Articles | Volume 10, issue 1
Biogeosciences, 10, 327–338, 2013
Biogeosciences, 10, 327–338, 2013

Research article 23 Jan 2013

Research article | 23 Jan 2013

Ammonia emissions from cattle urine and dung excreted on pasture

J. Laubach1, A. Taghizadeh-Toosi2,*, S. J. Gibbs3, R. R. Sherlock2, F. M. Kelliher4, and S. P. P. Grover1,** J. Laubach et al.
  • 1Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand
  • 2Department of Soil and Physical Sciences, Lincoln University, Lincoln, New Zealand
  • 3Department of Agricultural Sciences, Lincoln University, Lincoln, New Zealand
  • 4Ag Research, Lincoln Research Centre, Lincoln, New Zealand
  • *now at: Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, Tjele, Denmark
  • **now at: Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Abstract. Twelve cattle were kept for three days in a circular area of 16 m radius on short pasture and fed with freshly-cut pasture. Ammonia (NH3) emissions from the urine and dung excreted by the cattle were measured with a micrometeorological mass-balance method, during the cattle presence and for 10 subsequent days. Daily-integrated emission rates peaked on Day 3 of the experiment (last day of cattle presence) and declined steadily for five days thereafter. Urine patches were the dominant sources for these emissions. On Day 9, a secondary emissions peak occurred, with dung pats likely to be the main sources. This interpretation is based on simultaneous observations of the pH evolution in urine patches and dung pats created next to the circular plot. Feed and dung samples were analysed to estimate the amounts of nitrogen (N) ingested and excreted. Total N volatilised as NH3 was 19.8 (± 0.9)% of N intake and 22.4 (± 1.3)% of N excreted. The bimodal shape of the emissions time series allowed to infer separate estimates for volatilisation from urine and dung, respectively, with the result that urine accounted for 88.6 (± 2.6)% of the total NH3 emissions. The emissions from urine represented 25.5 (± 2.0)% of the excreted urine-N, while the emissions from dung amounted to 11.6 (± 2.7)% of the deposited dung-N. Emissions from dung may have continued after Day 13 but were not resolved by the measurement technique. A simple resistance model shows that the magnitude of the emissions from dung is controlled by the resistance of the dung crust.

Final-revised paper