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On a pedestal Swiss trial aims to cut cow ammonia emissions

Can raising cows above the dung they’ve sprayed onto the floor help reduce greenhouse gases? That’s what Swiss researchers are trying to find out. (SRF, swissinfo.ch)

There are about two million cows in Switzerland – one for every four inhabitants. The cattle are responsible for about 95% of the total Swiss ammonia emissions.

Ammonia is a common animal by-product that occurs when excess feed nitrogen that is not metabolised into animal proteins, is then passed through livestock urine and faeces. The ammonia is released into the air when manure decomposes.

Ammonia, a nitrogen compound, contributes to fine airborne particles and the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Ammonia also harms the environment by acidifying the soil and increasing nitrogen in fresh bodies of water, which boosts algae at the expense of animal life.

Due to these problems, researchers at two institutes (the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Empa, and Swiss centre of excellence for agricultural research, Agroscope) are measuring the amount of ammonia released in a dairy barn. 

To this end, they’ve constructed an experimental cowshed at the Agroscope Research Station in Taenikon, in northeastern Switzerland. It consists of two compartments, each with 20 dairy cows that allows for comparable measurements. 

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