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Earth Power Hardware Science Technology

Cows On Treadmills Produce Clean Power For Farms 640

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the mooves-you-to-tears dept.
separsons writes "William Taylor, a farmer in Northern Ireland, recently developed the Livestock Power Mill, a treadmill for cows. Taylor uses the device to generate clean, renewable power for his farm. Cows are locked into a pen on top of a non-powered, inclined belt. The cows' walking turns the belt, which spins a gearbox to drive a generator. One cow can produce about two kilowatts of electricity, enough energy to power four milking machines. It may seem like a kooky idea, but Taylor could be onto something: According to his calculations, if the world's 1.3 billion cattle used treadmills for eight hours a day, they could provide six percent of the world's power!"
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Cows On Treadmills Produce Clean Power For Farms

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  • Food? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:06PM (#31897210) Journal
    Do they need to eat more?
    • Re:Food? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Brett Buck (811747) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:08PM (#31897226)

      They would probably be walking around anyway.

      • Re:Food? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rotide (1015173) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:14PM (#31897370)
        Apparently you've never watched cows grazing out in an open field. They do move around, but only enough to get fresh grass between their lips. They don't trot from one end of the field to the other. They mow a bit, take a step, mow a bit, take a step. Sure, they do end up going a fair distance over time, but nothing like being forced to walk a treadmill.
        • Re:Food? (Score:4, Funny)

          by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:16PM (#31897402)

          Apparently you've never watched cows grazing out in an open field.

          I saw one open a box of oreos and eat it right in the aisle at Safeway. She was sitting on a scooter, so that probably changes the whole exercise dynamic, though.

          • Re:Food? (Score:5, Funny)

            by MiniMike (234881) on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:21PM (#31898606)

            Could the scooter fit on a treadmill?

        • Re:Food? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ElizabethGreene (1185405) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:33PM (#31897676)

          Just to make sure I understand... We grow grain with petroleum based fertilizers, harvest it with diesel powered combines, diesel truck it over asphalt highways, and then feed it to cows on treadmills to make electricity. Then we diesel truck the manure off and bury it in a landfill.

          Yes, that make perfect sense.

          Here is a crazier idea! Let the cows WALK to gather GRASS instead. Then use the corn for ethanol! Why we insist on feeding 75% of our grain production to ruminants baffles me.

          -ellie

          • Re:Food? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:36PM (#31897744)

            >> Then we diesel truck the manure off and bury it in a landfill.

            Y'all ain't from around here, are ya?

            • Re:Food? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:08PM (#31899416) Journal

              >> Then we diesel truck the manure off and bury it in a landfill.

              Y'all ain't from around here, are ya?

              I was about to say, I pay $2 to $4 a bag for that stuff to put on my blueberries, blackberries, etc. Better yet: use human waste for lawns, fields and golf courses.

              We cleared off 1/4 acre of wood (which was taken to the lumber mill and turned into railroad ties) and in order to get grass to grow in the poor soil, we hauled in a tandem load (about 11 cubic yards or about 9-10 cubic meters) of "sterilized compost" from the waste treatment plant. This means grass clippings, leaves and human poo, sterilized and composted, all "trash" that the county has to deal with. It costs $110, delivered, and we spread by hand. Best. Lawn. Ever. And no, it doesn't smell like poo, just a little like ammonia (like all compost) for a couple of days.

              I'm a conservative who is a conservationist (ie: I have no use for environmentalists as I want to USE the resources we protect) and this is the right way to recycle and reuse, as it gives great results, cheaper, and creates less landfill, which is where it would have gone if I didn't spread it on the lawn. AND it allowed the waste plant to make a profit on something they normally would have to pay to dispose of.

          • You forgot the methane and C02 produced by the cows.
          • Re:Food? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:42PM (#31897862) Homepage

            Hint to mods: parent complaint is 'Funny' not 'Insightful'

            This is crazy: "We grow grain with petroleum based fertilizers, harvest it with diesel powered combines, diesel truck it over asphalt highways, and then feed it to cows on treadmills to make electricity."

            But is this any more sane: "We grow corn with petroleum based fertilizers, harvest it with diesel powered combines, diesel truck it over asphalt highways, and then feed it to yeast on treadmills to make ethanol to burn."

