27 Mar 2014

Cow Urine Measurement

From Our Changing World, 9:46 pm on 27 March 2014

Cow urine sensor attached to a cow

A cow wearing a urine sensor; the coat helps bear the weight of the device (image: A. Ballance)

Keith Betteridge from Agresearch has been developing a sensor to quantify the volume and nitrogen content of urine produced by individual cows. Alison Ballance joins him, Des Costall and a herd of dairy cows to hear how this information is producing insights into nitrogen leaching from pasture. The pee-o-meter is officially known as the Agresearch Urine Sensor, and is the first time that researchers have been able to get instantaneous measurements of nitrogen in urine. The sensor has taken a number of years to develop and is already showing interesting results.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, has recently written several reports on water quality in New Zealand, and she’s highlighted the importance of the nutrient pollutants nitrogen and phosphorous. Animal urine is an important source of both these nutrients, and it’s becoming more of an issue due to the growth and intensification of dairying across the country.