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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Livestock Bio-Systems » Research » Research Project #431148

Research Project: Sustainable Management and Byproduct Utilization of Manure Nutrients and Environmental Contaminants from Beef and Swine Production Facilities

Location: Livestock Bio-Systems

2018 Annual Report

Objective 1: Determine the impact of meat animal dietary changes on manure and the environment. Sub-objective 1A: Determine if a moderate and aggressive implant strategy with and without ß-agonists reduces odorous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and GHG production from fresh and stored beef manure (Spiehs). • Sub-objective 1B: Determine if the addition of ferric citrate to beef feedlot diets reduces nutrient excretion, GHG, and odorous VOCs from fresh and stored beef manure (Spiehs). • Sub-objective 1C: Determine if the addition of an ionophore to improve feed efficiency reduces odorous VOCs and GHG production from fresh and stored beef manure (Spiehs). Objective 2: Develop practices for reducing environmental impacts of nutrients, pharmaceutical residues, gaseous emissions and other agricultural waste on soil and air quality through improved manure management and control systems. • Sub-objective 2A: Conduct a series of laboratory studies to determine the impact of within pen spatial location and climatic conditions on GHG and odorous VOCs emissions from beef feedlot pen surfaces and the effectiveness of surface amendments as a mitigant (Woodbury and Spiehs). • Sub-objective 2B: Evaluate the use of electromagnetic induction (EMI) and response surface sampling design (RSSD) as tools for predicting emission spatial variability on commercial-sized pen surfaces (Woodbury). • Sub-objective 2C: Evaluate the addition of surface amendment on commercial-sized pens for reducing odorous VOCs and GHG emissions (Woodbury and Spiehs). • Sub-objective 2D: Determine occurrence of antimicrobial resistance following land application of cattle manure to agricultural soils (Spiehs and Woodbury). • Sub-objective 2E: Determine residual steroid and ß-agonist concentrations in feces and urine of beef cattle administered a moderate and aggressive implant strategy with and without ß-agonists (Spiehs). Objective 3: Develop measurement technologies for manure contaminants that can be used for conducting field-scale fate and transport studies in crop and pasture systems. Sub-objective 3A: Develop techniques and analysis software protocols that will enable the wide-spread use of resistivity array (RA) technology by pond managers as an early-warning system for detecting unintended sub-surface discharge (Woodbury and Eigenberg). • Sub-objective 3B: Develop techniques for tracking and mapping the 2-dimentional transport of antimicrobial residues in crop and hay fields (Woodbury and Eigenberg). • Sub-objective 3C: Determine the effectiveness of flocculation for removing excreted veterinarian pharmaceuticals from beef runoff wastewater and swine-manure lagoon water (Woodbury and Spiehs).

Concentrated animal feeding operations are a source of environmental concerns, and are creating unease between livestock producers and the rural and urban communities, dependent upon livestock production. The organic, inorganic, pathogenic, and pharmaceutical residues in manure are potential sources for contamination of soil, surface and groundwater, and air quality. The multifaceted, integrated research proposed here will provide valuable information for managing the impact of manure on the environment. This work is centered on beef production and the pen surface since it is where manure is most concentrated and management can have the greatest impact. The approach begins at the pen surface by examining inputs such as diets. Experiments will investigate how inputs such as feed additives and pharmaceutical supplements alter the nutrient composition of beef manure and resulting air quality. Next, a series of experiments are planned to better understand how emission characteristics vary based on the spatial location within the pen. In addition to the spatial component, a series of studies will continue developing a database of the impact climatic conditions have on the types and amounts of emissions from pen surfaces. It is anticipated this information will provide insight for the development of precision pen surface management practices for improved environmental control. Additional experiments will examine the transport and fate of antimicrobials and nutrients through commercial-sized beef production systems. Successful completion of this work will benefit livestock producers by helping them apply best management practices and equipping them to be good stewards for sustainable agriculture.

