Cow farts contribute to climate change. Now comes an idea for collecting up the gas, and making energy instead.

The project from Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology is proof-of-concept at this stage. But it is intriguing.

Researchers put plastic backpacks on cows, then inserted tubes into their rumens (their biggest digestive tract). Then, they extracted the methane--about 300 liters a day. That's enough to run a car, or a fridge for 24 hours.

2014-04-15

Co.Exist

These Backpacks For Cows Collect Their Fart Gas And Store It For Energy

Each cow apparently passes enough gas to power a car or a fridge. Imagine the possibilities.

Cows produce up to 25% of methane emissions, and methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas. It's no joke, then, to talk about limiting emissions from cow farts. We've written before about new breeding techniques and feeds, which could help cows better digest their food so they produce less gas. Now comes an idea for collecting up the gas, and making energy from it.

Well, sort of. The project from Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology is only a proof-of-concept at this stage. But it is intriguing. Researchers put plastic backpacks on cows, then inserted tubes into their rumens (their biggest digestive tract). They extracted the methane--about 300 liters a day. That's enough to run a car, or a fridge for 24 hours.

Pablo Sorondo, INTA's press officer, says the project isn't ongoing. The point is to show that it's possible to collect methane from cows and use it for energy. That's unlikely to be as part of the mainstream system. But perhaps it could be viable on remote farms, he says (Argentina has 51.2 million cows).

"[We] believe that such technology could be used to collect methane on larger scale, and even imagine a future farm with a couple of these cows used to provide energy to satisfy the farm’s needs," Sorondo says.

"It could also be possible to think in an association of farmers in a certain area, cooperating to provide the community with this source of energy."

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17 Comments

  • Geoff Russell

    no anybody with a colostomy bag who likes it? This is pure barbarism. The only saving grace is that the rate of infection, death, broken cannulas and the like would render this totally uneconomic on-farm. Researchers, however love to play with new toys and don't mind much what price their animals have to pay.

  • Anyone living on a farm knows this for what it is.... nuts! You can't poke a hole in the side of every cow stomach just to collect the gas, you would kill every other cow. Most meat animals only live a few months, never justifying ID tags, fart bags or the mindless government nabobs to track it all. We have raised a whole generation that thinks vegan living saves the slaughter of animals when in fact the exact opposite is true, vegan, vegetable farming, is animal Armageddon, there are no animals, and no native plant species on a plant farm but there are a lot of poisons, insecticides, herbicides, and GM monkey business. Hopefully people will soon realize the cost of regulating the cattle industry out of existence, no milk for babies, no spaghetti and meatballs, no cheese, no lasagna, no sane harvesting of grazing lands (millions and millions of acres of essentially free food in the form of grass). Modern Lysenkoism, and you can expect more of the same.

  • Shane Deffenbaugh

    Aborted human babies are being burned and used to to generate power and some of you think that filtering methane off a cow (that in most cases doesn't care and is likely utterly unaware of it) to generate power is what is so wrong with us? I'm so proud to be an American.

  • Nix Moon

    Is there no end to suffering for cows, pigs, chickens and other American delectibles? How about NOT EATING cows and thus not breeding millions of the them to produce the methane gas that is damaging the ozone? Its ironic that we are seriously degrading our planet by producing, abusing and consuming cattle and that we then complain about their methane emissions! How would you like to live your two short years with a tube stuck up your ass, heavy, hot backpack on your back and some idiot farmer lighting flames around your face to ignite your farts? All this and then painfully slaughtered? Sounds wrong to me!

  • Jonathan Grawey

    There is nothing painful about the slaughter process. 1 second they are conscious, the next second they are dead from a bolt going into their brains. They don't feel anything.

  • Geoff Russell

    Not quite Jonathan. I second they are happily munching grass (in Australia), next they are being herded onto cattle trucks by one or more methods. The trucks are crowded, noisy, and it might be 40 degrees in summer and they may travel for 12-24 hours or longer, much longer. Then they go into a holding pen with a bunch of animals they don't know and then they get forced into a race of some kind, frequently where guys zap them with cattle prods until they get the message. Once in the crush most know exactly what's happening and there'll generally be wild eyed terror as they try in vain to escape that bolt. That's probably the best scenario.

    On the other hand, for the consumer there's bowel cancer ... in the US that's about 140,000 new cases per year with perhaps 50% (not sure about the US, but that's the estimate in Australia) due to red meat. Karma.

  • Thomas Murphy

    AND...you can have a glass of fresh, wholesome, organic milk while you drive! What could be better than that?

  • Jeremy Rivera

    THEY EAT THE DAMN COWS. How is this even worse? Obviously they wouldn't have gotten funding if it harmed the cows. We use their eyes, skin, intestines for soup. But flatulence? NO! Too far!

  • Farmer's daughter here. Would the extraction of methane gas from the cow's digestive tract screw up their digestive process? Cows still need methane to process food. Just wondering if it's "excess" gas the backpacks are removing? Call me a geek.

  • Manuel Rozas

    Cows don´t need the methane, it is only a by product from the bacteria they use for this purpose.