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Affordable and Scalable Non-Intrusive Measurements of Bovine Methanogenesis

Project Team

Abstract

Cattle contribute significantly to global emissions of methane, being responsible for about 100 million tons each year. By weight, “the comparative impact of CH4 is more than 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period… [T]he Agriculture sector is the largest source of emissions in the United States.”

Approaches to reducing bovine methane production can include dietary changes as well as studies of animal-to-animal differences in eructated methane. But ruminant methane sensors are often expensive and designed only for a research setting. Specific animals can be tracked using radio frequency identification ear tags, but nearly all techniques—instrumenting restricted-access feed bunks, or training cattle to tolerate head boxes—are unsuitable for continuous measurements of large herds. Currently available systems are too expensive for cattle producers hoping to monitor their own herds.

We propose to build a demonstrator system of inexpensive gas sensors. Each string of detectors might comprise a microcontroller, ten gas sensors, and ten temperature/humidity sensors. We already have a small amount of experience with these measurements in a closed barn, and would like to extend these to other settings. We are also requesting support for RFID devices and a non-dispersive infrared methane detector.