Virtually everything about a cow can be utilized by the rancher or farmer. The cow's milk provides dairy products like cream and cheese. The meat provides beef and the hides are the source of leather. Because cows generate a significant amount of manure, farmers and ranchers are always looking for ways to utilize or dispose of it. Some methods turn the matter into a useful product.
Fertilizer and Compost
Cow manure makes excellent fertilizer and compost material. Composting manure to use as fertilizer involves piling the manure and allowing it to decompose. It is shoveled onto a flat area, turned regularly and kept slightly moist (like a wrung out sponge). The material is used as fertilizer or added to the home compost pile when recycling vegetable peels, produce scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, shredded paper, plant clippings and other organic matter. The material generated at the home compost pile is used to amend or enrich the soil.
Cow manure becomes fuel in some parts of the world. It can be made into methane gas. In Europe and the United States, a process using anaerobic digesters harvest biogas from processed manure, which then generates electricity. Countries such as India are working to find ways to best utilize cow manure as fuel.
Cow Pie Throw
Un-shoveled, dry cow manure or cow pies are also used in an athletic competition referred to cow pie tossing or cow chip throws. In 1970 the Cimarron Territory Celebration accepted cow chip tossing as a sport and began holding events every year in Beaver, Oklahoma. The Sauk Prairie Area was recognized as the Cow Chip Capital of Wisconsin in 1975 and the first State Cow Chip Throw was organized. The Wisconsin State Legislature declared the cow chip the "Unofficial State Muffin" in 1989.
Historically, cow manure was used to build structures, such as houses. Homes built from cow manure are found in Africa, Latin America, the American Southwest and India. Cow dung is used to make building bricks in Indonesia. In 2007, researchers at Michigan State University were exploring the feasibility of sterilized cow manure replacing sawdust in fiberboard.