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Lower Temperatures Reduce Methane Emission from Dairy Manure Storages

January 20, 2015

Methane production is dramatically effected by manure temperature, resulting in very little methane emissions from manure storages in Abbotsford.

Jackson et al. (1994) measured biogas emission from 200 L manure storage containers in Ottawa during May through September and measured biogas containing 25% methane.  They concluded that methane emission from the manure storage was approximately 3% of the total emission from the dairy cows and the manure combined (the other 97% was enteric methane production). They observed that the methane production rate was 10% of that reported by other researchers, which they attributed to lower manure temperatures than those reported in the other studies, although they reported an average manure temperature of 17 C.

Patni et al. (1995) reported similar methane emissions from a farm scale manure storage during the summer, and significantly lower emissions during the winter months. They measured 27% methane in the biogas during the summer and 22 to 35% during the winter (normally biogas is 60-75% methane).  They concluded that

“insufficient time and low slurry temperatures, and possibly other inhibitory factors such as high volatile acid and ammonia concentrations, did not permit methanogenic bacteria to become dominant in the stored slurry. Introduction of an inoculum acclimatized to low temperature could conceivably increase the methane content in the biogas….Farm-stored DCMS in cold climatic regions is unlikely to be a significant contributor of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

Masse et al. (2003) measured the effect of storage time, solids content and temperature on methane emissions during storage of dairy cattle manure. They observed that significant methane production only occurred after 180 days of storage at 15 C, with total methane emission rates more than 10 times higher at 15 C than 10 C. They also measured more methane emission from diluted manures, which they attributed to less inhibitory VFA and ammonia in this manure. They concluded that

“CH4 emissions depend on the interaction between a number of variables, including physico-chemical characteristics and type of manure, temperature, and storage duration. Results also indicated that on typical Canadian farms, CH4 emissions from manure storage tanks over the late fall, winter, and early spring period should be very small, because manure temperature remains substantially below 10°C….During the late spring, summer, and early fall period, CH4 emissions from manure tanks could be substantially reduced by recommending storage periods shorter than 150 days and frequent land applications. The use of below ground storage tanks would also contribute to maintain lower manure temperatures during the summer and thus minimise CH4 emissions.”

How about research elsewhere in the world? Do we see similar patterns?
Zeeman (1994) developed a model of methane emissions from animal manure storages in the Netherlands based on temperature. He concluded negligible gas production during storages of less than 100 days at 15 C, and less than 150 days at 10C.

Umetsu et al. (2006) concluded that methane emission from manure storage tanks during late fall, winter and early spring in northern Japan may be negligible because of manure temperatures less than 10 C.

Sommer et al. (2007) concluded that methane emission from liquid cattle manure stored for 100-200 days was not significant at temperatures below 15 C, and that inoculation of the manure significantly increased methane emissions at higher temperatures.

Rodhe et al. (2009) measured methane emissions from on-farm dairy manure storages in Sweden. Gas emissions were measured from October through April as the storage was being filled until the storage tank was almost emptied in April, then again from May through September while the storage tank was being filled.  Mean slurry temperatures were 9.7 and 5.6 C in southern and northern Sweden, respectively.  During a controlled experiment throughout the year in one location, they measured a methane conversion factor (MCF) of 2.2 and 4.1 during the winter and the summer, respectively. They averaged this value at 3%, which was much lower than the IPCC value of 10% (25.8% used in BC, and 39% used for the Vanderhaak dairy in Washington). We will discuss the methane conversion factor in greater detail in a later blog.

Klevenhusen et al. (2010) measured methane emissions from dairy cattle slurry for a 15 week period at 14 C and 27 C. They concluded that the methane conversion factor (MCF) ranged from .88 to 1.81 at 14 C and 11.9 to 19.9 at 27 C.

Moller et al. (2003) observed that the theoretical methane emission potential (MCF) during a 90 day storage period of liquid dairy cattle manure at 15 and 20 C was 2.6 and 3.3%. They observed that methane emission began to increase after 90 days at 20 C, but not at 15 C.

