings.

On the moooove


He(a)rd about the cows found wandering round North Shore?

There are 25 which were supposedly dumped on council land near Torbay.

Where did they come from?

How did they get there?

Who helped them get there?

Did nobody notice them getting there?

I hope they’re not overdue for milking.

Feds seeks post-cordon debrief


Federated Farmers wants a debriefing with police and Fonterra after farmers were unable to return to their properties to tend stock during the hunt for fugitive gunman David Bourke.

This is not a criticism of any individual police officer, but it seems some very strange decisions were made throughout the course of this incident,” says David Hunt, Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay Dairy chairperson.

“Although the two-day manhunt for fugitive David Bourke was extraordinary, such events are sadly becoming more common. You need look no further than Napier gunman Jan Molenaar’s three-day siege with police in May.

“In the case of Norsewood, however, I have to question some of the decisions made by the police when dealing with an incident in a rural area. Not allowing farmers access to their properties to milk and check on newborn calves puts the welfare of nearly every animal within the cordon in jeopardy.

“Farmers have a strict obligation to the Animal Welfare Act and codes of practice. So, too, do police or in the very least, these officers of the law must be aware of the importance of animal welfare.

Cows would have have been short of feed, they’d have been very uncomfortable when they weren’t milked on time, are likely to get mastitis because of that, and their production will be affected. Calves were left without milk too.

People’s safety must be the police’s first priority but animal welfare shouldn’t be ignored.


PMofNZ and rivettingKate Taylor have local knowledge.

You can’t just shut a farm down


One of the questions being asked about the farm where animals were starving to death is why didn’t they shut it down?

You can’t just shut a farm down because that would endanger the stock.

If calving is still underway, cows need to be monitored and looked after; cows which have already calved need to be milked and calves have to be fed.

Another question being asked is why it took MAF three days to react to complaints. They say they don’t operate a 24/7 service which is correct, but they could have asked a vet to go to the farm as soon as the complaints were received.

A third question is why don’t neighbours intervene?

It’s possible that neighbours don’t know what’s happening next door, but in this case one did and it was him/her who reported concerns to MAF.

This is, as DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says, a good demonstration of the farming community’s high awareness of animal welfare standards.

 “Poor management practices are not acceptable. The industry has been working in this area since the late 1980s. We’ve taken an extremely proactive approach in communicating best practice guidelines to farmers, via our consulting officers, the dairy companies, the processing companies, the transport companies and the media. New Zealand’s standards are based on the Animal Welfare Act and our Welfare Code documents and are internationally regarded as world-class,” says Dr Mackle. 

“While we await the outcome of the MAF investigation into the Benneydale farm, DairyNZ would not stand in support of any farmer found to have breached animal welfare standards. It’s bad for the animals, farmers, the industry, and for our country’s image.”

DairyNZ, is the industry good organisation for dairying and it correctly points out that farmers have no excuse for ill-treating animals.

Getting them young but getting it wrong


From the Gisborne Herald:

Global warming message misfires
My son and his primary school classmates went to the Fonterra Science Roadshow last week.

The Roadshow was quite informative with factual presentations and then a fun interactive time for the students.

However, I started to get a little uncomfortable when, towards the end of the session, the young presenter started to talk to the students about global warming.

She told her young audience about the detrimental effects of years of burning fossil fuels and the resulting gases it sends into the atmosphere — she is probably quite right. However, she then proceeded to tell everyone that cows were emitting gases which were contributing to global warming.

She informed us that farmers will have to change their grasses and vaccinate their cattle to alter the bacteria in their stomachs to decrease the gases they were emitting.

We (parents and teachers) were pretty horrified that: (a) The cows scenario is not scientific fact and she was telling this to our children;

(b) She was telling children that unnatural modification was the answer (ie. vaccination to alter digestion).

(c) This science roadshow is sponsored by Fonterra.

(d) Not the business of a roadshow for children to even raise the global warming topic.

We all agree that we should do all that we can to look after our world, but to be passing the above information on to our children sounds like propaganda and not fact to me.

Sarah Gault


From the Concise Oxford Dictionary:
Science n. 1. (arch.) Knowledge. 2 Systematic and formulated knowledge . . . 4. Branch of knowledge (esp. one that can be conducted on scientific principles), organised body of the knowledge that has been accumulated on a subject . . . 6. – fiction, fanciful fiction based on postulated scientific discoveries or environmental changes . . . 
Which definition do the teachers at the road show use?


