Skip to main content
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

2020 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
Data has been analyzed to determine if the addition of monensin to cattle feedlot diets reduces ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, greenhouse gases, and odorous volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions from beef feedlot manure (Objective 1). Total methane concentration decreased when monensin was fed. Of the VOCs measured, only total sulfide concentration was lower for the manure from cattle fed monensin compared to those not fed monensin. Ammonia, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and all other odorous VOC were similar between the cattle fed monensin and those not fed monensin. The results only account for concentration of gases emitted from the manure and do not take into account any urinary contributions, but indicate little reduction in odors and greenhouse gases when monensin was fed to beef finishing cattle. A study has been initiated to examine the effect of adding alum to the portion of the pen surface on ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and greenhouse gas emission (Objective 2). Alum has been added to the feedlot surface on the bunk apron and 6 m beyond the bunk apron, an area that previous research has shown to be highly odorous. Alum was added at a rate of 10% on a mass basis. Samples are being analyzed for nutrient content, pH, and air emissions. Data has been analyzed to determine the effect of implanting moderate and aggressive anabolic steroids on odor and gas emissions from manure of beef feedlot cattle (Objective 2). Urine and feces samples were collected from 60 animals that received a moderate implant and 60 animals that received an aggressive implant at each of three sampling dates. Urine and feces were mixed and gases were measured. Emission of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, and nitrous oxide were lower when an aggressive implant was used compared to a moderate implant. This implies that using an aggressive implant may improve air quality through better nutrient utilization. A study was conducted to determine how antibiotics contained in agriculture runoff partition between the water and solid components of the wastewater (Objective 3). Reported value of antibiotic partition coefficients are usually determined using simulated wastewater created in a laboratory. These simulated wastewaters are very different from actual wastewaters. Partition coefficients determined using agricultural wastewater were very different from values reported in the literature. However, the values determined using wastewater may not consistently reflect the partitioning due to the dynamic makeup of wastewater. This information was used to develop a treatment process for removing antibiotics from runoff wastewater. A study was conducted to determine how much of the antibiotics contained in wastewater can be removed using flocculation, a primary wastewater treatment process (Objective 3). Three antibiotics were added to wastewater and allowed to reach steady-state partitioning. Then six different flocculants were added to determine how much of the antibiotics were removed. Alum and ferric chloride were the most effective flocculants used. For two of the antibiotics added, these flocculants removed most of what was added. The removal of the third antibiotic (tylosin) was not determined due to the inability to measure. There appears to be a complex formed between the flocculants and tylosin that will have to be investigated. The study illustrated that a secondary treatment may be needed to consistently remove antibiotics from wastewater. A secondary wastewater treatment process was developed for removing antimicrobials from agricultural wastewater (Objective 3). Three types of diatomaceous earth were evaluated for their ability to bind and remove tylosin from agricultural wastewater. The diatomaceous earth that was unprocessed and contained smectite clays and organic carbon was the most efficient at removing tylosin. The increase was a result of the high cation exchange capacity of the smectite. Follow up work was completed evaluating how oxidizing the organic carbon coating on the diatomaceous earth and smectite particles would impact binding. Removing the organic coatings using hydrogen peroxide increased the maximum binding of tylosin to the unprocessed diatomaceous earth by over 75%. Additional advantage for removing the organic coating was a substantial increase in the settling properties of the particles. This will improve the separation of the particles with the bound tylosin from the wastewater. Electromagnetic induction (EMI) has been used successfully to map salt accumulation in soils receiving feedlot runoff (Objective 3). A study was conducted to determine if electromagnetic induction can be used to map the fate and transport of antibiotics contained in feedlot runoff used to irrigate crop fields (Objective 3). Techniques were developed to map spatial salt accumulation of fields receiving runoff and were implemented to map antibiotic accumulation in these same fields. The EMI measure did not correlate well with antibiotic accumulation in these same soils due to non-detectable or very low levels of extractable antibiotics for these soils. The results of the study indicate concentrations of antibiotic accumulation may be low. Additional complications that may explain the inability to measure antibiotic accumulation are the irreversible binding of the antibiotics with the soil mineral and organic fractions or the biotic and abiotic breakdown of the antibiotic in the environment.

