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Ammonia emissions from pig production

Ammonia emissions from pig production

We will be hearing a lot more about ammonia emissions in the future, explains Gerard McCutcheon, Teagasc Pig Development Officer. Although ammonia is not a greenhouse gas and it does not contribute to a carbon footprint calculation, it is an environmental concern in its own right.

The target as Member State of the EU under the National Emissions Ceiling Directive (NECD) for Ireland is to reduce the level by 5% below 2005 levels by 2030. Agriculture accounts for 99% of ammonia emissions in Ireland. The figures are routinely compiled for each sector by the EPA. The most recent set of figures show that the pig sector contributes 4% to the total agriculture figure, without taking account of the contribution coming from the use of pig manure/slurry on farms (which could be another 4%).

It is estimated that approximately 15% of the nitrogen (N) in animal manure and 2% from chemical N is lost to the atmosphere each year as ammonia. Managing the manure and reducing the N inputs in agriculture will help reduce the ammonia emissions. In Ireland, 40 million tonnes of animal manure and 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of N fertiliser are used/generated each year.

Dietary crude protein levels influence both the total amount of N excreted and the proportion of N in urine and faeces. Reducing crude protein in the diet reduces the amount of N excreted by the animal that ends up in the manure. This is an efficient way to reduce emissions and research has shown that a 1% reduction in dietary crude protein will reduce the ammonia emissions by 10%.

Covering outside storage tanks and the use of low emission slurry spreading (LESS) also reduces ammonia emissions and increases the nitrogen fertiliser value of the slurry spread. This is the reason that LESS is to be used for slurry produced by pigs since January 1st 2023 (as per Article 18(1) (b)v of SI 113 o 2022).

On the research side, the Teagasc Pig Development Department has just started a PhD research project on measuring ammonia emissions, which will look at the ammonia emissions from finisher pigs under different feed regimes, and also look at some new technologies that may reduce ammonia emissions. This project will also look at some of the work already done in other countries such as the Netherlands, to learn from their experiences. It will also monitor the ammonia emissions from the new Low Emissions (LE) house built recently in Moorepark, which is now stocked with pigs.

We will keep you updated on the findings of this research work over the next few years.

This article first appeared in the Teagasc Pig Newsletter for October. Access the full publication here.

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