A cow toilet developed by Dutch company Hanskamp AgroTech BV has been awarded the only Gold Medal for innovations at EuroTier (which returns for a virtual show in Feb 2021). The DLG Innovation Committee, an independent expert jury appointed by the DLG (German Agricultural Society), selected Hanskamp’s CowToilet from 80 nominees. The Dutch are renowned for inventing some real wacky equipment for livestock but the latest one really has left farmers feeling a little bit ‘flushed.’
A cow toilet that collects urine to reduce ammonia
Designed primarily to ease the ever increasing regulations on the dairy industry, Hanskamp’s CowToilet is an automatic urinal that cows use voluntarily and is designed to collect urine before it hits the floor. When manure and urine mix, ammonia is otherwise 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 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. Approximately 90 percent 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. 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.
How does the CowToilet work?
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 visit and use the CowToilet voluntarily because each visit to the toilet is combined with the animals receiving their daily portion of feed.
Reduced ammonia emissions and other potential benefits
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 provide some income as pure urine can be used as a high quality raw material in, for example, precision fertilisation.
There are also ongoing developments in which urine is used to generate ‘yellow’ power or as a source of hydrogen.
Available on the Dutch market in 2021
- 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.
The CowToilet will become available on the Dutch market in the second half of 2021.