1. Use of alum in bedded manure packs reduces ammonia emission. ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, measured ammonia, greenhouse gases, and hydrogen sulfide emissions from lab-scaled bedded manure packs over a 42-day period. Ammonia emissions were reduced when 10% alum was used, but hydrogen sulfide emissions increased as the concentration of alum increased in the bedded packs. Nitrous oxide emissions were lower when 10% alum was used. Methane emissions increased as the concentration of alum increased in the bedded packs. Carbon dioxide emissions were highest when 5% alum was applied and lowest when 0% alum was used. Results of this study indicate that 10% alum is needed to effectively reduce ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions, but hydrogen sulfide and methane emissions may increase when this concentration of alum is used. When applied weekly at a rate of 10%, ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions can be lowered by 27% and 46%, respectively. Alum can be an effective treatment for beef producers who want to substantially lower nitrogen-based emissions from confinement facilities.

2. Nitrogen losses are similar in corn fields treated with beef manure or commercial fertilizers. ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, in collaboration with scientists from South Dakota State University and North Dakota State University determined the fate of nitrogen when applied to a corn field as either a commercial fertilizer or in the form of beef manure. There were no differences in the corn yield when commercial fertilizer, manure, or no fertilizer were applied to the corn fields. Nitrate content in the first 6 inches of soil and up to 24 inches in depth was higher when a commercial fertilizer was used compared to manure or no fertilizer. Nitrous oxide emissions were also higher when commercial fertilizer was used compared to not using any fertilizer. When manure mixed with bedding materials was used as a fertilizer, ammonia emissions were higher than when no fertilizer was used. The results demonstrate no differences in nitrogen losses to the environment between the three nitrogen sources (commercial fertilizer, beef manure with bedding, and beef manure without bedding), but some additional nitrogen losses can be expected when a fertilizer is used compared to no fertilizer application. Producers can safely use manure-based fertilizers without concern of additional nitrogen losses to the environment.

3. Application of beef manure to corn fields in Nebraska, North and South Dakota had minimal effect on antimicrobial resistance. ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, in collaboration with scientists from South Dakota State University and North Dakota State University evaluated manure application on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Nebraska. Beef manure amendment did not affect soil levels of resistant pathogens and indicator bacteria levels. Beef manure amendment minimally affected antimicrobial resistance gene levels. The common U.S. upper Midwest practice of applying beef cattle manure to land in the fall does not appear to result in significantly higher levels of the AMR tested in spring cropland soils. Manure is a cost-effective fertilizer, and the ability to land apply manure without significantly increasing AMR in cropland is critical to economic and environmental sustainability for crop and livestock producers.

4. Determine the effectiveness of three diatomaceous earth products for removing antibiotics from wastewater. ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, determined the binding properties of three different types of diatomaceous earth products for removing tylosin from beef runoff wastewater. Swimming pool diatomaceous earth was 99% crystalline silica and did not absorb any tylosin. Raw diatomaceous earth, comprised of 65% amorphous silica, 20% smectite clay, and 3% organic matter, had 3.3 times greater binding capacity for tylosin when compared to kieselguhr which is 96% amorphous silica with no smectite clay or organic matter. The 3% organic matter contained in the raw diatomaceous earth was removed using hydrogen peroxide. This increased the maximum binding of tylosin of the raw diatomaceous earth and improved separation characteristics from the wastewater. It was concluded the raw diatomaceous earth with the organic matter removed has the greatest potential as a secondary treatment process due to the increased ionic sorption potential. This process could be a cost-effective way of substantially reducing the risk of antibiotic resistance from agricultural and municipal systems impacting human health.

