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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Atmospheric Pollutants and Trace Gases

Assessment of the Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6) Tracer Technique for Measuring Enteric Methane Emissions from Cattle


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 35 No. 5, p. 1686-1691
    Received: Feb 7, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): mcginns@agr.gc.ca
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  1. S. M. McGinn *a,
  2. K. A. Beauchemina,
  3. A. D. Iwaasab and
  4. T. A. McAllistera
  1. a Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, P.O. Box 3000, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1J 4B1
    b Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Swift Current, SK, Canada S9H 3X2


A commonly used method of measuring enteric methane (CH4) emissions from ruminants is the SF6 tracer technique that measures respired and eructated CH4 However, within the animal, a small proportion of CH4 is produced post-ruminally and some of this may escape through the rectum. The comparison of emissions using a chamber technique that measures all enteric CH4 losses, and the SF6 tracer technique, could give some insight into the magnitude of post-ruminal emission. The objective of our study was to assess the precision and accuracy of the SF6 tracer technique against a chamber technique for cattle fed a range of diets. Using a repeated-measures design, eight beef heifers were offered a high grain or high forage diet for ad libitum or restricted (65% of ad libitum) feed intake to vary the site of digestion within the gastrointestinal tract (n = 24). The SF6 tracer technique underestimated CH4 emissions on average by 4% relative to the chamber technique. This difference was not significant (P > 0.05) and suggests low post-ruminal CH4 emissions. There was a trend for greater accuracy and precision of the SF6 tracer technique when used with cattle fed a high forage diet at a restricted level of intake. The high forage diet corresponds to the conditions of cattle grazing pasture, suggesting the SF6 tracer technique is most reliable for the grazing system.

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Copyright © 2006. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyASA, CSSA, SSSA