Tough new rules on animal housing threaten NZ ag exports


New Zealand farmers are incensed by tough new rules on animal housing which threaten exports of meat, milk, wool and leather.

The new requirements, developed by House Animals Happily (HAH),  in consultation with animal welfare experts are part of a world wide movement to lift the standard of livestock accommodation.

Trade and farming officials have spent months in high level negotiations to relax the standards but spokesperson for Hah, Ray Sunshine, said the new rules were not negotiable.

“It’s the culinary and fashion extension of Feng Shui  because unhappy animals produce unhappy products. We can’t be putting unhappy milk in our coffee, or wearing unhappy wool,” he said.

“We’re not asking anything of farmers we don’t do for ourselves. Individual stables, built of organic timber and lined with goosedown quilts is not a big ask.”

Enfield, Windsor Ngapara Farmers” Federation spokesman Jo Bollocks disagreed.

“Where on earth are we going to get enough goose down for 1,200 quilts?”  she asked.

“It’s just another feel good, P.C. gone-made nonsense designed by people who wouldn’t know a happy cow if it sat in their porridge and blew the sugar at them.

“We didn’t complain when they wanted the cows in gumboots, we didn’t complain when they wanted them to have sun umbrellas, we trained our staff to sing when they insisted on musical milking but this is the last straw.”

EWNFF deputy chair, Snow Fleece, said sheep farmers were bemused and bewildered by the new rules.

“We’re concerned that sheep will over heat,” he said.

“Those woolly jumpers we have to put on them already cause problems in summer and if we put them in centrally heated stalls they’ll be suffering heat stroke before you can say April Fools’ Day.” 

Does daylight saving make driving more dangerous?


Six cows were killed when a car towing a trailer hit them while they were being herded across a country road yesterday morning.

The report doesn’t mention the speed the driver was travelling . It does say the first cow to be hit was thrown several metres into the air which suggests he was going quickly but that will be up to the police to decide.

We’re supposed to drive at a speed which enables us to stop in half the visible distance ahead but it is very difficult to see in the half light before dawn and even if you’re driving carefully you don’t know what you’re not seeing until you see it.

There is no mention of the weather in the report but the sun isn’t rising until after 7am  because of daylight saving so even if the sky was clear visibility wouldn’t have been good when the accident happened and it will get worse.

The week before clocks go back to NZ standard time on April 5, the sun won’t be rising until 7.34 in Auckland, a few minutes later than in the middle of winter. It will be nearly 8am when the sun rises in Dunedin before we return to NZST.

That makes early morning work more difficult for farmers and this incident suggests it might also make driving more dangerous.

Summer recipe #6



Christmas Mooslie

Take a large herd of lactating cows and pour into dairy shed at dawn.

Add a worker and milk until cows are empty.

Wash down shed.

Turn cows out on to paddock.

Shift irrigator.

Repeat process in the afternoon.

Retire to bed early and dream of future when can pay someone else to work over Christmas.

PETA boobs with breast milk campaign


PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – has written to ice cream makers Ben & Jerry’s suggesting they replace cows milk with breast milk.

While the idea is enough to provoke shudders of revulsion from your average ice cream lover, dairy farmers reacted angrily to the stunt yesterday, claiming that the group is undermining the dairy industry.

But the animal rights group Peta claims that breast milk would be “better for both consumers and cows”, pointing out the nutritional benefits of breast milk and highlighting the animal welfare concerns over dairy farming.

Bizarre as this sounds there is a precedent:

In a letter to Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, it cites the example of chef Hans Locher, who recently announced that he will be serving soups and sauces made from 75 per cent breast milk in his Swiss restaurant. Mr Locher posted adverts in local villages appealing for donors, offering a rate of £3 per 14 ounces (398ml) for their milk.

 Even if the women had the same checks on their health as our cows do, fresh from the breast  cuisine wouldn’t tempt me.

Flood claims cows


North Canterbury farmer Peter Schouten could do nothing but watch as 100 of his cows were washed into a river on their way to the morning milking.

“When I got there the cows that were walking towards me were just dropping into the river. That was the most horrific sight I have ever seen,” Mr Schouten said.

He said the bridge was “more like a highway bridge than a dairy farm bridge” and the bridge itself was still intact but the southern entrance had been washed away.

On many farms the cows were “just a number” but on his family owned and operated farm they had a “real passion” for the animals and “seeing your favourite cows being washed down the river was like losing a pet dog”.

Almost 30 cows had survived and been recovered alive, but the rest were still missing.