5. Determine if electromagnetic induction mapping techniques could be used to predict pesticide movement in soils at the field-scale. ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, evaluated the effectiveness of electromagnetic induction (EMI) techniques which were developed by ARS scientists in Clay Center, Nebraska, for identifying the movement of a pesticide in the soil profile at the field-scale. The spatial distribution of the soil contaminant transport parameters correlated strongly with EMI and could be used to predict atrazine movement. This allows EMI to be used to identify critical control points at the field-scale for mitigating off-site contaminant movement. These spatially variable transport parameters were used as inputs for a computer model to quantitatively predict spatial contaminant leaching. Combining both EMI technology with computer modeling provides researchers with additional information for developing better management practices for protecting surface and groundwater. Using this technique, precision management control methods can be implemented to control deleterious impact of surface and groundwater from agricultural pesticides.

6. Determine whether bulking agents added to compost increase antibiotic resistance of the compost. ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, evaluated sources of corn stalk for increasing antibiotic resistance of compost. During an initial study, it was discovered the addition of corn stalks increased the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) present. This study surveyed corn stalk residue samples throughout Nebraska for the presence of AMR and found 54% were positive for antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli or enterococci using direct plating or after enrichment. Although not statistically significant, there was a trend that indicated the use of pesticides tended to increase prevalence of some AMR. Additional research will have to be completed to determine the impact of cultural practices used during crop production on bulking materials used for composting. Results from this study suggest that bulking agents can be a source of AMR in manure composting piles and highlight the importance of screening bulking agents for effective AMR reduction in livestock manure during composting. This study is the first to show the potential exacerbation of AMR using typical compost bulking agents used during a process design to control resistance. Additional work will follow adapting this information into a process to better control the risk to human health caused by composting.

Review Publications
Stromer, B.S., Woodbury, B.L., Williams, C.F. 2019. The efficacy of three diatomaceous earth sources for removing tylosin from aqueous systems. Journal of Environmental Quality. 48(6):1863-1871.
Alves De Oliveira, L., Honorio De Miranda, J., Grecco, K.L., Tornisielo, V.L., Woodbury, B.L. 2019. Atrazine movement in corn cultivated soil using HYDRUS-2D: A comparison between real and simulated data. Journal of Environmental Management. 248:109311.
Mehata, M., Cortus, E., Niraula, S., Spiehs, M.J., Darrington, J., Chatterjee, A., Rahman, S., Parker, D.B. 2019. Aerial nitrogen fluxes and soil nitrate in response to fall-applied manure and fertilizer applications in eastern South Dakota. International Journal of Agronomy. 2019:8572985.
Miller, E., Spiehs, M., Arthur, T.M., Woodbury, B., Cortus, E., Chatterjee, A., Rahman, S., Schmidt, J.W. 2019. Cropland amendment with beef cattle manure minimally affects antimicrobial resistance. Journal of Environmental Quality. 48:1683-1693.
Parker, D.B., Casey, K.D., Waldrip, H.M., Min, B.R., Woodbury, B.L., Spiehs, M.J., Willis, W. 2019. Nitrous oxide emissions from an open-lot beef cattle feedyard in Texas. Transactions of the ASABE. 62(5):1173-1183.
Spiehs, M.J., Woodbury, B.L., Parker, D.B. 2019. Ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and greenhouse gas emissions from lab-scaled manure bedpacks with and without aluminum sulfate additions. Environments. 6:108.
D’Alessio, M., L. Durso, D. N. Miller, B. Woodbury, C. Ray and D. D. Snow. 2019. Environmental fate and microbial effects of monensin, lincomycin, and sulfamethazine residues in soil. Environmental Pollution 246:60-68.
Durso, L.M., Gilley, J.E., Marx, D.B., Thayer, C.A., Woodbury, B.L. 2019. Microbial transport as affected by residue cover and manure application rate. Transactions of the ASABE. 62(3):687-694.
Alves de Oliveira, L., Woodbury, B.L., Honorio de Miranda, J., Stromer, B.S. 2020. Using electromagnetic induction technology to identify atrazine leaching potential at field scale. Geoderma. 375:114525.
Staley, Z.R., Millmier Schmidt, A., Woodbury, B.L., Eskridge, K.M., Durso, L.M., Li, X. 2020. Corn stalk residue may add antibiotic-resistant bacteria to manure composting piles. Journal of Environmental Quality. 49(3):745-753.