            • Re:Food? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Fnkmaster (89084) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:26PM (#31899680)

              There's this *really* cool thing called a free market economy that prevents bozos from implementing cockamamie schemes that don't create any economic value. Then we go and do stupid shit like subsidizing corn production to fuck up these economics. I'm not an absolutist, but when it comes to energy production technologies, we really should just let the market sort it out, and abolish the corn subsidies.

              Things that make no sense in terms of net energy production will inherently be money-losing ventures in the absence of state intervention. So we won't have to listen to people whining about how bioethanol is inherently a net energy-wasting fuel (gee, if it is, and it produces no economic value otherwise, it will be a money losing venture and nobody will make it).

              Beyond that research funding and venture capital investment should finance the technologies that are actually capable of producing net energy, rather than those that have figured out how to game the system of subsidies best.

          • Re:Food? (Score:5, Informative)

            by crmarvin42 (652893) on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:40PM (#31898976)
            How many generations are you separated from the farm Ellie??

            Don't bother answering that, it's retorical. Animal production farms are always associated with crop production farms where the manure is spread on fields as fertilizer. Landfills are full of trash, not animal waste (unless you count cat and dog feces).

            We don't feed 75% of our grain production to ruminants. We don't even feed 75% of our grain production to livestock (which includes pigs and poultry). According to the USDA [usda.gov], nearly a third (~ 4.25 billion bushels) of domestic corn production is expected to be used for ethanol in 2009/10. In the same season, ~5 billion bushels (~45%) will be used for "Feed and residual uses" which includes both human consumption and livestock use, and another ~2 billion bushels will be exported.

            As to the original topic, putting cows on treadmills, I don't see it being feasible. Cows are rough on equipment, so the treadmills would need to be very robust. Cow manure is very corrosive, so they'd either have to use expensive equipment that is durable, or have a high rate of failure of various parts. I do have to admit though, that cows do a fair amount of walking in free stall barns, but I just don't see how you'd get them to use the treadmills instead of walking up and down the isles as they do now. IMO, it's a case of something being technically plausible, but ultimately unfeasible.

            Definitely an intriguing idea though. I'd be interested to see if they could do something similar with an animal that is raised in a more confined environment, like a gestating sow. It would require that she get more food, but her appetite already oustrips what she's allowed to eat so that's not an issue (whereas dairy farmers don't want their cows to be wasting any of the energy that could be going into milk production, and the cows are already offered ad libitum feed). It would come down to whether the electricity a sow could generate would save the farmer more money over the increased feed, equipment, and management costs.
          • Re:Food? (Score:4, Informative)

            by SirGarlon (845873) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:05PM (#31899388)

            Why we insist on feeding 75% of our grain production to ruminants baffles me.

            For beef cattle, we do it because they bulk up faster on grain than on grass. It is possible to buy range-fed beef, though if I recall it is substantially more expensive. The rancher is a business man and he makes better profits feeding grain to his cattle to get them ready for slaughter. This in turn enables him to sustain his (usually modest) livelihood and enable the consumer to afford beef as a staple rather than as a luxury. If all beef were range-fed then the economics of beef production would be totally different.

            For dairy cattle, they are often range-fed in my region (New England) but due to freezing temperatures cattle have to be fed on silage in the winter. Otherwise they'd stop producing milk and we'd either have to import milk from outside the region, or go without.

            So, we feed 75% of our grain production to cattle so we can have readily available beef and milk. Why we think we need so much beef is another question, and one that does make me scratch my head a little.

            • Re:Food? (Score:4, Informative)

              by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @08:38AM (#31908558) Homepage Journal

              For beef cattle, we do it because they bulk up faster on grain than on grass. It is possible to buy range-fed beef, though if I recall it is substantially more expensive.

