Methane digesters are great for reducing an electric bill, but they also make great bedding for cows once the solids are separated.

In 2006, Emerling Farm in Perry, N.Y., built a digester for the 1,200-cow operation after the town of Perry approached the farm about building the system.

According to co-owner Mike Emerling, when the digester is running properly it will cover all of the electricity needs for a year and then some.

“In the summertime, we don’t make quite enough to meet all of our needs with the fans

and all of our cooling practices here, so we’ll take back from the grid,” Emerling says. “In the wintertime, we make about double of what we can use, so we’re allowed to bank that with the power company and use it in the summertime when we need it.”

The typical electric bill without the digester would be $8,000 to $10,000 per month, and just last year the system paid for itself.

“Another thing we did about four years ago was we put a separator in to separate the solids out of our cow manure,” Emerling says. “We now have two separators. We squeeze all of the solids out and the liquid goes into a lagoon.”

All of the solids are then kept back to make bedding for the cows in free-stall barns. Deep solid manure beds are made with an 8-inch curb in the back to keep the solids in place.

“We definitely see a benefit in cow health with the deep beds,” Emerling relates.