Harness ‘cow farts’ for the environment -- Eric A. Johnson

February 24, 2019 GMT

Michael Graham’s column in last Sunday’s State Journal, “ The war on cows,” said greater quantities of greenhouse gasses arise from anal emissions of farmed livestock than from automobiles. Accordingly, he implies that elimination of livestock would lower greenhouse gases and better climate change.

In spite of this speculation, the demise of cows in Wisconsin would crush its economy through elimination of food and industrial products from cows including milk, cheese, yogurt, whey powders, probiotics, meat and many other commodities.


The concept of rumen emissions -- “cow farts” -- is being politicized and ridiculed by local and national politicians. The reality is that rumen emissions could provide a source of valuable green house industrial gases and energy sustainability. One way to accomplish this would be to attach a leak-proof collection device such as a balloon to the cow’s anus and harvest the gases. The prototype of a balloon device would advance to more sophisticated and clever collection and separation mechanisms through the University of Wisconsin and industry research and development.

Some might find harvesting anal gases from livestock outlandish, but it seems scientifically feasible, and its development would contribute greatly to the economic value of Wisconsin and have a positive impact on climate change.

Eric A. Johnson, professor, Department of Bacteriology, Botulinum Toxins Laboratory, UW-Madison