              We eat beef primarily because they will stand in a feedlot and chew cud instead of breaking down fences or harming each other trying to escape, like Bison. Unfortunately, this feedlot approach results in sick animals, period, the end. So we treat the animals with antibiotics. The cattle can't move around so they don't develop any muscle tone. The result is insipid and often unsafe beef. Sure, it costs more to buy grass-fed, free-range beef, but the quality is superior in every way. Meanwhile, I'm buying buffalo meat at comparable prices; you can't put them in a feedlot, so all of them are grass fed. Actually, there is a movement today towards native grasses, at least in this country; native grasses don't ever need to be fed because they grow in what a permaculturist would call a guild, with each plant providing for its fellows. Some grasses anchor soil, some fix nitrogen, and some send deep tap roots to mine the lower parts of the soil for minerals. This native grass will support nearly any kind of animal; the "improved" grasses commonly planted for animal grazing tend to be species-specific. For instance, the pasture mejorado being planted in Panama causes increased beef production in the cows, but a horse will starve in the field. And more importantly for the beef, it produces a lower quality of meat with reduced flavor and texture as compared to the native grasses. So ranchers who are aiming for quality rather than quantity are very much replanting their ranges in native grass.

              So, we feed 75% of our grain production to cattle so we can have readily available beef and milk. Why we think we need so much beef is another question, and one that does make me scratch my head a little.

              Beef is delicious. The real question is why we need so much milk. Milk subsidies in the USA led to the production of milk hormones to increase their production... or was it the other way around? Thanks, Monsanto. Regardless, we produce so much milk that we have to invent new ways to get rid of it, which is why we got all that Recaldent-brand gum which is made from milk. It would be nice if we could get some milk paints out of it, so we could use less of the toxic bullshit housepaint that we tend to use, but I guess the chemical lobby would put a quick stop to that. The really sad part is that the rest of the world is less than interested in hormone-infested milk (rBGH has been proven to increase udder infections which means that milk with rBGH also has increased levels of both antibiotics and pus from infections in it... I like my milk with extra pus, how about you?) so the only place we can get rid of it internationally is those parachuted milk powder bombs that we keep dropping on the third world.

              Ending all food subsidies would be a very good way to improve the quality of food production in the USA, not to mention, it would enable the free market to provide us with more logical foodstuffs.

        • Re:Food? (Score:4, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:46PM (#31897954) Journal

          Apparently you've never watched cows grazing out in an open field

          I grew up near a dairy farm and watched the cows quite often. They'd run across the field, go in groups and investigate anything that made a noise or entered the field. They stood still when they were eating, but walked around quite a lot at other times.

          Maybe you just have lazy cows near you?

      • Re:Food? (Score:5, Funny)

        by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:17PM (#31897424)

        The cows around your parts must be completely different than the lazy fucks around here.

        Sure they take a step now and then when their mouth can't reach anything edible anymore, but I wouldn't really call it "walking".

        Just ask an Intelligent Designer, they'll explain that cows are so lazy they only bothered walking part way up the hill when the flood came and hence were fossilized in the middle instead of at the top, like the less lazy people.

        • Re:Food? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Z34107 (925136) on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:30PM (#31898784)

          Cows are lazy, but also very curious.

          I was bicycling past a herd of cattle, and they all looked up and stared at me. They started wandering towards the road I was at, following me, but soon broke from "mosey" into full-out "walk." I sped up, and so did the cows - they were leaping, like giant, bloated, mooing rabbits, fully keeping pace with my bicycle.

          Granted, I never had cancer, but I'd like to think I bicycle faster than cows. They were almost doing 20 miles an hour.

          They're evil, too. My grandfather was a farmer back in the day. One day working in the fields, a door-to-door salesman drove up, through the field, to try to hawk something to him. My grandfather was annoyed, naturally, but the cows discovered his car and licked all the chrome off.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bradm (27075)

      TFA says that cows walk around 8 hours a day grazing anyway.

      Let's get to the more important questions: What impact does all that captive exercise have on the tasty dairy and beef products so critical to maintaining our waistlines and thickening our arteries?

      If it makes the beef even better and generates power, it's a total win.

      (With unheartfelt apologies to the veg types in the crowd).

      • Re:Food? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Surt (22457) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:28PM (#31897584) Homepage Journal

        Unfortunately, increasing exercise will reduce the tastiness of both milk and meat. The meat gets leaner (the fat is the part that gives is great taste, and is why kobe is legally required to have a minimum fat content). The milk tends to have more stress byproducts, but that impact is less important.

