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Data from: Gas emissions from dairy barnyards

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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.

Dataset Info

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Powell, J. Mark
Vadas, Peter A.
Barford, Carol
Product Type
Spatial / Geographical Coverage Area
POINT (-89.736826 43.289654)
Spatial / Geographical Coverage Location
S8822 Sunset Drive, Prairie Du Sac, Wisconsin 53578
Temporal Coverage
Equipment or Software Used
Intended Use
This data set enables study and simulation modeling of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, nutrient leaching and runoff from outdoor barnyards that corral dairy cattle. In particular, this data set creates a basis for predicting the effects of the ground surface covering (i.e. sand, bark or soil) on fluxes. The data also allow quantification of the relationships between GHG emission fluxes and several controlling factors, including temperature, moisture, nitrogen content and physical characteristics of the ground covering; and the quality and amount of feed consumed.
Use Limitations
Time series of GHG fluxes and soil nitrogen content are notoriously variable over both time and space. Extrapolation and interpolation of these data must be done with caution.
Ag Data Commons
Contact Name
Barford, Carol
Contact Email
Public Access Level
Primary Article

Powell J. M. & Vadas P. A. (2016). Gas emissions from dairy barnyards. Animal Production Science, 56, 355-361.

Methods Citation

Parkin, T.B. & Venterea, R.T. (2010). Chamber-based trace gas flux measurements. in Sampling Protocols. R.F. Follett, editor. p. 3-1 to 3-39. www.ars.usda.gov/research/GRACEnet

Davidson, E.A., Savage, K. E., Verchot, L. V. & Navarro, R. (2002). Minimizing artifacts and biases in chamber-based measurements of soil respiration. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 113, 21-37.

Van Soest, P.J. & Robertson, J. B. (1980) Systems of analysis for evaluating fibrous feeds. In W. J. Pigden, C. C. Balch, & F. Graham, (Eds), Standardisation of analytical methodology in feeds (49-60). Ottawa, Canada: International Research Development Center.

Related Content
Pelletier, Alicia
Funding Source(s)
U.S. Department of Agriculture
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Dataset DOI (digital object identifier)
Modified Date
Release Date
Ag Data Commons Keywords: 
  • Agroecosystems & Environment
  • Agroecosystems & Environment
  • Management
  • Agroecosystems & Environment
  • Plant and animal
  • Plants & Crops
  • Plants & Crops
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Plants & Crops
  • Crop production
  • Plants & Crops
  • Crop production
  • Nutrient Management
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