Feeds

Bubbly-belly-bugging boffins battle bovine belch peril

Tesco agro-surveillance to ward off cow-burpocalypse

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

In a desperate attempt to avoid all life on Earth being gradually suffocated by a growing global cloud of noxious cow-belch emissions, corporate chiefs have planted bugging devices on a herd of dairy cattle. The listening devices, it's hoped, may allow top-bracket scientists to sift valuable information from the creatures' rumbling, bubbling guts.

The news went mainstream this week thanks to quality UK news outlets the Sun and the Telegraph, but in fact they had been scooped by a matter of seven months or so by the Farmers Guardian, the real world's answer to the Country Gentleman's Pig Fertiliser Gazette of Blackadder fame. Covering the opening of the new Tesco Dairy Centre of Excellence back in January, agro-newshawk Joanne Pugh revealed the retail globocorp's plans to focus an intensive high-tech surveillance programme on the nation's cattle - all for their own good, of course.

Tesco and other agribiz execs discussed the development of "vocal tags where microphones can gauge the pitch of a cow ruminating. Any alteration to this pitch would identify a digestive problem". On top of this, there were plans to monitor cattle movements with "computer-based heat detection systems".

“By working in partnership we can ensure everything we do is right for cows and also makes perfect economic sense,” said Tesco bigwig Lucy Neville-Rolfe at the time.

Since then, crack supermarket surveillance operatives have monitored some 200 cattle intensively, recording and analysing every sound emitted by their volatile, planet-destroying digestive systems - and at times watching them on computer thermo-scan as well.

Not content with this, Tesco also collects large amounts of information on the possibly suspicious activities of cattle across the UK. Every farmer who wishes to sell milk to the supermarket mammoth must keep detailed files on each of his cattle, according to the Farmers Guardian.

It's hoped that the belly-bugging scheme in particular may allow bovine boffins to develop specialised feeds which would cut down on the amount of methane emitted from cows. Not only is the grassy gut-gas flammable - even explosive on occasion - but it is a fearsomely potent greenhouse gas, 25 times worse than carbon dioxide.

Pioneering Irish work has already established that feeding cattle fish-oil can yield a substantial cut in their methane emissions. This scheme is seen as rather expensive, however.

It would also be possible perhaps to implement a strategy of burning off surplus methane at the point of emission, cutting its environmental impact by 96 per cent and removing the fire and explosion hazard completely. The Reg has already called for a selfless campaign of fart-ignition by humans, but cows don't have the manipulative skill and grasp of environmental matters necessary to ignite their own vapours.

Truly environmentally-friendly farmers might institute a programme of manual cowbelch-lighting among their field personnel, but this would probably impose a crippling manpower burden. Even Prince Charles doesn't seem likely to stay the course.

“We are currently embarking on a number of research projects to reduce the carbon emissions from milk production,” said Tesco Director David North today.

In time, the Tesco belly-mike system may perhaps be hooked up to an automatic on-cow flare stack or patio-gas sequestration rig of some kind. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.