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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Livestock Nutrient Management Research » Research » Research Project #441154

Research Project: Strategies to Manage Feed Nutrients, Reduce Gas Emissions, and Promote Soil Health for Beef and Dairy Cattle Production Systems of the Southern Great Plains

Location: Livestock Nutrient Management Research

2023 Annual Report

Objective 1: Improve use of manure as a soil amendment and develop manure processing and treatment technologies to increase production value of manure and reduce manure constituent losses to the environment. Sub-objective 1A: Determine optimal rates of manure application on soil nutrient cycling, crop productivity, and soil health on the Southern Great Plains. Sub-objective 1B: Assess long-term (36-47 y) legacy effects of high rates of land-applied beef cattle manure on soil properties on the Southern Great Plains. Sub-objective 1C: Determine long- and short-term impact of cattle manure on soil parameters attributed to soil health. Objective 2: Quantify and develop practices to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other gases of concern to improve nutrient use efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint of beef and dairy production systems. Sub-objective 2A: Assess the impact of environmental conditions and management practices on emissions of GHG from open-lot beef and dairy cattle production systems. Sub-objective 2B: Assess the effect of land-applied manure on emissions of N2O and CH4 from soils. Sub-objective 2C: Quantify NH3 and organic N deposition downwind of beef feedyards and open-lot dairies on the SGP. Objective 3: Assess feed additives and alternative feedstocks to reduce enteric CH4 emission and improve cattle nutrient utilization. Sub-objective 3A: In vitro fermentation experiments can identify feed additives and ingredients that can reduce CH4 emissions in beef cattle. Sub-objective 3B: Assess the effects of feed additives and ingredients on enteric CH4 production and performance of live beef cattle. Sub-objective 3C: Design, construction, and testing of respiration chambers for quantification of enteric CH4 and N2O emissions from cattle.

Beef and dairy cattle provide vital human nutrition and important economic activity to a diverse U.S. population. Nevertheless, cattle production is linked to climate change and other environmental consequences. This research project will take a multidisciplinary approach to understand and mitigate environmental risks from cattle systems common to the semi-arid Southern Great Plains (SGP). Over six million beef cattle are finished annually in SGP open-lot feedyards, and over 400,000 cows are milked, with most being in open lots containing thousands of cows. We will quantify and improve prediction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ammonia deposition from cattle systems. Research will focus on the predominant agricultural GHGs, methane and nitrous oxide. Sources of these emissions include cattle (enteric emissions), pen surfaces at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), fertilized soils, and emissions from soils near CAFO that receive ammonia deposition. Dietary effects on enteric GHG emissions (i.e., emissions from ruminant digestion) will be examined at scales ranging from laboratory studies to entire pens of cattle. We will study specific feed additives for reducing emissions, including malted barley and red seaweed. We will apply cattle manure at varying rates to different forage crops to determine best management practices for the SGP. We will quantify changes in soil health parameters, including salinity, nutrient content and soil physical factors, after manure application or land use change. The research project will provide science-based information and technologies for producers, extension specialists, and regulators to protect air quality, manage feedyard and dairy manure, and ultimately enhance efficiency and sustainability of cattle production.

