Effect of solid floors on the emission of greenhouse gases from a dairy farm

The Livestock & Climate Research examines methane emissions in livestock farming in practice.

What are we investigating?

Dairy stables in the Netherlands are traditionally equipped with slatted floors above a deep manure cellar. The manure often remains in the basement for a long time and after spreading the manure, a layer of old slurry usually remains in the basement. This layer forms the basis for methane formation, even when new manure enters the basement. The methane emission from the manure cellar of the Dutch dairy farms amounts to approximately 25% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in dairy farming.

Partly due to the need to reduce ammonia emissions in livestock farming, various (semi) dense floor systems have been developed in recent years. With this type of floor, the manure can be removed from the stable more quickly, which means that there is less ammonia emission. It is expected that these (semi) closed floor systems can also contribute to the reduction of methane, because these floors can "capture" methane. Together with the sector, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality wants to map the emissions from these housing systems, because measuring = knowing.

Why is this important?

Through this research we can:

  • find out whether (semi-) closed stable floors in combination with regular manure removal help to reduce emissions;

  • find out if it is possible to concentrate emissions by "catching" them;

  • to check whether the housing of the animals and the animals themselves contribute to the emissions from the dairy farm;

  • determine how much methane, nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions are released from different types of bedded pack houses.

The aim of the research is to gain insight into which solutions for methane reduction for livestock farmers can be efficient, feasible and profitable. Agriculture has been commissioned to indicatively reduce 3.5 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents by 2030, of which 1 megatonnes from methane. This research contributes to achieving this objective.

Which activities do we carry out?

Throughout 2019, we will measure emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and ammonia. This is done at a test location: the Dairy Campus in Leeuwarden. Adjusting a floor system in a stable is not an easy step for a farmer. We are therefore going to see whether it is possible to "renovate" floor systems. We are investigating whether existing slatted floors can be covered with a closed 'renovation floor' or a 'prefab closed floor'. We also measure emissions from two barn systems without cubicles: one with a plastic free-bed base, the other is a bed with a straw bed.

When do we expect results?

We expect the first research results in the spring of 2020. We are expected to deliver the official reports in mid-2020. The results of this research are relevant for all dairy farms and can be used in both new and existing stables.