Greenhouse Gas Emissions from animal manure and its significance to climate change

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from animal manure and its significance to climate change



Do you know that emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG) is in direct correlation to global warming and frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts and heatwaves? According to the latest scenarios for the Republic of North Macedonia [1], the annual number of days with heatwave will increase for 20 to 40, or almost one month more. Therefore, there are essential needs for the reduction of GHG emissions in any possible way. Additionally, in order to maintain productivity in the livestock sector, for protection of livestock from heat waves change of current practices are necessary.

 Livestock, particularly ruminants are an important contributor to the emission of GHG. Ruminants by their nature are capable of using plants and transform them into valuable proteins and fats that play an important role in human nutrition. During that process of transformation, the entering fermentation is happening where the intensive microbiological process takes place inside animals. As a consequence of fermentation, there is the emission of GHG. On a national level, about 60% of all GHG emissions (mostly methane) from enteric fermentation is coming from dairy cattle.

In addition, due to livestock keeping on farms there are significant quantities of manure. Manure is a mixture of excretes (feces and urine), bedding, and water. The manure has high moisture and specific composition, and thus it is subject to active microbiological processes where again there is the emission of me thane, but also ammonia and nitrogen oxides. All of those gasses are in the group of GHG. In the Republic of North Macedonia annual emission of GHG  due to manure and manure management are estimated to 5-6 t (СОequivalent), mostly coming from dairy and pig farms.

                       

                                                                                                                Pig Farm

But what do farmers do about manure? In accordance with national legislation, bigger dairy and pig farms are in comply with environmentally acceptable solutions for manure management. However, according to official statistical data, 90% of dairy cows are held on small farms with less than 30 heads. Also, about 50% of the total annual production of fattening pigs are coming from small pig producers with less than 50 sows. For all those small farms there are no data for their number,farms, size, production system, information for manure management (how it is collected, kept and used) as well as what is fertilize value of their manure. 

                                                 



                                                                                                         Deposits of manure in the farmyard

In order to get knowledge and be able to improve estimates of GHG emissions form manure management, we did a filed assessment of small farmers. We asked them for their production system and what technology they apply, their farm size, feeding practice, manure management, and fertilized acreage.

We are proud of the fact that in a short time in late 2019, under risk for an outbreak of African Swaine Fever we were able to commit assessment on a statistically sufficient sample of small dairy and pig farmers. Moreover, we found an interesting fact that over 18% of the dairy farms are run by women.

                      

                                                                                         Deposits of manure in the farmyard

The data obtained was used in the development of national specific emission factors, that will enable in detail and more accurately to estimate GHG emissions for dairy cattle and pigs. The results of the assessment provide us with information for collecting, keeping, and treatment of the manure but also, we were able to identify main bottlenecks in manure management in relation to reduction of GHG emission. As a consequence of current management practice, the manure contained reduced organic matter and hence reduced fertilize value. Furthermore, such manure potentially reduces the water capacity and mechanic properties of the soils. Additionally, there were noted big differences from good to very poor in manure management and quantities used for fertilizing of soils.

                       

                                                                                        Manure distribution on the field before fertilizing 

Small farmers use manure in a very traditional manner, do not pay attention to GHG emission, not to organic loss. The main perception for manure is similar to waste, without the identification of real manure value as a source of organic fertilizer. Therefore, it is necessary to design mitigation measures for farmers' education in proper manure collecting, keeping, and fertilizing. The aim is to maintain the organic matter in manure and adequate use of it and recognizing the benefits resulting in additional use of farmers’ resources. On the other side, there is potential in promotions of biogas digestors, where manure will be used as a source of energy. That will lead to a decrease in the total emission of GHG from the livestock sector.

Surprisingly, there was a big difference in the use of manure per hectare, where in some cases came up to 40 t/ha. Such quantities in most of the cases would have a negative impact on soil fertility. Hence, it is evitable to increase awareness and proper education of farmers for improved manure management and use in fertilizing different crops. The latest is in importance for harmonization of national legislation to EC Nitrate Directive where it is regulated the pollution of soils with nitrogen.

The conclusion from the assessment is that farmers do no take special care and appropriate manure management. Hence, the recommendations were towards introducing support to farmers in adaptation in manure management, reduced GHG emission and leaching organic composition of manure and most adequate use of it as fertilizer.

                                                                                               Do not blame me, Muuuu! 


[1] The extreme clime scenarios are developed within the project "Macedonian 4th National Communication and 3rd Biannual Update Report on Climate Change, implementing by the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, with technical and financial support from UNDP and GEF. 


Prof. Dr. Sreten Andonov

Prof. Sreten Andonov, Ph.D. is a professor at University Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food – Skopje, Institute of animal biotechnology. His research interests are in the area of animal genetic resources, climate change – livestock mitigation and adaptation, animal breeding, and genetic. In the last decade, he has been actively involved in 10 scientific and over 15 other projects. He was a team member in the preparation of 2nd and 3rd National Inventory Report, 2nd and 3rd National Communication to UNFCCC – Sectoral report Agriculture and technical advisor in Project Adaptation Measures for Mitigating the Negative Effects of Climate Change on Agricultural Production, (USAID). He was also assigned in several case studies related to Climate Change and Livestock.

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