Innovation gong for cow toilet

By: Chris McCullough

Presented by

A urine-collecting toilet for cows has won the gold medal for innovation at Eurotier.

Innovation gong for cow toilet
When a cow enters the CowToilet to eat, its urinary reflex is triggered

 

A cow toilet developed by Dutch company Hanskamp AgroTech BV has won the only Gold Medal for innovation awarded at 2020’s Eurotier – a significant animal husbandry show held every two years in Germany, organised by the German Agricultural Society DLG.

The show did not take place this November due to the COVID-19 restrictions and is set to make a virtual return in February 2021.

During the recent virtual show preview, DLG presented the gold medal and seven silver medals to products from a list of 80 entries.

Based in Doetinchem, The Netherlands, technical innovator Hanskamp has developed a cow toilet that collects urine in an effort to reduce ammonia and also acts as a feed station.

Designed primarily to ease the ever-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.

Approximately 90 per cent of ammonia emissions come from agriculture, according to Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in The Netherlands.

Excess ammonia emissions are a big deal in Europe and there are national limits in force aimed to reduce gases.

When manure and urine mix, ammonia is formed. If this 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 up to a certain amount of nitrogen and the remaining amount acidifies the soil and affects the groundwater. High concentrations of ammonia are harmful to humans and animals.

In an effort to limit ammonia emissions from the agricultural sector, dairy farmers have to pay high fees to meet ammonia emission and manure disposal requirements.

Cows produce 15 to 20 litres of urine per day and have a natural nerve reflex just above the udder that when rubbed causes them to immediately urinate. Hanskamp has developed this new CowToilet to automate this long-known technique to make a cow urinate just after it has finished feeding.

The CowToilet is placed against the cow’s suspensory ligament and moves in unison with the cow. The technique locates the nerve, and once located, the nerve, which triggers the urinary reflex, is stimulated and the cow starts urinating.

The urine is collected in the CowToilet container and extracted through a suction line into a separate storage tank.

Cows go to and use the CowToilet voluntarily because each visit to the toilet is combined with the animals receiving their daily portion of feed.

As most of the urine is collected this results in a significant reduction in ammonia emissions, which is good for both the environment and animal welfare as well as providing a healthier climate in the shed.

The CowToilet also offers economic advantages as it saves on manure storage costs and may even be an alternative to ammonia emission-reducing floors.

As a welcome sideline, using the CowToilet may even be a source of income as pure urine can be used in the production of fertiliser.

There are also ongoing developments in which urine is used to generate ‘yellow’ power or as a source of hydrogen.

The CowToilet is currently being tested on several farms in the Netherlands and at Wageningen University. A CowToilet has recently been installed at the well-known German testing facility Haus Düsse in Bad Sassendorf for research and training purposes.

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