Deep dive into the Great Global Energy Transition

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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,251
South Puget Sound, WA
Mix some biochar in with their feed.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,680
Northern NH
I read somewhere that mixing a small amount of seaweed in with cattle feed cuts methane emissions. New Zealand has been doing a lot of research on reducing livestock emissions as its the only way they can meet climate commitments.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,561
Philadelphia
I remember reading of experiments with collecting methane from dairy barns, at least 10 - 15 years ago. Obviously doesn't help when they're out of doors, and I don't know if this idea ever transitioned from research experiments to commercial usage, but it was interesting nonetheless.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,190
Long Island NY
I wonder what unintended consequences it may have feeding seaweed to land animals.
This issue of feeding animals stuff that not naturally is in their diet is common these (industrial) days, but has in the past resulted in severe unintended consequences.

See mad cow disease; of course that was different, as it involved cannibalism, but the point is that stuff that animals don't normally eat can mess things up. I know a lot of bought feed is like this, but to my (uneducated) eye, seaweed seems "far out there" for cows?
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,190
Long Island NY
I remember reading of experiments with collecting methane from dairy barns, at least 10 - 15 years ago. Obviously doesn't help when they're out of doors, and I don't know if this idea ever transitioned from research experiments to commercial usage, but it was interesting nonetheless.
In NL they have barns where the waste is put in a closed cellar immediately, to avoid ammonia from being released in the environment. (Nitrogen concentrations are too high in the country due to the highly-dense animal farming in NL.) Turns out they don't work well. I surmise that dairy barns are also not closed well enough for collection of methane that is pure enough for it to be an economically viable process.
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,561
Philadelphia
Are the majority of gasses of concern (eg. methane, co2) coming directly off the animals, or from their excrement?

My one of my great-uncle still operated a decent size dairy farm (180 cows) producing specialty milk products, when I was a kid. Semi-automated waste, feed, watering, milking... likely the best of everything he could buy in the 1950's - 1960's, I was viewing it all as older hardware in the late 1970's and early 80's, as he neared retirement.

We used to be allowed to run around in the barn when the cows were out, playing hide-and-seek, jumping in the hay loft, the usual stuff. I still remember once opening a very large set of rolling doors, and looking down 15 feet to a huge farm wagon filled with manure, deposited there from the chain-drawn system of paddles that swept the poop troughs behind each watering and feed station. The other thing I remembered was the way the ceiling of the parking bay for that wagon was absolutely covered in inches-thick layers of mud wasp nests, it must have been heaven for them.

I can imagine that, if there were a goal to collect any gasses coming off that manure, it actually wouldn't be very difficult to enclose and tap off the small parking bay for those manure wagons. I would agree that, given the typical air flow required thru a feeding floor, capturing it directly off the animals in any concentration would be a real challenge.
 
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sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
1,070
Central Ohio

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,561
Philadelphia
As I understand it, the majority of the methane emissions comes from ruminants belching. What's funny is, deer, sheep, goats etc are ruminants but you never hear blame put on them.
I suspect that's due to the unnatural population densities created by commercial farming, although I'm not going to argue that every household having their own cow tied to the rear porch would be better. There's always economy in scale.
 
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sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
1,070
Central Ohio
I suspect that's due to the unnatural population densities created by commercial farming, although I'm not going to argue that every household having their own cow tied to the rear porch would be better. There's always economy in scale.
Yep, 3000+ head dairy farms and 100k beef feedlots come to mind. I agree with you on both of your other points also.
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,190
Long Island NY
I think the number of cows is so far larger than goats and sheep (not sure about deer - see the remarks by Ashful on another thread...), and their body size means their methane production is so far larger than that of a goat, sheep, and deer, that the total methane output by cows is very much larger than the total output by the other ruminants.

And I thought it was farts that provided the methane, but I might be wrong (given ruminant).

Regarding the barns and nitrogen; the problem was (as far as I understand) that the valves closing automatically after waste was conveyored (?) into the cellar, quickly became leaky due to stuff being stuck between them, allowing ammonia to escape.

Maybe they have a new solution, though:
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,251
South Puget Sound, WA
Eventually, cow burps will be a moot point. No one has figured out how to control methane emissions from termites estimated at 20 million tons a year. And then there is the melting permafrost problem, hydrates storing massive amounts of methane.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,190
Long Island NY
But that reasoning is not entirely correct. IF there would be a way to avoid "cow burps" there might be a way to avoid melting permafrost. Is the latter not the whole point about trying to avoid climate change? (Not saying the cow burps are the only reason, but they are a contributing one.)

Unfortunately cow burps are not "fixable" (other than having less cows by eating less meat).

The argument cow burps are moot as compared to ... is similar to "my car is a negligible fraction of CO2 put in atmosphere, so I don't care". I would disagree.

Though other than behavioral (diet) change, I see no solution to this.
 
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sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
1,070
Central Ohio
I think the number of cows is so far larger than goats and sheep (not sure about deer - see the remarks by Ashful on another thread...), and their body size means their methane production is so far larger than that of a goat, sheep, and deer, that the total methane output by cows is very much larger than the total output by the other ruminants.
For sure, just look at the USDA slaughter report and it will show you that. I wonder what it looks like in other countries though. In India I'd expect very few cows slaughtered but a higher amount of sheep and goats. A cow weighs about 10 times what a sheep or goat does so they have to eat 10 times as much as feed ( roughly 1 - 3% of their body weight a day in dry matter ) also.

Guess my point was, the finger is always pointed at cattle when there are other animals that are producing methane also. Are cows the biggest culprits when it comes to methane producing animals, I would say yes, but are they the only ones, no.

