No one knows better than Cabot farmers the beguiling charm of dairy cows. I mean really, how can you resist a face like this?
Or a scene like this?
Or cuties like this?
Dairy cows are adorable. They’re smart, hard-working, and full of personality and sass. And then there’s the milk – these girls are responsible for the unsurpassed taste of the World’s Best Cheddar.Curious about #cowpower? Not even sure what cow power means? Hint: It's all about the poo #ontheblog Click To Tweet
But – and this may come as a big surprise – dairy farming is not all big, soulful eyes and the makings of award-winning cheese, because cows provide us two things: milk and manure… lots of it. Copious amounts cowa-dunga. A typical dairy cow produces about 148 pounds of poo a day. That’s more than 54,000 pounds a year!
Dairy farmers seem to share a few universal traits. They hate waste. They’re wickedly practical. And they think outside the box barn. Farmers and other bovine visionaries, sometimes working with scientists and engineers, have come up with these smart, innovative, and sometimes hilarious ideas to turn cow poo into MOOlah.
Here are our 10 favorites:
1. From Cow Poo to Flower Power – When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. When life hands you cow poop, one very clever Cabot farm family, the Freunds, created Cow Pots, an ingenious use of the manure produced by the Freund Family farm’s 260 Holstein dairy cows. Cow Pots are high quality, biodegradable, plantable seed starter pots. We can’t think of a better way to let those happy Cabot cows help with the spring planting!
2. Cowabingo! – When is a cow pie worth big bucks? When it lands on the winning Bingo number. Cow chip bingo is our last example of the awesome power of cow poop. Picture a cute cow wandering around a giant bingo card, waiting for nature to call. That’s Cow Chip Bingo, a fund-raising game for cow lovers and gamblers alike, where each square is sold for a set price and square numbers are assigned through a drawing system. This hilarious and crowd-pleasing fund-raiser redefines the old saying “let the chips fall where they may.” Via Fundraiserhelp.com
3. Cow Power to the People – Another Cabot farm family, the Audets of Blue Spruce Farm, was the first in Vermont to leverage the power of poo with a digester system program called “Cow Power”. The manure from the farm is collected and pumped into a biodigester. The digester captures the naturally occurring methane gasses. That methane gas is then used to power generators that push enough electricity onto the Green Mountain Power grid to provide power to more than 400 Vermont homes. The beautiful bovines of Blue Spruce Farm and their farmers are leading the way to renewable energy.
4. From Poo to Powder – Skiers at Vermont’s famous Killington Resort can ride to the top of the mountain on the iconic K-1 Express Gondola, secure in the knowledge that their ride is powered by 10,000 healthy, happy dairy cows from a collection of farms throughout the state, including two Cabot farms. Cow Power from methane digesters has been transporting skiers up the mountain since 2012.
5. From Poop to Plastic – Erik Coats, associate professor of civil engineering, and his team of researchers at the University of Idaho are developing technology that turns cow manure into biodegradable plastic. The eco-friendly material is suitable for agriculture applications like bale wrap, baling twine, bags and liquid containers. Anyone who can make sanitized, hard-working, see-thru cow poo is A-OK in our book. Via University of Idaho.
6. MooDoo Is Garden VooDoo – Vermont Natural Ag Products was one of the first companies to recognize the untapped power of cow poo. VNAP is owned by the Fosters, a Cabot farm family in Middlebury, Vermont. They started composting in 1989 as a way of utilizing nutrients left by their dairy cow herd in the form of manure. Their business MooDoo has grown into a trusted industry leader, selling organic compost and soil throughout the region. No wonder their trademarked tag line is “Udderly the best!™”
7. Watch Where You Step! – There’s no need to worry about stepping on cow poop once it’s turned into engineered eco-flooring. In this process, cow manure – a truly renewable resource – is sterilized and turned into an odorless, sawdust-like material used to manufacture boards for flooring and walls. We can’t wait to see the house that cows built. Via Momtastic Web Ecoist
8. Sweet Dreams Are Made of This – “It’s not like sand, and it’s not like straw,” explains farmer Henry Holtman of Winnipeg, Canada. But the new bedding product Holtman is producing on his dairy farm for his herd of 550 cows is soft, fluffy, and totally sanitary. A mere 30 hours before, however, the bedding started out as manure. His is one of the first dairy farms to install this bedding recovery unit. Holtman must be proud of his cows, since they started making their beds. Via The Manitoba Cooperator
9. Time Flies Like Cow Pies – From the Utah desert comes our next pick, because sometimes you have to have fun with the dung. And that’s just what Kristin Murdock did when she stumbled across a sun-baked cow pie while hiking. Her Cow Pie Clocks are dried and coated, completely odor-free and practically unbreakable. Each clock comes with a stand and a saying attached. Some of the most popular are: “A Chip off the Old Clock,” “You Dung Good,” “You are Heaven Scent,” or “You’re Outstanding in Your Field.”
10. The Medium Is the Message – Walla Walla, Washington artist Squire Broel uses digested dairy fiber to create works of art. As Broel explains, he is interested in “creating pieces that will degrade and go back to the earth as a way to explore the life cycle. It’s expressing, in a very natural way, the creative process.” At first the artist was skeptical about this new medium, but he soon realized that the sterilized fiber smells like the earth. We like that Broel uses moos as his muse. Via:
For more information about Cow Power and participating Cabot farm families go to Cow Power: The film.
And check out one more Cabot farm family, Barstow’s Longview Farm, where they’re using cow power to create enough energy to churn and package all of Cabot’s butter as well as supply the electricity for the farm.
For more education resources regarding sustainability, download Cabot’s Small Steps Toward Sustainability educational program for kids and adults, or go online to your state’s Department of Environmental Conservation or Agency of Natural Resources web pages. They’ll have lots of information and helpful people to point you in the right direction.
This post was originally published on 3/17/18 and was updated on 5/30/18