Animal Science Department
Evaluation of the effects of wood-sourced biochar as a feedlot pen surface amendment on manure nutrient capture
Date of this Version
Translational Animal Science, 2022, 6, 1–10 https://doi.org/10.1093/tas/txac127
Feedstuffs utilized in U.S. feedlot finishing rations incorporate high concentrations of N and P, with less than 15% of fed N and P retained by the animal. The remaining N and P are excreted in the manure, where the opportunity for manure N loss via ammonia (NH3) volatilization from the feedlot pen surface is a risk to the environment and lowers the value of manure as a fertilizer. Two nutrient mass balance experiments were conducted during the winter and summer seasons to evaluate the effects of spreading unprocessed Eastern red cedar biochar onto the feedlot pen surface on manure nutrient capture and cattle performance. A 186-d feedlot fnishing experiment was conducted from December to June (WINTER) and a subsequent 153-d fnishing experiment was conducted from June to November (SUMMER). The WINTER experiment evaluated three treatments (5 pens per treatment; 10 steers per pen), including biochar spread on pen surface during the feeding period (1.40 kg biochar/ m2 ; 17.6 m2 /steer soil surface of the pen), hydrated lime spread on pen surface at end of feeding period (1.75 kg/m2 ) and control (no treatment applied). The SUMMER experiment evaluated biochar treatment (1.40 kg biochar/m2 ; 5 pens per treatment; 8 steers per pen; and 22 m2 /steer soil surface of the pen) against control. There were no differences in N and P intake, retention, or excretion (P ≥ 0.38) between WINTER treatments. Steer performance (P ≥ 0.10) and carcass characteristics (P ≥ 0.50) were not impacted by pen treatment in WINTER. Nitrogen and P intake and excretion (P ≥ 0.35) were not different between treatments in SUMMER and retention of N and P was signifcantly greater for the biochar treatment (P ≤0.04) due to greater ADG (P = 0.05). There was no difference in DMI (P = 0.48) in SUMMER, steers on biochar pen treatment had heavier HCW (P = 0.05) and greater ADG, resulting in a tendency for greater feed effciency (P = 0.08). In both experiments, biochar addition to the pen surface tended (P = 0.07) to increase manure N as a percent of manure DM, but this increase in N concentration did not impact kg of N removed from the feedlot pens (P ≥ 0.15) or N losses (P ≥ 0.68). The addition of red cedar biochar to the feedlot pen surface did not increase manure nutrient capture of N or P and did not reduce N losses associated with soil-based feedlot pens.