I agree, as a planet we need to eat less meat.
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,190
Long Island NY
Guess my point was, the finger is always pointed at cattle when there are other animals that are producing methane also. Are cows the biggest culprits when it comes to methane producing animals, I would say yes, but are they the only ones, no.

I agree, as a planet we need to eat less meat.

I am afraid the finger pointing is in part because the smaller animals are more relatable for many folks.
(I see how my 12 y/o daughter picks up (small!) goats etc. but does not show any affinity for cows.)

Same as no one caring about spiders or bats.

Strange animals, those human beings...
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,561
Philadelphia
Eventually, cow burps will be a moot point. No one has figured out how to control methane emissions from termites estimated at 20 million tons a year. And then there is the melting permafrost problem, hydrates storing massive amounts of methane.
I'm way ahead of you, begreen. We just need to milk the termites, and eliminate the cows!

milk.jpg
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,680
Northern NH
Back when my employer was looking into cowpower(anerobic digestion of cow manure) the general guidelines was think of cow with a 100 watt lightbulb in its butt, that's is the typical output from the digester, a hog had a 20 watts lightbulb and a chicken was somewhere around 3 watts. Cowpower generated to power locally as there was a use for the waste heat around a dairy.

The bigger concept is so called green natural gas, install an anerobic digester at the farm, concentrate and clean up the gas generated and inject it into natural gas line. Then downstream customers on the gas line can buy "green natural gas"
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,251
South Puget Sound, WA
IF there was good evidence we have moved in the right direction I might agree, but we haven't.
"Despite the increased awareness and commitments to climate change, Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, shared harsh truths at the opening ceremony. One stat that jumped out to me: 2022 has already passed the total emissions of 2019. And there are still three months left in the year. "
At this rate, cow burps may become a moot point and a distraction.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,190
Long Island NY
A single cow produces 220 pounds of methane a year (https://www.ucdavis.edu/food/news/making-cattle-more-sustainable)

There are 1.5 billion cows in the world (google tells me, don't know its veracity, but I'm using the number here).

That is 164,999,865 us tons of methane a year. So 165 million tons.

Given that methane is 28 times as "green-housey" as CO2, this equates to emissions of 4,620,000,000 us tons of CO2.

4.6 billion tons.

How much CO2 do we emit annually as a world?
34 billion tons
(https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions)

If I did not make a mistake in the math here I posit that in fact this is NOT a moot point. This is significant enough.

(The problem is that a change in this will be small because we're not going to abandon all 1.5 billion cows.)
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,561
Philadelphia
think of cow with a 100 watt lightbulb in its butt, that's is the typical output from the digester, a hog had a 20 watts lightbulb and a chicken was somewhere around 3 watts.
Headed out the door to retrieve the kids from school. They will get a kick out of this one. The 12-year old in me had a chuckle over it.

Using stoveliker's (Google's) 1.5 billion cows, that's an awful lot of LED lighting equivalent. Something nearing the power required to light 18 billion bulbs, based on current sales distribution by wattage.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,251
South Puget Sound, WA
If I did not make a mistake in the math here I posit that in fact this is NOT a moot point. This is significant enough.

(The problem is that a change in this will be small because we're not going to abandon all 1.5 billion cows.)
Point being that emissions from human activity, excluding ruminants, are still increasing. If that is not addressed and the global tipping point is reached, then cows are the least of our problems. (FWIW, I get just over 1 billion cows in searches).

Corking up a billion cows is no trivial task so maybe we just wipe out half of them and stop eating so much beef? (Note this does not address the over 1 billion sheep we are shepherding.) I say this with tongue in cheek, but it's not just the cow burps, but the huge amount of acreage under industrial agriculture that feeds them. Not to mention the Amazon forests that are steadily being decimated for this purpose. Ready to stop eating beef?

 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,190
Long Island NY
My point was that simply discarding cows as a more than significant source of greenhouse gasses is utterly wrong.

And yes. We eat meat maybe twice a week.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
3,515
SE North Carolina
Point being that emissions from human activity, excluding ruminants, are still increasing. If that is not addressed and the global tipping point is reached, then cows are the least of our problems. (FWIW, I get just over 1 billion cows in searches).

Corking up a billion cows is no trivial task so maybe we just wipe out half of them and stop eating so much beef? (Note this does not address the over 1 billion sheep we are shepherding.) I say this with tongue in cheek, but it's not just the cow burps, but the huge amount of acreage under industrial agriculture that feeds them. Not to mention the Amazon forests that are steadily being decimated for this purpose. Ready to stop eating beef?

Down to beef about 2-3 times a month. It’s probably been replaced by pork and turkey. I’m definitely pretty much done with regular hamburger. Traded for higher end cuts. (Sirloin top cap is way better than burger!)

My grandfather was a flying cowboy. He loved his horses but his helicopter and planes were is pride and joy. He could spot a sick cow from 200’ in the air. I was little when I flew with him and I never figured out what he was looking for. The farm could feed about 600-800 head a day in our feedlot. We would then sell to the finishing bigger feedlots which sold to processors.

He passed away over a decade ago. I’d like to hear his opinions on the current situations we face. The ranch land was all sold off to pay for a divorce 20+ years ago. No more cattle. Day to day operations got easier. Profits probably dipped but a bad blizzard didn’t financially ruin the whole year. Extra moisture for the wheat. Everyone was happier. No more chasing cattle on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day! No more 4 am feeding.

As cattle farmers we were happier without them and continued to run a profitable business, but changes had to be made. Probably some take aways there.

Evan