November 07, 2013

Study shows growth-promoting technologies reduce gaseous emissions from feedlot cattle

Beef animals at a feedlot. Image courtesy of Iowa State University Extension.

A recent study conducted at the University of California at Davis indicates that the use of growth-promoting technologies in beef cattle is an effective emission mitigation strategy, focusing specifically on greenhouse gas, ammonia, and volatile organic compounds.  This research, originally published in November 2013 in the Journal of Animal Science, lays the framework for further discussion and investigation into using growth-promoting technologies.

The contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG), ammonia, and smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOC) from beef cattle has become an increasing public policy concern.  Many have hypothesized that improving cattle performance may be a viable gaseous emission mitigation strategy in beef production and that the use of various growth-promoting technologies will prove useful as an emission mitigation tool during cattle production phases.

The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficiency of growth promoting technologies on animal performance, carcass characteristics, and gaseous emissions from feedlot cattle to provide a holistic assessment of the emission mitigation potential in beef production.  The study was designed to specifically evaluate GHG, VOC, and ammonia emissions from animals treated with growth promoting technologies during the last 20 days of the feeding period.  A total of 160 Angus crossbred steers were used for the study.

Steers received 1 of 4 treatments, including “1) control: no technology application, 2) monensin and tylosin phosphate, 3) monensin, tylosin phosphate, and growth implant, and 4) monensin, tylosin phosphate, growth implant, and zilpaterol hydrochloride (fed during the last 20 days of feeding period).”  The cattle were on feed for an average of 107 days, while performance traits and carcass traits were measured.  Gaseous emissions were measured during the last 10 days of the feeding process.

Results from this study show that growth-promoting technologies reduce greenhouse gas, alcohol, which is a VOC, and ammonia emissions during beef cattle production.  This indicates that using growth-promoting technologies in beef cattle production may be a practical and cost-effective strategy for conventional feedlots to decrease GHG, VOC, and ammonia, while improving animal performance.  Additional work will be needed to fully understand emission reduction from feedlots, but this research is part of such a process and will help in the quest to decrease emissions from beef cattle.

Dr. Frank Mitloehner, study leader, commented that, “Production intensities and emission intensities are inversely related.  Biotechnologies assist livestock producers to further improve efficiencies, which allows us to produce a given amount of beef while further reducing herd size and use of natural resources.  It is now widely accepted that sustainable intensification is key to environmental mitigation.”

The study is titled “Growth promoting technologies reduce greenhouse gas, alcohol, and ammonia emissions from feedlot cattle” and can be found at

Scientific Contact:
Frank Mitloehner
University of California, Davis

Media Contact:
Anne Zinn
ASAS Communications