This post was originally published at My Animal, My Health and has been republished with permission.
Just like in humans, when animals eat, the body breaks down what is eaten, absorbs the needed nutrients, and gets rid of the unwanted residue as sweat, urine, and feces. It is a process that all living things must go through for a balanced healthy body. In animal farms or in keeping pets, feces are commonly seen as waste products and treated as such. But are they really to be wasted at all? Based on what is commonly seen in Nigeria, animal farms produce huge amount of fecal waste on a daily basis and most of the waste is dumped in streams, rivers and lagoons or left to decompose in the open which pose a significant environmental hazard. The air pollutants emitted from such waste include methane, nitrous oxide, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter, which can cause serious environmental concerns and health problems. In addition, the uncomfortable disgusting smell in such environment is a great concern. This is even more obvious in abattoirs and slaughterhouses all over Nigeria.
But what if we knew that there are alternative ways of “wasting” these fecal waste products that are even more beneficial to the overall process of animal farming and production? And what if it has the added advantage of improving your farm productivity, improving your income, and preserving our environment? Great! Now let’s look at these alternative ways of making use of fecal animal waste and later, check out some other weird uses of animal fecal waste that were done in the past.
This might slightly disgust you but it will also amaze you!
- As Manure and Fertilizers
Animal feces can be commonly used as animal manures for the soil especially for those that are involved in mixed farming (plant and animal farming). Manure is an excellent fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients. It also adds organic matter to the soil which may improve soil structure, aeration, soil moisture-holding capacity, and water infiltration. Manure from different animals has different qualities and requires different application rates when used as fertilizer.
Forexample horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, rabbits,and guano from seabirds and bats all have different properties. Sheep manure is high in nitrogen and potash, while pig manure is relatively low in both. Horses mainly eat grass and a few weeds so horse manure can contain grass and weed seeds, as horses do not digest seeds the way that cattle do. Chicken litter is very concentrated in nitrogen and phosphate and is prized for both properties.
- For Biogas generation
Animal feces and waste is a valuable source of biogas – one of the great form of renewable energy today. The introduction of tighter environmental controls on odour and water pollution resulting from animal waste means that some form of waste management is necessary, which provides further incentives for biomass-to-energy conversion. The biogas potential of animal manure can be harnessed both at small- and community-scale.
Normally, organic materials that decompose in a warm, airless environment release biogas and this process occurs spontaneously in nature. However, for a larger scale or industrial use, biogas production can be hastened by sealing the organic material inside a heated, airtight tank called a digester and this process is called anaerobic digestion of feces. This unique treatment solution for animal wastescan deliver positive benefits related to multiple issues, including renewable energy, water pollution, and air emissions. Biogas, through anaerobic digestion of animal manure is gaining popularity as a means to protect the environment and to recycle materials efficiently into the farming systems. For example, there are Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plants, based on anaerobic digestion of cow manure, that are highly efficient in harnessing the untapped renewable energy potential of organic waste by converting the biodegradable fraction of the waste into high calorific gases. The establishment of anaerobic digestion systems for livestock manure stabilization and energy production has accelerated substantially in the past several years especially in western countries. There are thousands of digesters operating at commercial livestock facilities in Europe, United States, Asia that are generating such clean energy and fuel from biogas produced from animal fecal waste.
Other interesting uses of animal feces in the past include the following;
- For Traditional medicine and remedies
A very long time ago, our ancestors depended solely on traditional remedies to cure their ills. They used plants, animals, magic, and a lot of different minerals. Even today, a lot of people still use a wide range of traditional medicine.
In China, tiger parts and products are some of the most important ingredients in traditional medicine. Tiger feces have been used to treat boils, hemorrhoids, and alcoholism.
About 80 percent of Africans also employ traditional medicine for their health care. A lot of animal feces are applied for such treatments, including that of elephants, palm squirrels, chimpanzees, mongooses, civet cats, and cane rats. These animals’ feces are used for a lot of problems, such as gonorrhea, keloids, barrenness, and miscarriages as well as for spiritual strength and powers.
- For Birth Control
In 2000 BC, Egyptian physicians recommended using pessaries of crocodile dung as a spermicide. While this ancient birth control method is no doubt unavailable at your local pharmacy, you can probably ask your local crocodile to provide it under the table.
- About Elephants and Paper Products
Since elephants only digest 45% of their food, and the waste product is mostly fiber, the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, Northern Thailand has developed a method for making elephant dung into paper. The paper is later cut and fashioned into handmade notebooks. Amazingly, an elephant can generate enough dung to make 115 pages of paper a day (or an 1/8th of a Stephen King novel).
As for the process, papermakers boil the fibers for sterilization before spinning and framing them into paper. Of course, elephants aren’t the only ones getting into the stationery business. In Thailand, Panda Poop Paper is also quite popular, and the Welsh company Sheep Poo Paper has also managed to make paper from, you guessed it, sheep dung.
- About Llamas to Fight Pollution
Oddly enough, in Bolivia, llama dung is being used to combat pollution in the water supply from abandoned mines. The microbes living in the dung neutralize the acidic water and remove dissolved metals like iron, neutralizing the pH of the water. This filtration method isn’t unique to Bolivia, though. The technique was originally developed in the United Kingdom through use of cattle and horse manure.
- Bats to Fight Wars
Up until World War I, bat caves were essential resources, providing American soldiers with materials for gunpowder and explosives. That’s because dried bat guano consists largely of saltpeter (potassium nitrate). In fact, it’s been used by the United States as early as the War of 1812 for making gunpowder. Bat droppings also played a major role in prolonging the Civil War. During the conflict, nearly every substantial Gray Bat cave in the South was harvested for its guano, and the Confederacy relied on these caves as a source for saltpeter long after supply lines were cut off.
- Moose Droppings for Tourists
Fecal droppings from moose are made into souvenirs in Alaska, Maine, Colorado and Canada. In fact, Talkeetna, Alaska has an annual Moose Dropping Festival every July. Highlights of the event include the Moose Dropping Drop Game, where numbered nuggets of moose dropping are tossed out of a helicopter and participants place bets on where they will land. There’s also a Moose Poop Toss Game. And bagpipers. Really! Typical moose poop souvenirs include Moose Poop earrings, Moose Nugget swizzle sticks, Moose Poop tie tacks, and Moose Poop mugs.