Think Factory Farming And Methane, When It Comes To Climate Change!

Veterinary Tales To Save The Animals

Factory Farming And Methane

Ruminants make a LOT of methane, which contributes to global warming.

Eat a little less meat, to make a difference.

You can save the animals and the planet, with a change of diet.

The best place is to start is to eat less meat, and avoid factory farmed products.

Try a Meatless Monday for a start! It’s no big deal!

The veterinary tale recorded here, occurred in the County of Somerset.

In the South West of England, in 1969.

There were no factory farms back then. Just small, family units. These people got to know their livestock. I was working as a country vet, attending to sheep and cattle most of the time. Not much more than a boy.

A call came into the practice, from a remote farm.

A bloated sheep!

Bloated sheepYou have to get there quick, or they die. I took the job off the book, and rushed off in my Morris Traveller. The perfect car for a country vet, at that time. Plenty of room for calving ropes, surgical gear, and an array of medicines and anesthetics.

The ewe (pronounced ‘yaw’ in Somerset), a young female sheep, was lying on dry straw, in an old barn. She was struggling to breath, gasping for air. The cobwebbed barn was full to the rafters, with straw bales. There was a clear area by the door, under a window, for us to do our work.

The young farmer, approximately my own age (late 20s), was a nice chap. During my examination, he asked me about bloat. It’s often caused by a change of diet, such as going from grass to rich clover. Methane gas accumulates in the rumen. The largest compartment of the stomach of sheep and cattle. This results in abdominal swelling, pressure on the chest, and asphyxiation. Unless the rumen gas is released, which is where I came in!

Trocar and cannulaI extracted my trocar and cannula from the car.

A trocar is a sharp, metal spike, about 6 inches long and a quarter of an inch in diameter. Designed to penetrate the tough skin of sheep and cattle. It fits snuggly inside the cannula, with the sharp tip exposed.

The trocar and cannula, as a single unit, are pushed into the gas pocket in the rumen. It’s inserted just behind the last rib, high on the flank, near the spine. Upon removing the trocar from the cannula, the gas escapes, to the relief of the sheep.

FitOldDog's global warming eat less meat mugI had the unit installed, and I was about to withdraw the trocar from the cannula. Interrupting me, the young farmer, said, “Kevin, I heard that this gas is flammable. It burns! Is that true?
I replied that it was. He then became excited, asking me if I had ever ignited the gas. I had not, but I was only too happy to give it a try, if he wanted me to.

Boys love to play with fire.

Was he agreeable to this idea? Agreeable? He immediately reached into his pocket, and pulled out a box of matches! He had planned it all along!

I considered the sheep to be at no risk. From what I expected to be a small blue flame, much like a candle.

Cow and methaneI pulled out the trocar. Gas escaped with a hiss. He reached out, with the lighted match.


A bluish-yellow blaze, about eight feet long, shot out of the sheep’s side. Just missing us, it set light to the pile of straw bales, behind us. And did they burn? The fire spread, and we came close to burning down his barn. After beating out the fire with old sacs, we fell about in hysterical laughter.

The sheep was fine, by the way.

I was a conscientious vet.

I bet that story about the ‘young vit-n-ry and a flaming yaw’ was worth a pint or two down the local pub that night, and for years to come.

I never did dare to try it in a cow.


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.