        • by madsenj37 (612413)
          Taste was secondary to health concerns in his question. So, yes perhaps the beef becomes less tasty, but we the consumers of beef and beef itself, becomes healthier with the beef on exercise and a grass-fed diet. I would much rather see grass-fed as the dominant food source and pay more. End corn subsidies now.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by TheLink (130905)

            Uh, that's almost like promoting junk food that tastes crappier but is a bit healthier for you ;).

            Beef isn't the healthiest of foods for humans ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_meat#Health_risks [wikipedia.org] ).

            So if you're going to eat beef, you might as well be eating beef that tastes good.

            On the other hand if you want to have a healthier diet, eat more vegetables and regularly eat oceanic fish (the ones lower down the food chain with less mercury and crap). You can still have a nice steak once in a while.

            p.s. if you

        • Re:Food? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:42PM (#31897864) Journal

          Unfortunately, increasing exercise will reduce the tastiness of both milk and meat. The meat gets leaner (the fat is the part that gives is great taste, and is why kobe is legally required to have a minimum fat content). The milk tends to have more stress byproducts, but that impact is less important.

          Do you have any citation for the difference in milk between exercised and non-exercised cows?

          I'm curious, as I'm not sure what "stress byproducts" are... but it's known that among humans, exercise during lactation does not change the makeup of breast milk [nursingbaby.com], except when exercise is extremely vigorous (unlike these treadmills), and even then the impact is temporary (lasting less than 1 hour). Furthermore, there is no different in fat content, protein content, etc.

          I'm not saying that cows are biologically the same as humans... I just question that exercise would affect milk production differently among different mammals when I couldn't find any evidence to support that conclusion.

        • Re:Food? (Score:5, Informative)

          by crmarvin42 (652893) on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:59PM (#31899312)
          Correction # 1:
          Cattle are not as sedentary as you may believe. Range raised beef cattle walk between 2.8 and 4 kilometers/day according to a 1991 study published the Journal of Animal Science [fass.org]. This means they are already doing a lot of walking. The real question is whether we can capture that energy they are already spending, and turn it into electricity at a price that is acceptable. (I doubt that they can, but I could be wrong)

          Correction # 2:
          Exercise does not increase "stress byproduct" concentrations (what every that's supposed to mean), unless the exercise in forced. As I mentioned before, the animals already do a fair amount of walking on their own initiative. In that case the actions taken to force the exercize would be causing the stress, not the exercise itself.

          Correction # 3:
          It is the intramuscular fat that is responsible for the great taste. Backfat is often cut off by consumers and not eaten due to texture issues, and sometime for cooking issues. Kobe beef is completely unlike anything raised for the general consumer market, so trying to draw conclusions based on that niche market is inadvisable.
      • It’s exercise. It probably makes the meat leaner, better for you, slightly less tasty, etc.

    • Not only that, but they're gonna fart a hell of a lot more, too. Should we harvest the methane?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by S.O.B. (136083)

        Excellent idea. In the past it was difficult to harvest the methane because they were all over the fields.

        Now that they're on treadmills I say we put a feeding tube in one end, a gas hose in the other and a milking machine on their udders. Now if we can only genetically modify them to shed their skin like a snake we could radically increase leather production too.

    • by quenda (644621)

      No way can a cow do 2kW for 8 hours. How long have you seen a cow run for?
      A fit human can do maybe 200W on a pedal generator, so 2kW is a lot even for a bovine.
      Its nearly 3 horsepower.
      Horses can run better than cows, but still not for hours solid.
      Maybe if we bred a billion Clydesdale horses, it might put a small dent in global energy needs.

    • This is just a distractionary greenwash.

      • The livestock industry is already the largest source of methane [epa.gov]. This would no doubt result in more methane.
      • Cattle already require enormous amounts of feed to produce the same amount of caloric food value (ie, it's much more efficient to eat bread and vegetables in terms of how much food grown makes it to you, by the calorie.) This will make them consume more food.

      It's kind of staggering to realize that there are almost 100 million cows in the US.

