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A regional mass balance model based on total ammoniacal nitrogen for estimating ammonia emissions from beef cattle in Alberta Canada

Chai, L., Kröbel, R., Janzen, H.H., Beauchemin, K.A., McGinn, S.M., Bittman, S., Atia, A., Edeogu, I., MacDonald, D., Dong, R. (2014). A regional mass balance model based on total ammoniacal nitrogen for estimating ammonia emissions from beef cattle in Alberta Canada, 92 292-302.


Animal feeding operations are primary contributors of anthropogenic ammonia (NH3) emissions in North America and Europe. Mathematical modeling of NH3 volatilization from each stage of livestock manure management allows comprehensive quantitative estimates of emission sources and nutrient losses. A regionally-specific mass balance model based on total ammoniacal nitrogen (TAN) content in animal manure was developed for estimating NH3 emissions from beef farming operations in western Canada. Total N excretion in urine and feces was estimated from animal diet composition, feed dry matter intake and N utilization for beef cattle categories and production stages. Mineralization of organic N, immobilization of TAN, nitrification, and denitrification of N compounds in manure, were incorporated into the model to account for quantities of TAN at each stage of manure handling. Ammonia emission factors were specified for different animal housing (feedlots, barns), grazing, manure storage (including composting and stockpiling) and land spreading (tilled and untilled land), and were modified for temperature. The model computed NH3 emissions from all beef cattle sub-classes including cows, calves, breeding bulls, steers for slaughter, and heifers for slaughter and replacement. Estimated NH3 emissions were about 1.11×105Mg NH3 in Alberta in 2006, with a mean of 18.5kganimal-1yr-1 (15.2kg NH3-Nanimal-1yr-1) which is 23.5% of the annual N intake of beef cattle (64.7kganimal-1yr-1). The percentage of N intake volatilized as NH3-N was 50% for steers and heifers for slaughter, and between 11 and 14% for all other categories. Steers and heifers for slaughter were the two largest contributors (3.5×104 and 3.9×104Mg, respectively) at 31.5 and 32.7% of total NH3 emissions because most growing animals were finished in feedlots. Animal housing and grazing contributed roughly 63% of the total NH3 emissions (feedlots, barns and pastures contributed 54.4, 0.2 and 8.1% of total emissions, respectively.). Manure storage (composting and stockpiling) and land spreading contributed 23 and 14% of the total emissions, respectively. Parameters from this TAN-based mass balance model will be incorporated into the HOLOS model - a farm-level greenhouse gas calculator. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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