Progress Report
A laboratory study was conducted to determine the effect of surface amendments applied to feedlot pens on emissions of greenhouse gas and other odorous compounds (Objective 2). Aluminum sulfate (alum) was added at rates of 0, 2.5, 5, and 10% of the mass of pen surface material. Over a 35-day collection period, emissions of ammonia, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide were reduced when alum was added, with the 10% alum providing the most benefit. Hydrogen sulfide emissions were higher when alum was added. Ammonium nitrogen concentrations were higher in the feedlot surface material with 5% and 10% alum inclusion compared to no alum, making this a more favorable fertilizer to be land applied. Using the optimum rate determined in the study above, a series of 21-day laboratory studies were conducted to determine the impact amendments on reducing gas emissions (Objective 2). Pen location was based on electromagnetic induction data representing the pen spatial manure accumulation. Preliminary analysis indicates greater carbon dioxide emission from the bunk area. Alum reduced nitrous oxide emission across all locations over the length of the study. As with the previous study, alum increased hydrogen sulfide emissions for the first 4 days but no difference was detected after. The addition of lime increased ammonia emissions for all locations but until day 4 but no differences were detected after that period. Additional work will investigate other amendments and the precision application of the amendments to locations within commercial-sized pens with the greatest emissions as a management option. A laboratory study was conducted on manure collected from spring- and fall-born calves to determine the impact of beta-agonists on odor production (Objective 1). The beta-agonists provide an additional pathway for the animal to utilize nutrients in feed thereby reducing nutrients in the excreted manure. Reducing excreted nutrients lowered the emissions of the odorous compounds hydrogen sulfide, total sulfides, and total branch-chained fatty acids from cattle feces, but did not alter ammonia emissions. A field study was continued to determine the fate of antimicrobials following land application of beef manure (Objective 2). Treatments included beef manure with and without bedding, commercial fertilizer, and no fertilizer. Antimicrobial residues breakdown significantly during the one-month storage period prior to land application. Some applications resulted in small increases in antimicrobial resistance immediately after land application of manure but were not sustained. Based on these observations, land application of cattle manure does not increase long-term antimicrobial resistance levels. During fiscal year 2017, a second study expanded the study above to examine antimicrobial residues following land application of swine and beef manure and municipal biosolids (Objective 2). Soil samples were collected from the fields prior to application of the respective wastes and from nearby fields that received only commercial fertilizer. Samples were collected after harvest in the Fall of 2017 and are currently being analyzed for antimicrobial residues. During fiscal year 2018, a third study was added to determine the fate of antimicrobials in swine and beef manure following land application (Objective 2). Treatments included beef manure with and without antibiotics, swine manure with and without antibiotics, commercial fertilizer (urea), and no fertilizer. Soil samples were collected from the fields prior to application of the respective wastes, immediately following land application of the manure and commercial fertilizer in the fall, and immediately prior to planting in the spring. Additional samples will be collected during the growing season and following harvest. A study was initiated to determine the impact of steroid implants on residues in livestock waste (Objective 1). Aggressive and moderate implant strategies were evaluated. Aggressive implants promote improved utilization of fed nutrients, which may reduce nutrient excretion and alter emissions. Fecal and urine samples from calves born in the Fall of 2016 and 2017 and calves born in the Spring 2017 were collected. Samples will be collected in September 2018 from calves born in Fall 2017. Preliminary results indicate no significant differences in ammonia or hydrogen sulfide emissions from cattle waste given an aggressive implant compared to moderate implants. However, when aggressive implants were used, significant reduction in nitrous oxide emissions and reduction in carbon dioxide emissions were observed. Samples are currently being processed to determine steroid concentrations in the waste. A series of studies were initiated to develop a process for removing antimicrobials from agricultural wastewater (Objective 2). The first study determined diatomaceous earth was effective for removing antimicrobials from wastewater. The second study determined the grade of diatomaceous earth that contained the most clays and organic matter was the most efficient for removing certain antibiotics. The effectiveness of this diatomaceous earth was improved by removing the organic matter coating on the particles. Once bound, the diatomaceous earth with the antimicrobials was separated from wastewater before being used for irrigation. Regeneration of diatomaceous earth is being tested to determine the recyclability of the material for wastewater treatment. Based on the study described above, diatomaceous earth can be used to remove antibiotics and metabolites from wastewaters; however, it can only remove antibiotics that have specific properties. Alternative binding agents are being synthesized to remove a greater range of antibiotics, their metabolites and other endocrine disrupting compounds (Objective 2). Additional work is being done to investigate pretreating the wastewater to remove suspended solids to improve efficiency of the treatment process. Preliminary analysis indicates improved removal using pre-treatment. A study was initiated to develop a technique using electromagnetic induction (EMI) for tracking the transport and fate of antibiotics in the environment (Objective 3). Electromagnetic induction has been used effectively for tracking other contaminants. Preliminary analysis indicates some potential for using this technique. Work continues to improve the technique as a cost-effective tool for mitigating environmental contamination by antibiotics used during beef production.

