Dairy Farms Cut Fuel Costs by Converting Cow Manure to Methane

Dairy cows at the Fair Oaks Farm in Indiana eat in their open-air barn
Dairy cows at the Fair Oaks Farm in Indiana eat in their open-air barn

Dairy farms across the U.S. have begun converting cow manure into methane gas as part of a joint effort with the USDA to reduce dependence on foreign oil, increase the use of organic bio-fuel, and cut costs. The USDA recently signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with dairy farmers, which guarantees funding and support in the research and integration of cow waste-to-energy projects.

According to an article from WLTX.com, Fair Oaks Farm in Fair Oaks, Indiana is home to an estimated 35,000 dairy cows whose dung is collected and brought to a remote area of the farm for processing. As it decomposes it gives off an invisible and odorless methane gas which is then piped away to the farmer’s fueling station and used in farm equipment. Gary Corbett, chief executive on the Fair Oaks methane project, claims that the initial investment in the machinery required for the conversion is worth the money it will save on future fuel costs; cow manure could one day become cash, said Corbett.

Thomas P. Gallagher, CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management, stated, “We are all interested in sustainable agriculture and producing good food responsibly, while bolstering an important rural economy, and this new MOU lays out the roadmap for more improvements. That's good for dairy, good for the economy and good for consumers."

By signing the MOU, the USDA promises to continue supporting waste-to-energy research in the hopes of reaching the goal of fuel independence, decreased greenhouse gas emissions, and lower fuel costs for farmers.