By Ivor Traktor
Farming Correspondent (intern)
Suffolk scientists have invented an amazing device to capture sheep flatulence, which accounts for 25% of the country’s greenhouse gases.
The brilliant invention will help reduce global warming – and also provide a source of renewable energy, futher benefiting the environment.
The device works by running a tube from the sheep’s backside into a specially-constructed polythene bag strapped around the animal’s rear quarters.
“It’s a sort of colostomy bag for sheep,” one project insider explained.
It allows for the collection of methane from the sheep, which is generated as each of its four stomachs digests large quantities of grass everyday.
Gas goes down the tube into the large bag. Once fully inflated, a special valve allows for the gas to be syphoned off by the farmer into an adapted gas canister.
These canisters are then fed into a processing plant, which burns the methane and creates valuable electricity.
Each bag also has a safety valve to allow excess gas to escape should the farmer fail to empty it in time – preventing explosions that could harm the sheep.
The process is so simple and cheap that farmers across the UK will be able to adopt it by the end of the year.
Boffins are now looking at extending the project to other ruminants like cows and goats, which also generate huge amounts of methane flatulence.
Mr Barry Fleece, from Sheep ‘O’ Gas, the company behind the innovation, said: “The issue of sheep and cow flatulence has been known about for years.
“In the UK these farts, and to an extent belching, genuinely accounts for 25% of greenhouse gases which damage the ozone layer and speed up global warming.
“We looked at a simple way to capture sheep farts and then harvest them for use as an energy source.
“The sheep in our test facility took to the system very well. They did not seem to mind something being stuck up their backsides. At first we thought this was because they came from Wales, but it seems local sheep were the same.
“We’re confident this will be a commercial success, allowing us to move into the lucrative cow fart market.”
The National Farmers’ Union has been monitoring the Halesworth, north Suffolk trials closely, and is expected to recommend that the Government provides grant assistance to farmers who take up the novel technique.
A spokesman said: “It will be cool to say one day that you live in a house powered by sheep farts.”