Comparing Bodily Waste Between Dairy Cows and People
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Comparing bodily waste between dairy cows and people
By: Karl Czymmek, PRO-DAIRY
A recent court filing claims that a herd of 200 milking cows produces as much waste as 96,000 people. Mike Van Amburgh, Professor, Cornell Department of Animal Science, and I have taught students about the comparison between waste from cows and humans in our animal science classes for many years, and we knew the calculation stated in the lawsuit was much too high. We decided to review the science and determine how the miscalculation was made.
To start, we researched the scientific literature for human excretion rates and used the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein model to predict urine and feces excretion from a cow making 23,000 pounds of milk, which is about the NYS average for 2016. We also calculated the comparison on the basis of N and P excretion. In simple terms, on a wet basis, the average person excretes .4 gallons of waste per day, and a cow producing 23,000 pounds of milk excretes 16.8 gallons of manure per day. This means one cow produces as much manure as 42 people. Therefore 200 cows produce an amount similar to 8,400 people. On an N basis, the comparison is 1 cow to 35 people and on a P basis, 1 cow to 38 people.
When we reviewed the information and references provided in the court document, the source of the error is clear: the authors used an EPA fact sheet that reports a family of 4 generates about 1 pound DRY MATTER of solid waste per day AFTER treatment, and then compared this to the wet weight of urine and feces excreted by a cow. Clearly not an apple to apple comparison. This critical error results in an estimate of one cow compares to 480 people, more than 10 times the actual figure.
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By: Rob Lynch, DVM, PRO-DAIRY We often think of milking procedures, reproductive management and fresh cow treatments when someone mentions dairy protocols. When looking over written protocols make sure you include these often-overlooked items.Evacuation & Emergency Response: Our hope is to never need to use emergency protocols but it is important that everyone on the farm keep safe if they ever need to respond to an emergency. Animal Mishandling Reporting: Training all farm employees on proper animal handling goes a long way to avoiding mishandling. Workers should also know how to go about letting management know about any instance of potential inhumane cattle handling. Reviewing this reporting protocol with all employees helps add to the culture good animal care that all dairies are dedicated to.Updating Protocol Documents Protocol:Yes, a protocol for changing out protocols. This is called change control and a critical component of HACCP plans. It is all too common to see multiple different versions of a protocol on the same farm. Revisions to protocols are inevitable, make sure you have a procedure in place to purge all working versions of those old protocols (keep one in the file cabinet with the treatment sheets as part of your stored records) so employees do not accidently pick up an outdated one.
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