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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 35 No. 2, p. 404-411
    Received: Feb 7, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): rtodd@cprl.ars.usda.gov
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Reducing Crude Protein in Beef Cattle Diet Reduces Ammonia Emissions from Artificial Feedyard Surfaces

  1. Richard W. Todd *,
  2. N. Andy Cole and
  3. R. Nolan Clark
  1. USDA-ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory, P.O. Drawer 10, Bushland, TX 79012


Concentrated animal feeding operations are major sources of ammonia to the atmosphere. Control methods to reduce emissions include acidifying amendments, urease inhibitors, and absorbents. For beef cattle, decreasing crude protein (CP) in diets may be the most practical and cost-effective method to reduce ammonia emissions. Our objective was to quantify the effect of reducing CP in beef cattle diet on ammonia emissions. Two groups of steers were fed diets with either 11.5 or 13.0% CP and all urine and feces were collected. Manures from the two diet treatments were applied in a replicated laboratory chamber experiment, and ammonia emission was quantified using acid gas washing. In four seasonal field trials, manures from the two diet treatments were applied to two 10-m-diameter, circular, artificial feedyard surfaces, and ammonia emission was quantified using the integrated horizontal flux method. Manure from steers fed 11.5% CP diet had less urine, less urinary N, and a lesser fraction of total N in urine, compared with the 13.0% CP diet. Decreasing crude protein in beef cattle diets from 13 to 11.5% significantly decreased ammonia emission by 44% (p < 0.01) in the closed chamber laboratory experiment, and decreased mean daily ammonia flux by 30% (p = 0.10), 52% (p = 0.08), and 29% (p < 0.01) in summer, autumn, and spring field trials, respectively. No difference was observed in winter. On an annual basis, decreasing crude protein reduced daily ammonia flux by 28%. Reducing crude protein in beef cattle diets may provide the most practical and cost-effective way to reduce ammonia emissions from feedyards.

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