  • What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sbierwagen (1493705) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:07PM (#31897222)
    Don't the cows have to... eat? How is this any more efficient than burning corn directly?
  • I thought you weren't supposed to exercise the meat you eat, because un-exercised meat tasted better (see Kobe beef).

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      In this case I think he is using dairy cows for his particular needs.

    • One cow can produce about two kilowatts of electricity, enough energy to power four milking machines.

      They're talking about milk cows, the ones that normally are out to pasture wandering around anyway.

    • by c (8461)

      > I thought you weren't supposed to exercise the meat you eat

      Milk cows. People don't eat them too often.

      That being said, a farmer's daughter I know told me that they actually increased milk yields when they reduced access to the exercise yard for their cows. I would imagine the reduction in costs due to power use would more than offet a reduction in yield, though.

      c.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:09PM (#31897250)

    sharks with lasers.

  • by FTWinston (1332785) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:09PM (#31897260) Homepage
    And how long would it take a cow walking on a treadmill to produce an amount of energy equivalent to that used to produce the treadmill (including its raw materials) anyway?
    But if he's got 1.3 billion cow treadmills handy, I'd happily take one if I had a cow.
    • by polar red (215081)

      That thought crossed my mind too. It's all about cost: how much does the device cost, and how much maintenance it requires, this translates into a cost per Kwh, which tells us if it is a good idea; but I guess it'll probably be more expensive than wind power.

  • by unity100 (970058)

    Shouldnt we fix the abomination that livestock industry is, in that they make cows live in 1x2 m enclosed space from their birth to their death in the first place.

    reminds of how big corporations treat people like livestock and make them toil for dimes in cramped spaces ... a society's mindset reflects on every aspect of life.

    • "reminds of how big corporations treat people like livestock and make them toil for dimes in cramped spaces ... a society's mindset reflects on every aspect of life." But do the sheeple taste as good as the cows?
    • by Pharmboy (216950)

      It appears their answer is to put the cows on a treadmill that is approximately 1x2m instead. I'm all for eating other animals that aren't smart enough to dodge a bullet, but I prefer my meat isn't tortured (veal) or subjected to crowded unhappy lives either (chickens, pigs, cows). It is a true dilemma. It isn't easy to find meat that is raised like a normal animal in the eastern USA.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        It is pretty easy to find, you just have to kill it yourself. I can guaranty that 95%+ of the time, an animal you shoot and butcher yourself will suffer less than something raised on a factory farm.

    • by pclminion (145572)

      Not to mention that a huge number of cows are fed corn, which is a food that eventually causes liver failure -- by the time the cow is slaughtered, it was basically going to die anyway. But hey, the FDA says that the quality of beef is determined by marbling, and corn gives way more marbling than grass (the cow's natural food, which we don't exactly lack), and it lets us grow and subsidize a shitload of corn, so who cares about the cows?

    • while you and a few others will decide the pen is too small someone else will come along and call you barbaric for what you accept. Some may decide that one size permits too much movement which somehow injures the cow. Another might decide its painted the wrong color, get what I mean? There is permanent goal, meet one and they will make another or move it further out.

      No farmer wants animals harmed or raised in unsafe manners, it is not cost effective. On a farm with a few thousand head of cattle it ain

  • A cable out to the milking shed though - it is at least convenient.
  • I would imagine that cows that get regular exercise like this probably have meat that is much leaner than regular feed fed cows.

    Power to help the farm AND a healthier product for the population at large? Sounds like a double win.
  • that's enough to produce 11,755.1486 horsepower hours in a year!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jeian (409916)

      Don't you mean "cowpower?"

      • by hedwards (940851)
        No, there is no unit at present which represents cow power. A (mechanical) horsepower is defined as 550 foot-lbs per second and was selected as a sort of average amount for draft horses for comparison against steam engines.

        For instance that whoosh is going over my head with a full 4 horsepower.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by M8e (1008767)

        Cowpower = 2000 W
        Horsepower = 745.7 W

        WTF?

  • by B5_geek (638928) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:12PM (#31897314)

    There are two glaring faults with this setup:

    #1) The cows are 'locked in'.
    #2) The treadmill is inclined.

