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July 2007

Do Dietary Changes Reduce Air Emissions from Animal Feeding Operations?

Wendy Powers
Dept. of Animal Science
Dept. of Biosystems and
Agricultural Engineering

Animal feeding operations (AFOs) and their air emissions have come under increasing scrutiny. As part of a U.S. EPA and livestock industry joint National Air Emissions Monitoring Study, efforts are underway to collect baseline emission data from AFOs around the country. With new air quality regulations for AFOs likely in the near future, in addition to baseline data, there is urgent need to identify ways to reduce or mitigate air emissions. Strategies to reduce air emissions from AFOs must be found.

Identified strategies must be able to effectively control or reduce air emissions in a manner that is affordable without compromising animal performance, such as the amount of feed needed to produce a unit of milk, meat, or eggs. Livestock receipts are an important part of Michigan’s economy so providing solutions is a critical need to ensuring that this sector of the economy remains viable and that it does so in an environmentally-friendly way.

The MSU Departments of Animal Science and Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering are exploring ways to change animal diets as one option for livestock producers. Dietary strategies offer the opportunity to reduce or control the formation of undesirable emissions (source control) as opposed to treating or capturing emissions after they have formed.

The approaches include reducing nutrient excesses in the diet by changing diet ingredients or nutrient concentrations, re-formulation of diets to better meet the needs of animals as they grow and lactate, and using dietary additives to prevent the formation of emissions in the digestive tract or from excreta.

Results of work conducted at Iowa State University have been promising, particularly for ammonia emissions. Observed reductions have been as high as 50 percent in swine, 40 percent, for laying hens, and 30 percent in broiler chickens without any negative impacts on animal performance. In addition to ammonia emissions, some strategies have demonstrated reduction of emissions of other gases (such as methane). This may eventually lead to opportunities for producers to receive payments for carbon credits they can generate via reduced emissions. This aspect of the work is in the early stages and programs for carbon payments as a result of diet strategies do not currently exist. But with promising results, there is merit to pursue this as a potential income opportunity for producers.

Work will begin soon with lactating and growing dairy cattle and turkeys in the MSU Animal Air Quality Research Facility currently under construction across from the MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Center on south campus. This work funded by USDA and the MSU Animal Industry Coalition is expected to begin in Fall 2007 following the completion of construction of the laboratory facility specifically designed to address this prominent issue facing the Michigan and U.S. livestock industries.





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