Progress Report
Researchers at Bushland, Texas, completed the following research in FY23 for the project 3090-31630-006-000D “Strategies to Manage Feed Nutrients, Reduce Gas Emissions, and Promote Soil Health for Beef and Dairy Cattle Production Systems of the Southern Great Plains”. Objective 1: In collaboration with ARS-DAWG (Dairy Agroecosystems Working Group), researchers at Bushland investigated the long- and short-term effects of manure application on soil health, environmental quality, and cattle forage production. Bushland scientists conducted a greenhouse study where solid dairy manure was applied to forage typically used for cattle diets. Forage biomass, nutrient content, and soil health-related properties were investigated. Laboratory and statistical analyses for the greenhouse study are complete. Based on manure application rates determined from the greenhouse study, Bushland researchers designed and conducted a two-year small-plot study intended to quantify annual application rates of solid dairy manure for optimal crop yield and improved soil properties. Laboratory analyses are ongoing for soil health properties, including soil phosphorus. Statistical analyses are complete for year one of the small plot study and are underway for year two. Preliminary analyses indicate no observable differences in crop yield with different rates of dairy manure application as compared to inorganic fertilizer control. To determine long-term effects of manure application, a large field study was initiated to investigate the premise that crops can just as readily attain the benefits of manure (such as increased carbon, nitrogen, organic matter, microbial enzymes) when applied infrequently at high rates, as crops receiving annual manure applications. Bushland researchers established a large field study with state-of-the-art precision irrigation scheduling, which is a key component of agricultural sustainability in the water-limited Texas Panhandle. In FY2023, the center points of 64 planned treatment plots were georeferenced and pre-plant soil samples were taken from each of these plots in April of 2023. Alfalfa was planted May 12, 2022, to establish a perennial forage system. In June 2023, manure and commercial fertilizer were applied to the established alfalfa plots and to corn forage plots. Corn forage was planted in June 2023. Soil moisture content was measured by weekly neutron probe readings. These readings were used to manage irrigation rate scheduling to meet full evaporative demand of the two forage systems. In a historic legacy manure application site started by Stewart et al. (1973) and located on Conservation and Production Research Laboratory (CPRL) property, Bushland scientists characterized remaining effects of previous manure application on soil parameters relevant to dairy forage production. Soil samples from a historical site established 47 years ago were collected. Soil health laboratory analyses are ongoing. Preliminary investigation showed very few differences in soil properties among plots that received different rates of solid beef cattle manure decades ago. However, other studies show different rates of soil respiration, an indicator of microbial activity, in plots that received higher rates of manure application. In addition, differences have been noted in specific phosphorus forms and phosphatase activity among the differentially amended plots, even after more than 4 decades. Statistical analyses are complete and manuscript preparation is underway. Objective 2: Sixteen automated flux chambers were placed in an open-lot pen at a commercial feedlot to assess the temporal and spatial effects of pen surface material removal to varying depths on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Data have been collected and analyses are underway. A commercial dairy has been identified for the measurement and quantification of GHG emissions. Plans are being developed to deploy chambers at a dairy this fall. Measurements of GHG emissions were taken from the small plot study using an automated chamber system connected to a real-time GHG analyzer to observe manure effects on environmental quality and GHG flux. Statistical analysis is underway for GHG flux. Preliminary results indicate an increase in nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) flux following rainfall events. N2O emissions were 3 times larger with a manure application rate of 200 tons/ac than was observed in control plots where commercial N fertilizer was applied. Manure application rates of 10 tons/ac and 100 tons/ac resulted in lower N2O losses than in inorganic control plots. In June 2023, dairy manure or commercial fertilizer were applied to plots and then automated chambers were deployed in corn and alfalfa plots. Currently, the chambers are connected to a multiplexer and a real-time GHG analyzer to observe manure effects on environmental quality and GHG flux. Data collection is ongoing. In collaboration with the USDA Ammonia Deposition from Animal Production Team (ADAPT), researchers at Bushland designed a study to measure ammonia transport from an open-lot beef cattle feedyard adjacent to Bushland cropland. Two 3-D anemometers, which will be used to measure windspeed and direction, were factory calibrated and then validated against other instruments onsite at Bushland. Next steps will be to deploy these anemometers downwind from the approximately 25,000-capacity animal beef feedyard that is typical of the Texas Panhandle. In addition, an array of acid trap filters will be placed at different distances from the feedyard to determine how far ammonia is transported. Soil and plant samples will also be collected to determine soil and plant enrichment. Objective 3: Bushland scientists conducted several in vitro and in vivo experiments to test effects of feed additives and dietary ingredients on enteric methane emissions and animal performance. We tested the dietary inclusion of Asparagopsis seaweed and a novel, high-anthocyanin corn cob meal on enteric methane emissions using in vitro gas production technique. The data have been collected and laboratory analysis has been completed. The manuscripts are currently being prepared for submission. This past fiscal year, several in vivo experiments have been performed. These include the feeding of high anthocyanin-containing corn cob-meal to beef cattle fed a high-roughage starter and a high-concentrate finisher diet. Data from these experiments are ready for analysis. In addition, statistical analyses need completion, and the manuscript needs to be prepared. Another in vivo experiment was conducted last year and evaluated the effects of ruminal degradable protein content on enteric and manure emissions. All laboratory and statistical analyses for this experiment are complete, with the manuscript currently being prepared for submission. Currently, Bushland scientists in collaboration with Texas A&M AgriLife researchers are conducting a feeding trial to determine how phase feeding fat influences enteric methane emissions by finishing beef cattle. Researchers have established an international collaboration with scientists from Japan, with future collaborative research planned to investigate cashew nut-shell liquid as an enteric methane inhibition strategy in beef finishing systems. Furthermore, Bushland scientists have outlined potential experiments for the next 7-years, which fit within this objective, for the funding which is anticipated to be provided from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Inflation Reduction Act starting at the end of FY23 and ending in FY31.

1. Including soybean and wheat cover crops ameliorates some consequences of long-term broiler litter application. The application of animal manure and inorganic fertilizer often causes accumulation of stable, legacy phosphorus in soils. This legacy phosphorus can disrupt normal phosphorus cycling and may present environmental risks to surface and groundwater water sources. Researchers from ARS Bushland, Texas, and ARS Auburn, Alabama, evaluated how long-term, repeated broiler litter applications to a soil in Alabama affected concentrations of specific fractions of inorganic and organic phosphorus under different crops (corn, soybean, corn or soybean with a wheat cover crop) and types of tillage (conventional tillage and no-tillage). These researchers found that repeated broiler litter application increased concentrations of all forms of soil phosphorus, and this was evident down to a depth of 10 cm. These results showed that broiler litter application significantly increased levels of mineral-associated organic phosphorus, but these effects could be reduced somewhat by including soybean rotations and wheat cover cropping, compared to corn monoculture.

