Friday, July 10, 2009

Making manure green

Not by feeding too much alfalfa.

Dairy cows are big energy users, but a Texas AgriLife researcher will present a paper at the Texas Animal Manure Management Issues forum in Austin that shows they can pay their energy bills and more.

I’m not sure what will be more fun, barhopping on Sixth Street or the conference.

But I digress. Cady Engler, the researcher, looked at electrical, diesel, gasoline and natural gas usage on dairies for milking, waste management, feeding and watering. He didn’t include the energy to grow crops for feed or transporting the milk to market.

He found a wide variation in usage from one type of dairy to another, but the average was about 3.2 kilowatt hours per day per cow.

Turning manure into energy, either with bacteria to make methane or high heat to make hydrogen or both could make up to 25 kilowatt hours per day per cow.

The processes can not only make energy, in the form of heat or electricity, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the manure. They also reduce the volume of “nutrients” left to be disposed of. In ag researcher talk that means there’s less poop to spread on farm fields - up to 80 percent less.

And in places where it rains (that leaves most of the Panhandle out) and there's hills (out again) that would mean less threat of said "nutrients" ending up in a creek, then a river, then a lake, then your house. But you already got that.

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