Air Resources Board to Rein In Cow Flatulence

Public Enemy #1: Cow Flatulence

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

While not a popular or sexy topic of discussion, flatulence is a very natural activity. Who amongst us hasn’t occasionally burped, belched, or otherwise passed a little gas? When guilty of passing waste gases such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and other trace gases due to the microbial breakdown of foods during digestion, we may say, “Excuse me.”

 

California CattleBut for dairy cows and other cattle, manners do not suffice; the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has a low tolerance for such naturally occurring and climate-altering gaseousness. The ARB is planning to mandate a 25% reduction in burps and other windy waftage from dairy cows and other cattle, as well as through improved manure management.

 

Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of the Modesto-based Western United Dairymen (WUD), said, “The ARB wants to regulate cow emissions, even though the ARB’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant (SLCP) reduction strategy acknowledges that there’s no known way to achieve this reduction. The ARB thinks they have ultimate authority, even over what the legislature has given them: two Senate Bills—SB 32 and SB 1383—to limit the emissions from dairy cows and other cattle.”

 

“We have a social media campaign addressing the legislative advocacy components,” Raudabaugh explained, “to make the legislatures aware that this authority has not been given to ARB by the legislature, and to bring that into perspective.” Raudabaugh said while SB 32 is not that popular because it calls for raising taxes, SB 1383 is worrisome, “because if anybody wanted to achieve something of a win for the legislature this year with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, this is the only bill left,” she said.

 

WUD Cattle Flatulence Social Media FB
Cattle Flatulence Social Media (Source: Western United Dairymen Facebook)

Raudabaugh said that in order for the ARB to achieve their mandated 75% reduction in total dairy methane emissions, they are proposing that 600 dairy digesters be put on the methane grid by 2030. According to the ARB’s own analysis that could cost as much as several billion dollars—more than $2 million, on average, for each of California’s remaining 1,400 family dairy farms.

 

“That is not only expensive, but digesters do not work for every dairy. They can be an option for some, but because of their expense and the reality that not everyone ‘dairies’ the same way, digesters cannot be a mandated solution,” noted Raudabaugh. “All dairy personnel and other interested Californians should contact your state legislature and urge them to veto both bills and not allow the ARB more powers than they actually have.”

Dairyman Cuts Diesel Emissions 92%

Kings County Dairyman Cuts Diesel Emissions 92% With Electric Mixer

By Laurie Greene, Editor

On his dairy in the Kings County town of Hanford, Philip Verway reduced his diesel consumption a remarkable 92% from 7,000 to 500 gallons in a given three-week period. His innovative secret to cutting diesel emissions is converting a diesel-powered commodity mixing machine to an electric mixer.

Kevin Abernathy, director of environmental services for the Milk Producers Council, said, “Rob VandenheuvelGeneral Manager for Milk Producers Council, Philip and I helped him get a grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, a state-appointed board which aims to minimize diesel exhaust output. We put together a proposal, submitted it, and their governing board actually approved the grant. What began as a concept on paper led to the reality of the processes being implemented on-farm. We had it up and running in about three months. Most importantly, the end results are not only meeting, but exceeding our expectations,” said Abernathy.

The entire operation dramatically reduces total nitrogen oxides (NOX gases), pollutants in the San Joaquin Valley, “Our initial expectation based on the modeling was 22 tons of NOX emissions.” The post-project NOX rates were about two tons—a major reduction.

Abernathy said Verway worked with contractors Duport and Supreme to engineer the electrification of the vertical mixers and built some fail-safe components into the system. Impressed, Abernathy said, “Based on what I have seen, they have done a remarkable job, particularly on the multiple fail-safes. Hats off to Duport and Supreme for coming up with technology that works day-in and day-out, 365 days of the year.”

Abernathy also admired the ingenuity in the California dairy industry, “They continue to come up with some of the most extraordinary ideas. It is an absolute blessing to work with them, and they make my job so much fun with projects like this!”