Process-based modeling of ammonia emission from beef cattle feedyards with the integrated farm systems model

Heidi M. Waldrip, C. Alan Rotz, Sasha D. Hafner, Richard W. Todd, N. Andy Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Ammonia (NH3) volatilization from manure in beef cattle feedyards results in loss of agronomically important nitrogen (N) and potentially leads to overfertilization and acidification of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In addition, NH3 is involved in the formation of atmospheric fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which can affect human health. Process-based models have been developed to estimate NH3 emissions from various livestock production systems; however, little work has been conducted to assess their accuracy for large, open-lot beef cattle feedyards. This work describes the extension of an existing process-based model, the Integrated Farm Systems Model (IFSM), to include simulation of N dynamics in this type of system. To evaluate the model, IFSM-simulated daily per capita NH3 emission rates were compared with emissions data collected from two commercial feedyards in the Texas High Plains from 2007 to 2009. Model predictions were in good agreement with observations and were sensitive to variations in air temperature and dietary crude protein concentration. Predicted mean daily NH3 emission rates for the two feedyards had 71 to 81% agreement with observations. In addition, IFSM estimates of annual feedyard emissions were within 11 to 24% of observations, whereas a constant emission factor currently in use by the USEPA underestimated feedyard emissions by as much as 79%. The results from this study indicate that IFSM can quantify average feedyard NH3 emissions, assist with emissions reporting, provide accurate information for legislators and policymakers, investigate methods to mitigate NH3 losses, and evaluate the effects of specific management practices on farm nutrient balances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1159-1168
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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