To assess the magnitude of greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes, nutrient runoff and leaching from dairy barnyards and to characterize factors controlling these fluxes, nine barnyards were built at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center Farm in Prairie du Sac, WI (latitude 43.33N, longitude 89.71W). The barnyards were designed to simulate outdoor cattle-holding areas on commercial dairy farms in Wisconsin. Each barnyard was approximately 7m x 7m; areas of barnyards 1-9 were 51.91, 47.29, 50.97, 46.32, 45.64, 46.30, 48.93, 48.78, 46.73 square meters, respectively. Factors investigated included three different surface materials (bark, sand, soil) and timing of cattle corralling. Each barnyard included a gravity drainage system that allowed leachate to be pumped out and analyzed. Each soil-covered barnyard also included a system to intercept runoff at the perimeter and drain to a pumping port, similar to the leachate systems.
From October 2010 to October 2015, dairy heifers were placed onto experimental barnyards for approximately 7-day periods four times per year, generally in mid-spring, late-spring / early summer, mid-to-late summer and early-to-mid autumn. Heifers were fed once per day from total mixed rations consisting mostly of corn (maize) and alfalfa silages. Feed offered and feed refused were both weighed and analyzed for total nitrogen (N), carbon (C), phosphorus (P) and cell wall components (neutral detergent fiber, NDF). Leachate was pumped out of plots frequently enough to prevent saturation of surface materials and potential anaerobic conditions. Leachate was also pumped out the day before any gas flux measurements. Leachate total volume and nitrogen species were measured, and from “soil” barnyards the runoff was also measured. The starting bulk density, pH, total carbon (C) and total N of barnyard surface materials were analyzed. Decomposed bark in barnyards was replaced with new bark in 2013, before the spring flux measurements. Please note: the data presented here includes observations made in 2015; the original paper included observations through 2014 only.
Gas fluxes (carbon dioxide, CO2; methane, CH4; ammonia, NH3; and nitrous oxide, N2O) were measured during the two days before heifers were corralled in barnyards, and during the two days after heifers were moved off the barnyards. During the first day of each two-day measurement period, gas fluxes were measured at two randomly selected locations within each barnyard. Each location was sampled once in the morning and once in the afternoon. During the second day, this procedure was repeated with two new randomly selected locations in each barnyard.
This experiment was partially funded by a project called “Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Dairy Production Systems of the Great Lakes Region,” also known as the Dairy Coordinated Agricultural Project (Dairy CAP). The Dairy CAP is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (award number 2013-68002-20525). The main goal of the Dairy CAP is to improve understanding of the magnitudes and controlling factors over GHG emissions from dairy production in the Great Lakes region. Using this knowledge, the Dairy CAP is improving life cycle analysis (LCA) of GHG production by Great Lakes dairy farms, developing farm management tools, and conducting extension, education and outreach activities.