1. Development of data analysis protocol for new leak detection technology. Improved data interpretation abilities are needed for the recently developed ARS Wastewater Pond Leak Detector. ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, developed a method that has: 1) a site-calibration to tailor analysis for most geologic and geographic settings, 2) establishes statistical-based thresholds for detecting leakage from natural environmental variability, 3) allows for detection sensitivity to be scaled, 4) provides a way to filter out background signal noise, and 5) provides a quantifiable framework for regulatory reporting. The protocol was incorporated into automated software that is being used at several demonstration sites across the United States. Work is nearly complete integrating the protocol with telecommunication technology so automated alerts can be sent to pond managers via the internet when potential problems are detected. These advanced technologies are now available to livestock producers and other stakeholders to accurately monitor their waste water ponds to prevent environmental contamination from manure nutrients or other contaminants.

2. Established wastewater pond leak detection technology in state of Washington. Two Wastewater Pond Leak Detectors were designed, constructed and installed by ARS researchers at Clay Center, Nebraska, in the state of Washington. Interest in the technology was driven by the desire to better protect groundwater quality. Recent lawsuits involving Washington dairies and groundwater quality illustrated the need for better tools that allowed stakeholders to improve stewardship management. The project was funded by a grant from the Washington Department of Agriculture to validate the effectiveness of the technology in the state of Washington. Data from the two systems were analyzed and potential problems were detected for one site. Additional investigations indicate the problems are not with wastewater containment but interferences from operations adjacent to the site. A plan of action was presented to the stakeholder to isolate the interference. The stakeholder is currently implementing the plan. This project confirms the adaptability of the new technology for leak detection in a variety of geological and geographical settings. Also, stakeholders are becoming familiar with many advantages of the data from the technology and the capacities it provides for improved stewardship management of wastewater ponds.

3. Animal diet impact on air quality. Animal diets can affect environmental air quality. The cattle feedlot industry has concerns that feeding wet distillers grains to feedlot cattle may be increasing odors in manure, reducing air quality for the producers and surrounding residents. ARS researchers at Clay Center, Nebraska, determined that some individual odorous compounds were slightly higher in the manure of cattle fed diets containing wet distillers grains with solubles; however, there was no significant difference between cattle fed diets containing either high-moisture corn or dry-rolled corn, with wet distillers grains with solubles at 25% or 45% of the ration. This study indicates that producers can feed either grain in combination with wet distillers grains with solubles without negatively impacting air quality.

4. Management options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions during beef production. Cattle feedlot and other industry stakeholders have concerns about the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from beef feedlots. To better understand this issue, ARS researchers at Clay Center, Nebraska, determined that the greatest greenhouse gas emissions from feedlot surfaces occurred under wet conditions at temperatures above of 25°C. Emissions under wet conditions for carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide were 35, 121, and 278 times greater, respectively, than emissions from dry surfaces. Additionally, diets without distillers grains produced carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions that were 1.8 and 1.5 times greater, respectively, than diets containing 35% distillers grains. The distillers grain diet, in contrast, produced methane emissions that were 6 times greater than diets without distillers grains. Based on these results feedlot managers need to consider several factors to more effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including maintenance of pen drainage to speed drying as well as the composition of feedlot rations for beef cattle.

