Estimation of On-Farm Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Poultry Houses

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Much of the greenhouse gases (GHG) generated from the poultry industry is primarily from feed production. The poultry producer does not have control over the production and distribution of the feed used on the farm. However, they can control other emissions that occur on the farm such as emissions from the utilization of fossil fuels and from manure management. A series of studies were conducted to evaluate on-farm greenhouse gas emissions from broiler, breeder and pullets houses in addition to an in-line commercial layer complex. Data was collected from distributed questionnaires and included; the activity data from the facility operations (in the form of fuel bills and electricity bills), house size and age, flock size, number of flocks per year, and manure management system. Emissions were calculated using GHG calculation tools and emission factors from IPCC. The carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane emissions were computed and a carbon footprint was determined and expressed in tonnes carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).

The results from the study showed that about 90% of the emissions from the broiler and pullet farms were from propane and diesel gas use, while only 6% of the total emissions from breeder farms were from propane and diesel gas use. On breeder farms, about 29% of GHG emissions were the result of electricity use while the pullet and broiler farms had only 3% emissions from electricity use. Emissions from manure management in the layer facility were responsible for 53% of the total emission from the facility, while electricity use represented 28% of the total emissions. The results from these studies identified the major sources of on-farm of GHG emissions. This will allow us to target these areas for abatement and mitigation strategies.

Why Study Greenhouse Gases on Poultry Farms?

Human activities, including modern agriculture, contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (IPCC, 1996). Agriculture has been reported to be responsible for 6.3% of the GHG emissions in the U.S., of this 53.5% were a result of animal agriculture. Of the emissions from animal agriculture, poultry was responsible for only 0.6%. Much of the CO2e that is generated from the poultry industry is primarily from feed production, the utilization of fossil fuels and manure management (Pelletier, 2008; EWG, 2011). While the poultry producer does not have control over the production of the feed that is used on the farm, there are other GHG emissions that occur on the farm that are under their control. These emissions may be in the form of purchased electricity, propane used for heating houses and incineration of dead birds, diesel used in farm equipment which includes generators and emissions from manure management.

What Did We Do?

A series of studies were conducted to examine the GHG emissions from poultry production houses and involved the estimation of emissions from; broiler grow-out farms, pullet farms, breeder farms from one commercial egg complex. Data collection included the fuel and electricity bills from each farm, house size and age, flock size and number of flocks per year and manure management. The GHG emissions were evaluated using the IPCC spreadsheets with emission factors based on region and animal type. We separated the emissions based on their sources and determined that there were two main sources, 1. Mechanical and 2. Non-mechanical. After we determined the sources, we looked at what contributed to each source.

What Have We Learned?

When all GHG emissions from each type of operation was evaluated, the total for an average broiler house was approximately 847 tonnes CO2e/year, the average breeder house emission was 102.56 tonnes CO2e/year, pullet houses had a total emission of 487.67 tonnes CO2e/year, and 4585.52 CO2e/year from a 12 house laying facility. The results from this study showed that approximately 96% of the mechanical emissions from broiler and pullet houses were from propane (stationary combustion) use while less than 5% of these emissions from breeder houses were from propane use. The high emission from propane use in broiler and pullet houses is due to heating the houses during brooding and cold weather. Annual emissions from manure management showed that layer houses had higher emissions (139 tonnes CO2e/year) when compared to breeder houses (65.3 tonnes CO2e/year), broiler houses (59 tonnes CO2e/year) and pullet houses (61.7tonnesCO2e/year). Poultry reared in management systems with litter and using solid storage has relatively high N2O emissions but low CH4 emissions.We have learned that there is variability in the amount of emissions within each type of poultry production facility regardless of the age or structure of houses and as such reduction strategies will have to be tailored to suit each situation. We have also learned that the amount of emissions from each source (mechanical or non-mechanical) depends on the type of operation (broiler, pullet, breeder, or layer).

Future Plans

Abatement and Mitigation strategies will be assessed and a Poultry Carbon Footprint Calculation Tool is currently being developed by the team and will be made available to poultry producers to calculate their on-farm emissions. This tool will populate a report and make mitigation recommendations for each scenario presented. Best management practices (BMP) can result in improvements in energy use and will help to reduce the use of fossil fuel, specifically propane on the poultry farms thereby reducing GHG emissions, we will develop a set of BMP for the poultry producer.


Claudia. S.  Dunkley, Department of Poultry Science, University of Georgia;

Brian. D. Fairchild, Casey. W. Ritz, Brian. H. Kiepper, and Michael. P. Lacy, Department of Poultry Science, University of Georgia


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