Katie Couric's recent two part series on CBS News exploring the potential for antibiotic use in livestock to promote drug resistance forms of disease in humans was professionally prepared and presented and (to most lay observers) avoided the appearance of one sided, "gotcha" journalism that is so common today. Any reasonable consumer or producer should have been concerned by the contents of her reports.
The temporal context for CBS' series (as well as the recent ABC nightline report on animal abuse on a dairy) is to create a negative public perception about animal agriculture in an attempt to promote Obama administration supported legislation that would prohibit, restrict and regulate much of the antibiotic use current available in livestock. Bills are moving forward in
the Senate and the House now - with briefings and hearings occurring weekly.
Unfortunately, CBS highlighted only a few carefully selected items of interest and suppressed a large body of science and research that contradicts the point of view they wished to promote. They were even less careful to correctly and scientifically interpret the information that was presented.
For a "fair and balanced" evaluation of the report and the underlying facts, a document prepared by Dr. Scott Hurd of Iowa State. He reviewed the first CBS segment and highlighted the statements where the facts don't match up with the story. You can also find this information at http://vetmed.iastate.edu/news/isu-associate-professor-and-former-usda-deputy-undersecretary-food-safety-responds-cbs-news-seg. You might find this information useful as background if you need to respond to questions and concerns that might be expressed by friends and neighbors who saw the TV reports.
This Methane Digester science is really hard to understand, and we've been working hard for the last 17 months trying to figure out why our digester, which is supposed to produce about 800 KW on two generators, can only produce 550-600 KW total. Early on we realized that these super generators are designed to be more effecient at the upper levels of electric production. So while it appeared there was enough gas to produce 800 KW, when we started both engines up we could only get about 250 KW on each engine, totalling 500 KW between the two engines. This occured because the engines dropped down into the inefficient production curve, so our challenge became to produce enough gas to get the engines up into a more efficient part of each engines power curve.
This week for some unknown reason, the Digester gas pressure leaped! We we're generating 575 KW, the highest KW we are willing to run one generator without putting undue stress on it. Amazingly, we also maintained 8" of water column on our pressure guage, which is the point at which the emergency gas release valves open to prevent damaging the structure of the Digester. It took us all day yesterday to get the programming done and generator 2 ready to run, but after everything lined up we started running both generators yesterday around 8pm and maintained 625 KW all night long! This an all new record for Bridgewater Dairy. We hope that this continues to increase slowly, and maybe some day soon we will be producing our much longed for 800 KW, 400 KW per generator.
Oh yeah, the best part is the question, what did we do differently. The answer: We have no idea! Some friends of ours with digesters have said that after about a year and half of running their digesters, things just got better, well maybe thats what happened to us. Who knows, but lets hope this continues!!
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