Greenhouse gas emissions during co-composting of cattle mortalities with manure


Xu, S., Hao, X., Stanford, K., McAllister, T., Larney, F.J., Wang, J. (2007). Greenhouse gas emissions during co-composting of cattle mortalities with manure, 78(2), 177-187.


Following outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), fewer cattle mortalities are being rendered. Composting may be a viable on-farm alternative for disposal of cattle carcasses. A study was conducted to assess feasibility and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during co-composting of cattle mortalities and manure. Using a tractor-mounted front-end loader, windrows were constructed containing manure + straw (control; CK) or manure + straw + cattle mortalities (cattle mortality; CM). The composting process lasted 310 d. The windrows were turned twice, at days 93 and 211, using either a tractor-mounted front-end loader or a specialized shredder bucket. Maximum windrow temperatures were >50 °C for 36 out of 92 d (before first turning) and 142 out of 208 d (after first turning) for the CM treatment and cattle mortalities were completely decomposed except for a few large bones. The cumulative CO 2 and CH4 emissions were significantly affected by the mortality treatment, but not by the turning technology or their interactions. Significantly higher CO2 (53.6 g d-1 m-2) and CH4 (2.204 g d-1m-2) emissions were observed during the co-composting of cattle mortalities than manure composted with straw (23.0 and 0.742 g d-1m-2 for CO2 and CH 4, respectively). Similarly, N2O emissions were higher with mortalities than without and, for the CM treatment only, higher with shredder bucket than front-end loader turning. In the final compost, CM had higher TN and NH4+-N contents than CK while TC and the C/N ratio were higher with compost turned with the front-end loader than with the shredder bucket. In conclusion, composting was an effective means of disposing of cattle mortalities, but did increase GHG emissions and the N content in the final compost. It is not known if GHG emissions are different than those that would be released from natural decomposition of carcasses. The higher N content in compost containing mortalities would increase its agronomic value. © 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.