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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Livestock Nutrient Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #320988

Research Project: Develop Technologies to Protect Air Quality, Maintain Production Efficiency and Enhance Use of Manure from Southern Great Plains Beef and Dairy Agriculture

Location: Livestock Nutrient Management Research

Title: Pasture-scale measurement of methane emissions of grazing cattle

item Todd, Richard - Rick
item COLE, NOEL - Retired ARS Employee
item Turner, Kenneth - Ken
item Neel, James - Jim
item Steiner, Jean

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/28/2015
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Quantifying methane emission of cattle grazing on southern Great Plains pastures using micrometeorology presents several challenges. Cattle are elevated, mobile point sources of methane, so that knowing their location in relation to atmospheric methane concentration measurements becomes critical. Stocking density is typically low and cattle can disperse over a wide area, but they can also bunch into small areas. The methane concentration downwind of a herd may only increase slightly above upwind concentration. We describe a method to quantify pasture-scale methane emissions of grazing cattle that incorporates GPS tracking of individual cattle, multiple scanning open path methane lasers that divide a large pasture into smaller virtual paddocks, and forward Lagrangian dispersion analysis. Study area was a 27-ha pasture in central Oklahoma that was grazed by 50 cow-calf pairs. Each cow was fitted with a GPS tracking unit. Three open path methane lasers were mounted on motorized positioners programmed to scan 16 paths (from 206 to 396 m long) that crisscrossed the pasture, creating 16 virtual paddocks with areas that ranged from 1.1 to 2.1 ha. Three-axis sonic anemometers were used to measure wind speed and direction and variances of wind components. The dispersion model Windtrax was used in forward mode to establish the ratio of methane flux to methane concentration above background along each laser path for a set of prescribed conditions. The location of cattle was used to identify the closest measured upwind and downwind laser paths. Quality control metrics are presented and performance standards of the method established. Though data intensive and challenging, the method was able to provide reasonable estimates of methane emitted from grazing cattle.