cows

Robots have arrived at Bill and Carol Shuler's farm near Baroda, Mich., and life has taken a turn for the better.

"It absolutely changes your lifestyle. It gives you a life!" says Bill Shuler.

For decades — for the entire time that Bill and Carol have been married, in fact — the Shuler family's routine was practically set in stone: Get up at 3:45 a.m., clean the barn, feed the cows and milk them. Then get breakfast and take care of other work around the farm. At 3 p.m., go back to the barn to feed and milk the cows again.

Like the human gut, the belly of every bovine contains a microbial engine — engines, really — since cows have four-part stomachs. Those unicellular inhabitants do most of the digestive acrobatics of processing a cow's gnarly, fibrous diet of grains, hay, and grass. They're also responsible for some of the cattle industry's greenhouse gas contributions, since, as it turns out, cows don't make methane. Microbes make methane.

Cattle pass a lot of gas, and the methane from their flatulence and especially, their belches, is an expanding burden on the planet. The greenhouse gas has a warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide.

"Lovingly ripped off" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the musical Spamalot has fun with the legend of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table - complete with cows, killer rabbits, Knights who say "Ni," beautiful show girls and French people. Tracy Ross is joined by Jeff Miller (King Arthur) and Joanne Robertson (Lady of the Lake) for a preview of the Playhouse in the Park Production. 

From NPR: Farmers are peering over a dairy cliff as they wait for Congress to pass the new farm bill. With this summer’s drought their feed is more valuable than the milk the cows produce after eating it.