Last week we talked about becoming more environmentally friendly and how difficult a charge that can be in the veterinary field &mdash and in fact for the entire agricultural sector.
I am purposely ignoring things like pesticide and fertilizer run-off, aggressive grazing and deforestation, soil degradation, and other such issues that come with an increase in intensive farming, otherwise this would be a 50-part blog series that is also way out of the realm of my expertise. I’d like to instead focus on what a few farms are doing to be more environmentally friendly.
Vermont Dairies — Changing Cow Diets to Reduce Methane
Although this is certainly not breaking news, researchers have found that by simply changing a cow’s diet from one based heavily on corn and soy to one containing flaxseed, alfalfa, and other grasses high in omega-3s, they can change the metabolic pathways enough in the gut to decrease methane production and emission. A handful of dairies in Vermont have been taking this science seriously for a few years now. And the best part? Not only have their methane emissions decreased, but their vet bills have, too.
Solar-Powered Dairy in South Carolina
The Happy Cow Creamery outside of Greenville, South Carolina, has installed a solar-powered hot water system. Although at first this may not sound like much (reportedly, the Happy Cow Creamery is the first commercial organic dairy farm to install such a thing), hot water is used extensively on dairy farms from everything to barn and milk parlor cleaning to the actual pasteurization process.
Cow Treadmill Generates Electricity in Northern Ireland
I’ve saved my favorite example of eco-friendly farms for last. William Taylor, a dairy farmer in Northern Ireland, has come up with the most ingenious invention: the Livestock Power Mill — a treadmill built specifically for cows.
Attached to a generator, this non-powered belt is on an incline, so the animal has to walk forward to keep from slowly sliding back. As she walks, gears drive the generator, producing electricity. The prototype design produces enough power for four milking machines, which is quite impressive for one cow alone. Imagine the type of electricity generated if even a relatively small herd of 100 cows were sweating to the oldies on these things! One further advantage of having your cows work out is that some studies have shown that cows that are more physically active produce more milk.
Apparently this Livestock Power Mill isn’t William Taylor’s only invention. He’s also made a special pen designed to prevent cows from from kicking vets during exams. I just might have to get my hands on one of those…
Dr. Anna O’Brien