2. Use of tannins promises to reduce urine nitrogen excretion and greenhouse gas emissions from manure. Agriculture contributes to the world-wide production of greenhouse gases (GHG), including methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Plant tannins have shown promise in reducing GHGs from various agricultural activities; however, data are lacking on the effects of plant tannins on CH4 and N2O emissions from dairy cattle manure. In one experiment, researchers from ARS (Bushland, Texas) and Lincoln University (New Zealand) investigated the ability of tannins to reduce urine nitrogen excretion. Results indicated that feeding dairy heifers 0.15% of their diet as tannins reduced urine nitrogen excretion by 12%. In another experiment, ARS scientists from Bushland, Texas, and Texas A & M AgriLife Research analyzed the effects of the addition of tannins to manure at two different dose levels (4 and 8%) on GHG emissions. Results indicated that one type of treatment (condensed tannins, CT) reduced CH4 emission by over 50% and cumulative N2O emissions by over 40% when applied directly to dairy cattle manure. Based on these ‘proof-of-concept’ results, CT appear to be a promising method to reduce GHG emissions from composted dairy cattle manure. Further research is needed to determine long-term effects of CT treatment and the feasibility of scaled up CT application to dairy cattle manure at dry lots typical of the Southern High Plains.

Review Publications
Min, B., Willis, W.M., Castleberry, B., Casey, K., Waldrip, H., Parker, D.B. 2022. Condensed and hydrolyzable tannins for reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions in dairy manure – a laboratory incubation study. Animals. 12(20). Article 2876.
Marshall, C.J., Beck, M.R., Garrett, K., Castillo, A.R., Barrell, G.K., Al-Marashdeh, O., Gregorini, P. 2022. The effect of feeding a mix of condensed and hydrolysable tannins to heifers on rumen fermentation patterns, blood urea nitrogen and amino acid profile. Livestock Science. 263(2022). Article e105034.
Waldrip, H., Parker, D., Miller, S., Durso, L.M., Miller, D.N., Casey, K., Woodbury, B.L., Spiehs, M.J. 2022. Microbial community structure from southern high plains beef cattle feedyard manure and relationship with nitrous oxide emissions. Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment. 5(3). Article e20292.
Beck, M.R., Thompson, L., Thompson, T.N., Stackhouse-Lawson, K., Archibuque, S. 2022. Implied climate warming contributions of enteric methane emissions are dependent on the estimate source and accounting methodology. Applied Animal Science. 38(6):639-647.
Lee, M., Koziel, J.A., Ramirez, B.C., Chen, B., Li, Y. 2022. An all-in-one concept of a mobile system for on-farm swine depopulation, pathogen inactivation, off-site carcass disposal, and biosecure cleanup. AgriEngineering. 4(4):1184-1199.
Tommasi, A., Tredoux, A.G., Koziel, J.A., Esposito, G. 2022. Chemical characterization of the marking fluid of breeding and non-breeding male cheetahs. Animals. 12(17). Article 2284.
Sobieraj, K., Stegenta-Dabrowska, S., Luo, G., Koziel, J.A., Bialowiec, A. 2023. Biological treatment of biowaste as an innovative source of CO – the role of composting process. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. 11. Article 1126737.
Lee, M., Koziel, J.A., Li, P., Jenks, W. 2022. UV-A photocatalysis in livestock and poultry farming. In Encyclopedia.
Li, P., Koziel, J.A., Macedo, N., Zimmerman, J.J., Wrzesinski, D., Sobotka, E., Balderas, M., Walz, W.B., Paris, R., Lee, M., Liu, D., Yedilbayev, B., Ramirez, B.C., Jenks, W.S. 2022. Evaluation of an air cleaning device equipped with filtration and UV: comparison of removal efficiency on particulate matter and viable airborne bacteria in the inlet and treated air. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 19(23). Article 16135.
Marshall, C.J., Garrett, K., Van Vliet, S., Beck, M.R., Gregorini, P. 2022. Dietary and animal strategies to reduce the environmental impact of pastoral dairy systems result in altered nutraceutical profiles in milk. Animals. 12(21). Article 2994.
Waldrip, H., Thompson, T.N., Koziel, J.A., Watts, D.B., Torbert III, H.A. 2023. Legacy phosphorus in Alabama Hartsells soil after long-term amendment with broiler litter. Journal of Environmental Quality. 52(4):897-906.
Tommasi, A., Tredoux, A.G., Koziel, J.A., Esposito, G. 2023. The effect of a synthetic scent on cheetah behaviour. Animals. 13(3). Article 369.
Beck, M.R., Marshall, C.J., Garrett, K., Campbell, T.N., Foote, A.P., Vibart, R., Pacheco, D., Gregorini, P. 2023. Meta-regression to develop predictive equations for urinary nitrogen excretion of lactating dairy cows. Animals. 13(4). Article 620.