Production of Greenhouse Gases, Ammonia, Hydrogen Sulfide, and Odorous Volatile Organic Compounds from Manure of Beef Feedlot Cattle Implanted with Anabolic Steroids

Animal production is part of a larger agricultural nutrient recycling system that includes soil, water, plants, animals and livestock excreta. When inefficient storage or utilization of nutrients occurs, parts of this cycle become overloaded. The U.S. Beef industry has made great strides in improving production efficiency with a significant emphasis on improving feed efficiency. Improved feed efficiency results in fewer excreted nutrients and volatile organic compounds (VOC) that impair environmental quality. Anabolic steroids are used to improve nutrient feed efficiency which increases nitrogen retention and reduces nitrogen excretion. This study was conducted to determine the methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), odorous VOCs, ammonia (NH3), and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) production from beef cattle manure and urine when aggressive steroid implants strategies were used instead of moderate implant strategies.

What Did We Do?

Two groups of beef steers (60 animals per group) were implanted using two levels of implants (moderate or aggressive). This was replicated three times, twice with spring-born calves and once with fall-born calves, for a total of 360 animals used during the study. Both moderate and aggressive treatment groups received the same initial implant that contain 80 mg trenbolone acetate and 16 mg estradiol. At second implant, steers in the moderate group received an implant that contained 120 mg trenbolone acetate and 24 mg estradiol, while those in the aggressive group received an implant that contained 200 mg trenbolone acetate and 20 mg estradiol. Urine and feces samples were collected individually from 60 animals that received a moderate implant and 60 animals that received an aggressive implant at each of three sampling dates (Spring and Fall 2017 and Spring 2018). Within each treatment, fresh urine and feces from five animals were mixed together to make a composite sample slurry (2:1 ratio of manure:urine) and placed in a petri dish. There were seven composite mixtures for each treatment at each sampling date. Wind tunnels were used to pull air over the petri dishes. Ammonia, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide concentrations were measured using an Innova 1412 Photoacoustic Gas Analyzer. Hydrogen sulfide and methane were measured using a Thermo Fisher Scientific 450i and 55i, respectively. Gas measurements were taken a minimum of six times over 24- to 27-day sampling periods.

What Have We Learned?

Flux of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, nitrous oxide, and total aromatic volatile organic compounds were significantly lower when an aggressive implant strategy was used compared to a moderate implant strategy. However, the flux of total branched-chained volatile organic compounds from the manure increased when aggressive implants were used compared to moderate implants. Overall, this study suggests that air quality may be improved when an aggressive implant is used in beef feedlot animals.

Table 1. Overall average flux of compounds from manure (urine + feces) from beef feedlot cattle implanted with a moderatea or aggressiveb anabolic steroid.
Hydrogen Sulfide Ammonia Methane Carbon Dioxide Nitrous  Oxide Total Sulfidesc Total SCFAd Total BCFAe Total Aromaticsf
µg m-2 min-1 ——–mg m-2 min-1——–
Moderate 4.0±0.1 2489.7±53.0 117.9±4.0 8795±138 8.6±0.1 0.7±0.1 65.2±6.6 5.9±0.5 2.9±0.3
Aggressive 2.7±0.2 2186.4±46.2 104.0±3.8 8055±101 7.4±0.1 0.8±0.1 63.4±5.7 7.6±0.8 2.1±0.2
P-value 0.01 0.04 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.47 0.83 0.05 0.04
aModerate treatment =  120 mg trenbolone acetate and 24 mg estradiol at second implant; bAggressive treatment = 200 mg trenbolone acetate and 20 mg estradiol at second implant; cTotal sulfides = dimethyldisulfide and dimethyltrisulfide; dTotal straight-chained fatty acids (SCFA) = acetic acid, propionic acid, butyric acid, valeric acid, hexanoic acid, and heptanoic acid;  eTotal branch-chained fatty acids (BCFA) = isobutyric acid and isovaleric acid; fTotal aromatics = phenol, 4-methylphenol, 4-ethylphenol, indole, and skatole

Future Plans
Urine and fecal samples are being evaluated to determine the concentration of steroid residues in the livestock waste and the nutrient content (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur) of the urine and feces.

Authors Mindy J. Spiehs, Research Animal Scientist, USDA ARS Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, NE

Bryan L. Woodbury, Agricultural Engineer, USDA ARS Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, NE

Kristin E. Hales, Research Animal Scientist, USDA ARS Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, NE

Additional Information

Will be included in Proceedings of the 2019 Annual International Meeting of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. 


The authors wish to thank Alan Kruger, Todd Boman, Bobbi Stromer, Brooke Compton, John Holman, Troy Gramke and the USMARC Cattle Operations Crew for assistance with data collection.

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.