Moller et al. (2012) measured methane emissions from manure stored at various temperatures from dairy cattle fed different diets. They made 3 significant observations:

  1. At 35 C, when the manure was inoculated, methane emission was essentially complete after 90 days.
  2. At 35 C, when the manure was not inoculated, there was up to a four-fold variation in methane emission depending on diet (corn>corn+fat>grass), and methane emissions appeared to be complete after 125 days.
  3. At 10 and 20 C, respectively, methane emission over a 225 day period was 6 and 13% of the methane emission at 35 C.

Dammgen et al. (2012) provided a review of methane emissions from cattle manure storages in Europe.  They concluded that there is a wide consensus that methane emissions from stored slurry at air temperatures below 10 C are small in comparison to slurry stored at higher temperatures.

We confirmed that  CH4 emission from manure storages in Abbotsford was very low during our winters already in 1994.

We confirmed that CH4 emission from manure storages in Abbotsford was very low during our winters already in 1994.

In summary, the methane coming from our liquid dairy cattle manure storages may not be very much in south coastal British Columbia.  In the next post, we will address how our manure storage practices also influence the low methane emission rates.


Amon, B, V. Kryvoruchko, T. Amon and S. Zechmeister-Boltenstern.  2006. Methane, nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions during storage and after application of dairy cattle slurry and influence of slurry treatment.  Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 112: 153-162.

Dammgen, U., B. Amon,  N.J. Hutchings, H-D Haenel and C. Rosemann. 2012. Data sets to assess methane emissions from untreated cattle and pig slurry and solid manure systems in the German and Austrian emission inventories. Agriculture and Forestry Research 2012 62:1-20.

Jackson, H.A., N.K. Patni, D.I. Masse, R.G. Kinsman, M.W. Wolynetz, D.J. Buckley, J.A. Munroe, F.D Sauer, R. Desjardins and E. Pattey 1994. Measuring greenhouse gas emission from dairy manure slurry. ASAE Paper No. 944540.

Klevenhusen, F., S.M. Bernasconi, M. Kreuzer and C.R. Soliva. 2010. Experimental validation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change default values for ruminant-derived methane and its carbon-isotope signature. Animal Prod. Sci. 50: 159-167.

Masse, D.I, F. Croteau, N.K. Patni and L. Masse. 2003. Methane emissions from dairy cow and swine manure slurries stored at 10C and 15 C. Can. Biosystems Eng. 45: 6.1-6.6.

Moller, H.B., S.G. Sommer and B.K. Ahring. 2004. Biological degradation and greenhouse gas emissions during pre-storage of liquid animal manure. J. Environ. Qual. 33: 27-36.

Moller, H.B., S. Sarker, A.L Frydendahl Hellwin and M.R. Weisbjerg. 2012. Quantification of methane production and emission from anaerobic digestion of cattle manure derived from different feeding.

Patni, N. H. Jackson, D. Masse, M. Wolynetz and R. Kinsman. 1994. Greenhouse gas release from stored dairy cattle manure slurry.  Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Agricultural and Food Processing Wastes. ASAE.

Rodhe, L. J. Ascue, and A. Nordberg. 2009. Emissions of greenhouse gases (methane and nitrous oxide) from cattle slurry storage in Northern Europe. Beyond Kyoto: Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change. IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 8: 012019.

Sommer, S.G., S.O. Petersen, P. Sorensen, H.D. Poulsen and H.B Moller. 2007. Methane and carbon dioxide emissions and nitrogen turnover during liquid manure storage. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems: 78: 27-36.

Umetsu, K., Y. Kimura, J. Takahashi, T. Kishimoto, T. Kojima, and B. Young. 2006. Methane emission from stored dairy manure slurry and slurry after digestion by methane digester. An. Sci. J. 76: 73-79.

Zeeman, G. 1994. Methane production/emission in storages for animal manure. Fertilizer Research 37: 207-211.

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