A new piece of livestock equipment designed in the Netherlands has left farmers feeling a little flushed.
Hanskamp, a company based in Doetinchem, has developed a cow toilet that collects urine in an effort to reduce ammonia.
Designed primarily to ease increasing regulations on the dairy industry, the CowToilet is an automatic urinal that cows use voluntarily and is designed to collect urine before it hits the floor.
About 90 percent of ammonia emissions come from agriculture, according to Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands.
Excess ammonia emissions are a big deal in Europe where national limits are in force to reduce gases.
When manure and urine mix, ammonia is formed. If it is released into the air, it can precipitate in nature, causing large amounts of nitrogen to end up on the ground.
Plants can only process a certain amount of nitrogen and the remaining amount acidifies the soil and affects groundwater. High concentrations of ammonia are harmful to humans and animals.
In an effort to limit ammonia emissions from the agricultural sector, dairy farmers often pay high fees to meet ammonia emission and manure disposal requirements.
Cows have a natural nerve reflex just above the udder that when rubbed causes them to immediately urinate. Hanskamp developed the CowToilet to automate this long-known technique.
The CowToilet is placed against the cow’s suspensory ligament and moves in unison with the cow. The technique locates and stimulates the nerve, which triggers the animal’s urinary reflex.
The urine is collected in the CowToilet container and extracted through a suction line into a separate storage tank.
Cows use the CowToilet voluntarily because each visit also provides the animals with feed.
Use of the CowToilet results in a significant reduction in ammonia emissions because most of the urine is collected. That’s good for the environment and it provides a healthier climate in the barn.
The CowToilet also offers economic advantages because it saves on manure storage costs and may offer an alternative to ammonia emission reducing floors.
As a sideline, having a CowToilet available to animals could provide additional income because pure urine can be used as a high quality raw fertilizer material.
There are also ongoing developments in which urine is used to generate yellow power or as a source of hydrogen.
The first CowToilets are expected to be available from mid 2020.