5. Development of a treatment system to remove antibiotics from wastewater. Livestock and other industry stakeholders have concerns about antibiotic contamination in wastewater and the possibility of negative environmental effects. ARS researchers in Clay Center, Nebraska, determined that diatomaceous earth (DE) effectively binds and removes antibiotics from agricultural wastewaters even under extreme conditions such as high salt concentrations and varying pH. The efficiency that DE binds and removes antibiotics makes it an ideal component for a cost-effective treatment option. Additional work is underway to synthesize other binding agents to be used in combination with diatomaceous earth to expand the number of antibiotics, antibiotic metabolites and other endocrine disrupting contaminants removed from wastewater. This wastewater treatment process was developed for agricultural use but can also be used effectively for municipalities.

6. Development of a lab-scaled technique to simulate commercial cattle barns. A technique for lab-scaled bedded packs was developed by ARS researchers in Clay Center, Nebraska, to simulate commercial cattle barn scale bedded packs for gas emissions and the nutrient composition. The results verify that the lab-scale technique not only has similar physical and chemical characteristics to commercial barns, but also allows detection of significant differences between bedding materials. Seven peer-reviewed research manuscripts have been published using this innovative methodology. The simulated bedded packs allow researchers to quantify treatment differences among bedded packs before scaling up to commercial-scale studies, significantly lowering research costs and shortening research timelines.

Review Publications
Stromer, B.S., Woodbury, B.L., Williams, C.F. 2018. Tylosin sorption to diatomaceous earth described by Langmuir isotherm and Freundlich isotherm models. Chemosphere. 193:912-920.
Brown-Brandl, T.M., Chitko-McKown, C.G., Eigenberg, R.A., Mayer, J.J., Welsh, T.H., Davis, J.D., Purswell, J.L. 2017. Physiological responses of feedlot heifers provided access to different levels of shade. Animal. 11(8):1344-1353.
Gilley, J.E., Sindelar, A.J., Woodbury, B.L. 2016. Cropland filter strip removal of cattle manure constituents in runoff. Transactions of the ASABE. 59(6)/1681-1693.
Spiehs, M.J., Berry, E.D., Wells, J., Parker, D.B., Brown-Brandl, T.M. 2017. Odorous volatile organic compounds, Escherichia coli, and nutrient concentrations when kiln-dried pine chips and corn stover bedding are used in beef bedded manure packs. Journal of Environmental Quality. 46(4):722-732.
Woodbury, B.L., Gilley, J.E., Parker, D.B., Stromer, B.S. 2018. Greenhouse gas emissions from beef feedlot surface materials as affected by diet, moisture, temperature, and time. Transactions of the ASABE. 61(2):571-582.
Spiehs, M.J., Jaderborg, J.P., Hales, K.E., DiCostanzo, A., Crawford, G.I., Parker, D.B. 2018. Effect of corn processing and wet distiller’s grains with solubles on odorous volatile organic compound emissions from urine and feces of beef cattle. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 34(3):591-598.
Woodbury, B.L., Eigenberg, R.A., Minns, H.G., Ndegwa, P.M. 2018. Data analysis protocol for using resistivity array as an early-warning wastewater pond leak detector. Journal of Environmental & Engineering Geophysics. 23(2):251-260.
Woodbury, B.L., Eigenberg, R.A. 2017. Development and application of an automated early-warning wastewater pond leak detector using resistivity array technology. Fast Times: News for the Near Surface Geophysical Sciences. 22(4):56-63.
Spiehs, M.J. 2018. Lab-scale model to evaluate odor and gas concentrations emitted by deep bedded pack manure. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 137:e57332.
Parker, D.B., Waldrip, H., Casey, K.D., Woodbury, B.L., Spiehs, M.J., Webb, K., Willis, W.M. 2018. How do temperature and rainfall affect nitrous oxide emissions from open-lot beef cattle feedyard pens? Transactions of the ASABE. 61(3): 1049-1061. doi:10.13031/trans.12788.