    This results in the animal walking out of 'fear' from falling. The inability of the animal to stop whenever it wants is cruel treatment. On the other hand, if it were 'elective' and the cows got a special treat (a yummy grass/feed?) then it is a different story.

    I would like to see how guy would like to be locked onto a treadmill 8hrs a day, walking uphill the entire time.

    I doubt the quality of the milk would be very good. Stress does not make for a nice quality or quantity of milk. (I used to work on a dairy farm.)

    • by hedwards (940851)
      You mean in addition to the fact that this would have to violate the laws of thermodynamics to be useful?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by COMON$ (806135)
      I would like to see how guy would like to be locked onto a treadmill 8hrs a day, walking uphill the entire time.

      Let me guess, you are also one of those people who gives your dog purified water, human food, a spring mattress to sleep on, and keeps them inside all day so they are more comfortable. I am an animal lover, have a feisty fat tabby and a Yellow Lab. Both very happy and healthy, why? Because I treat them like the animals they are. My dog gets dog food, I leave her outside all day, she rolls i

    • His cows can’t stand still on hillsides without fear of falling down? Shoulda bought some of those hill-cows... [urbandictionary.com]

  • And if all the birds in the world flew west at the same time, the planet would spin faster.

    And if all the snakes in the world crawled east at the same time it would spin slower.

    And if I wake up from this lousy dream one more time, I'm hunting doolittle down and feeding him to the fishes...
  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:13PM (#31897332)

    Funny and innovative as the idea is: I wonder how clean this energy really is. It doesn't come out of thin air, those cows have to eat. And a cow's digestive system tends to produce quite some methane (a major greenhouse gas), and quite some waste - which also releases lots of ammonia amongst other harmful chemicals. On top of that the fodder also has to be produced (often using power for machinery and so), and a cow that walks that much definitely eats a lot more than a cow that grazes the pasture or is kept in a stable without much room to move.

    And besides I think there are much more cattle-friendly ways to exercise your cow.

  • I was a little concerned over the treatment of the cows but the guy doing it made an interesting point:

    It may seem cruel to make cows sweat it out on a treadmill, but the routine is actually quite similar to the animals' normal behavior. Cows walk about eight hours a day while grazing. Doing that walking on a treadmill provides the same amount of exercise with the added bonus of renewable power production.

    Also, after thinking about it, I can't think that this is any worse than making them stand shoulder t

  • Wake me up when they come with their own mounted systems for bovine freedom.

    I think they might want to take this technology to Southeast Asia... elephants are not only much more massive but also seem much more active, and the elephant conservatories in Thailand are always looking for things to do to make money to afford to keep their brood occupied and healthy. /drove through Wisconsin last week, saw mounted cows.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      drove through Wisconsin last week, saw mounted cows I can only assume they were being mounted by bulls, and not Wisconsin dairy farmers...
  • Blasphemy! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:16PM (#31897396)
    How do the Hindus feel about their ancestors being forced into manual labor like this, when they could have used human beings instead? And how does the cost of buying and maintaining a cow treadmill compare to the cost of a solar power array that would generate 2 kilowatts without the constant trouble of cleaning all the cow shit off of it? Cows are one of the least efficient animals at turning grain into meat; I suspect they are also grossly inefficient at turning grain into power. If you take that same grain, ferment it, distill it, and use it to power an engine, how much more or less power output would you get?
  • The next logical step is to install these at MacDonalds.

  • It'll be even better when PETA finds out about this.

    Put cow in tiny box which is sloped so they keep walking up hill, shove food in its face, hook the belt they are turning while walking up hill to a generator which in turn powers the milking machine that is hooked to the cow's udders.

    They milk themselves, while being put on a forced march.

    That should generate entertainment in the form of PETA ravings.

  • by the_rajah (749499) * on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:27PM (#31897578) Homepage
    In Lincoln's New Salem, near Springfield, Illinois, there is a reconstructed carding mill [waymarking.com] powered by a tilted tread wheel on which an ox walked to supply the power. This would have been in use around 1830.
  • This is the meatrix (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mdsolar (1045926) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:29PM (#31897604) Homepage Journal
    Cows are batteries, not this silly stuff: http://www.themeatrix.com/ [themeatrix.com]
  • Methane (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SteveFoerster (136027) <steve@stevefoers ... com minus author> on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:30PM (#31897624) Homepage

    Some people have joked about methane, but for those concerned about greenhouse gases, this would probably be worse than burning coal. Methane from livestock is a major source of greenhouse gases, to the point where one's personal impact on greenhouse gases is greater from giving up animal products than giving up one's car.

