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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2008

Abundance and Flux Extimates of Volatile Organic Compounds from a Dairy Cowshed in Germany

Martin Ngwabie Ngwa, Schade Gunner W, Custer Thomas G, Linke Stefan, Hinz Torsten


Animal husbandry and manure treatment have been specifically documented as significant sources of methane, ammonia, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter. Although volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are also produced, much less information exists concerning their impact. We report on chemical ionization mass spectrometry and photo-acoustic spectroscopy measurements of mixing ratios of VOCs over a 2-wk measurement period in a large cowshed at the Federal Agricultural Research Centre (FAL) in Mariensee, Germany. The high time resolution of these measurements enables insight into the sources of the emissions in a typical livestock management setting. During feeding hours and solid manure removal, large mixing ratio spikes of several VOCs were observed and correlated with simultaneous methane, carbon dioxide, and ammonia level enhancements. The subsequent decay of cowshed concentration due to passive cowshed ventilation was used to model emission rates, which were dominated by ethanol and acetic acid, followed by methanol. Correlations of VOC mixing ratios with methane or ammonia were also used to calculate cowshed emission factors and to estimate potential nationwide VOC emissions from dairy cows. The results ranged from around 0.1 Gg carbon per year (1 Gg = 109 g) for nonanal and dimethylsulfide, several Gg carbon per year for volatile fatty acids and methanol, to over 10 Gg carbon per year of emitted ethanol. While some estimates were not consistent between the two extrapolation methods, the results indicate that animal husbandry VOC emissions are dominated by oxygenated compounds and may be a nationally but not globally significant emission to the atmosphere


livestock; Emissions; Volatile Organic Compounds; Ammonia; Methane; Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry

Published in

Journal of Environmental Quality
2008, Volume: 37, number: 2, pages: 565-573

      SLU Authors

    • Martin Ngwabie, Ngwa

      • Department of Rural Buildings and Animal Husbandry [LBT], Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    Associated SLU-program


    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG2 Zero hunger

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)