A cow toilet developed by Dutch company Hanskamp AgroTech BV was awarded the only gold medal for innovations at Eurotier, an animal-husbandry show held every two years in Germany.
The Dutch are renowned for inventing wacky equipment for livestock, but the latest one really has left farmers feeling a bit flushed. Based in Doetinchem, the company 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. It’s designed to collect urine before it hits the floor.
Cows produce 15 to 20 liters of urine per day. They have a natural nerve reflex just above the udder that when rubbed causes them to immediately urinate. Hanskamp has developed CowToilet to automate that 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; once located the nerve that 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 use the CowToilet voluntarily because each visit to the toilet is combined with the animals receiving their daily portion of feed. Because most of the urine is collected, that results in a significant reduction in ammonia emissions. That’s good for both the environment and animal welfare, as well as providing a healthier climate in the shed.
The CowToilet also offers economic advantages because 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 provide income; pure urine can be used as an excellent-quality raw material in, for example, precision fertilization.
About 90% of ammonia emissions come from agriculture, according to Wageningen University and Research in The Netherlands. Excess ammonia emissions are a big deal in Europe. In an effort to limit ammonia emissions from the agricultural sector, dairy farmers pay large fees to meet ammonia-emission and manure-disposal requirements.
According to the company, the CowToilet will become available in the second half of 2021.