    • Re:Methane (Score:5, Informative)

      by pehrs (690959) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:54PM (#31898088)

      Methane has indeed a high global warming potential compared to CO2, however that calculation misses one important fact. And that is that methane has a rather limited limited lifetime in the atmosphere, around 12 years. After that it breaks down and to a large degree it goes back into circulation, becoming new methane eventually.

      When you burn oil you release CO2 that has a life cycle of (conservatively) tens of thousands of years.

      This means that if you kill off all cows and other methane production today you will see the methane effect start to wean after about a decade. Stop burning coal today and the effects will last longer than civilization has existed. As we are speaking of additive effects on the climate you quickly realize that you probably should be much more worried about the gases with long lifetimes and/or high GWP (CO2, HFC-23, SF6 etc) and less about those gases with short lifetimes/low GWP.

  • ...is why doesn't the `Y' hook it's treadmills up to generators? I have seen fat cows walking on them all day - the energy they produce is just lost as waste heat. It would be far better to redirect it into the grid.

  • As a side effect, you could get better tasting meat. Where does meat gets it taste from> From the blood and the more blood, the more taste. Moving will increase the blood flow and thus the taste. The downside is that meat won't be as tender anymore and in todays world tender is more important then taste.

    What the effect is if these are milking cows (which I assume, as they are talking about milking machines), I have no idea. Will the production and/or quality be the same, higher or lower?

    All in all a grea

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:35PM (#31897712)

    Have you ever seen a field or corn, wheat or strawberries? Those plants are packed in tight. This is completely opposite to how plants grow in the wild. It's so cruel that we force these plants to grow in tight, geometric formations, never able to get proper air circulation, we force grow them in pots which is never found in the wild and in densities never intended to by our mother, earth.

  • Far Side? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by statusbar (314703) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:37PM (#31897758) Homepage Journal

    If only Gary Larson was still making Far Side comics. I'm certain he would make a very funny one!

    --jeffk++

  • YES! A legitimate place to plug the Calorie Man [wikipedia.org] books. Although Paolo envisioned gene-altered elephants or something, and not cows.
  • in 3, 2, 1..
    Seriously, I'm not a PETA-type person at all, and even I think this is kind of a cruel thing to do to animals, even if it's cows we're talking about. Granted, they're not in the least bit bright, but we already use them for milk and eventually kill them for their meat and hide, it seems rather heartless to make them generate power as well.
  • The article should have gotten Gary Larson (Far Side) to illustrate the concept. I picture the Cow standing on hind legs running on a treadmill at the gym with an ipod and watching Oprah.

  • +1 for the Idiocracy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:05PM (#31898292) Homepage Journal

    Woot first point for the day. As usual idealists live in a 1 dimensional universe where they again fail to see the whole cost beyound the end of their nose.

    He isn't on to something, and anyone that thinks this is a great idea is a stark raving idiot.

    A: Treadmills don't far well outside. More roofed covered space. Nor to treadmills grow on trees.

    B: Carbon footprint for the manfacturing of said treadmills

    C: Additional feed for active cows now burning more calories. More waste from more feed too

    D: Energy loss in conversion to heat from friction from transmission points

    E: More wiring and cabling sucking down more copper from an already stressed raw material market. Ohms.... .Ohms.....

    F: Who in their right mind thinks: taking solar energy and water and converting it into biomass

    Then using millions of tons of fossil fuels to build machinery to develop and harvest biomass.

    Feed said biomass to another animal

    To use millions of tons of fossil fuels in manufacturing a kinetic engery transfomation device (treadmill)

    To then power a machine to generate a fraction of the energy "THE SUN PUT OUT IN THE FIRST PLACE!?

    Jebus Rice we are getting shit-eating stupid pretty damn fast when people think "Hey they're on to something..."

    Narrow minded morons never looking past their own nose on what real costs are.

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