Good farmers do know their individual animals and this would be a devastating experience for the family and their staff.

Twister kills 16 cows


Sixteen cows were electrocuted  on a Bay of Plenty farm when a twister brought down high voltage power lines.

The tornado ripped through the Jackson Rd area, east of Opotiki, accompanied by heavy rain and hail. It also demolished two barns, scattered trees and wrecked hundreds of metres of fencing.

Farmer Graham Collier said the twister ripped out several power-poles, dropping high-voltage power lines that electrocuted 16 in-calf cows.

“There was a lot of rain and hail coming down and then the windows on the house and the ranch sliders started rattling and moving – some of them by several inches. It was quite scary,” Mr Collier said.

“I went outside and checked the cowshed. A couple of 25,000-litre water tanks had been lifted by the twister. They were empty but lashed to the fence.”

The tornado took the tanks and fence, and dragged them through two other fences, damaging more than 300 metres in all, Mr Collier said.

Mr Collier said he noticed the wires and a gate were still glowing and was not able to do anything until the power was shut down.

Nature throwing a tantrum can be very scarey. And those poor cows, the only comfort is that if they were struck by high voltage wires they literally wouldn’t know what hit them.

ETS for agriculture is economic stupidity


David Bellamy’s biological arguments for excluding agriculture from the Emissions Trading Scheme (see post below) are complemented by economic arguments from Muriel Newman:

The primary sector remains the backbone of New Zealand’s prosperity. Last year it earned 47 percent of the country’s export returns of $35 billion. Dairying was the single biggest export earner with receipts of $7.5 billion, or 21.6 percent of the total. Meat exports ranked second with $4.3 billion or 12.4 percent. In third place, wood exports were worth $2.1 billion, or 6 percent.

The primary sector exports around 90 percent of all of the food produced in New Zealand. This is in sharp contrast to Australia, which only exports a quarter of its food production. An estimated 40 percent of New Zealanders are employed in the food industry.

New Zealand’s prosperity has, of course, always been dependent on farming…

That’s why it is incomprehensible that a New Zealand parliamentary party is undermining the farming sector. The Green Party should be ashamed of itself for blaming farmers for increasing food prices, when farmers, like everyone other New Zealander, are facing rising costs caused by increasing fuel and power prices, higher mortgages, and an escalation in rates and other government charges.

In fact, it is Green Party policies like biofuels, emissions trading schemes, and an over-reliance on solar and windpower that are the cause of much of the cost pressure increases that are occurring in New Zealand and around the world. That is why their call for an inquiry into supermarket pricing smacks of hypocrisy and political game-playing – especially in light of their opposition to the government’s proposal to delay the entry of farming into the emissions trading scheme.

Absolutely right. They don’t appear to understand that if it costs more to produce food it will cost more to buy it.

The government has estimated that at a conservative price for carbon of $50 a tonne, under their proposed emissions trading scheme agricultural payouts will fall by 12 percent for dairying, 21 percent for beef, 34 percent for sheep and 43 percent for venison. 

Anyone who has even the most rudimentary understanding of our economy will realise that these charges will not only ruin the viability of the farming sector and cause food prices to escalate to unprecedented levels, but will further undermine the wealth of all New Zealanders.

Why would any government commit to something which will be hugely expensive, damage the economy and do nothing for the environment. It is economic and political madness to impose such high costs for no benefit.

Bellamy – Belching Farting OK


Dr David Bellamy gives a compelling biological argument for excluding agriculture from the Emissions Trading Scheme in Cows and Sheep May Safely Graze:

Cows and sheep are Mother Nature’s own brand of internal combustion engines. They get their energy by “burning” cellulose, the same stuff wood is made of… Each one is a solar powered, self building, repairing and regenerating mobile mini supermarket. The solid waste from which is recycled, returning organic compost to the soil…

Exhaust from these internal combustion engines both large and small contain carbon dioxide and methane … The molecules of carbon that make up their flesh, wool, hide, burps and farts is not fossil carbon.  

It was sequestered from their pasture rarely longer than a year and most within a few days before their release back into the atmosphere.

Although somewhat modified by human influence they are part of the 97% of the main cycle of carbon dioxide that makes the living world go round. Not the 3% that the global warmers say are tipping the World, towards an omnivore driven armageddon.

This means that the decision to include agriculture in the ETS is a political one which will impose huge costs with no environmental benefit.

My case rests, when it comes to the future of New Zealand butter, beef, lamb, leather, mutton and wool please don’t fart in the face of common sense.



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