Department of Animal Science


Date of this Version



Translational Animal Science, 2022, 6, 1–7


Open access.


A feedlot growing (77-d) and finishing (111-d) experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of feeding biochar on steer performance, methane and carbon dioxide emissions, and carcass characteristics. Two treatments were evaluated, a control diet without biochar and the same diet with biochar included at 0.8% of dietary DM (growing) or 1.0% of dietary DM (finishing). The growing diet consisted of 40% corn silage, 40% wheat straw, 15% modified distillers grains plus solubles, and 5% supplement, with 0.8% biochar replacing fine ground corn in supplement. The finishing diet consisted of 55% high-moisture corn (HMC), 35% Sweet Bran, 5% wheat straw, and 5% supplement, with biochar replacing 1.0% HMC and added as an ingredient. Biochar was sourced from ponderosa pine wood waste (High Plains Biochar, Laramie, WY) and was 83% C with 426 m2/g surface area for both experiments. Crossbred steers were utilized in the growing (n = 160; initial BW = 363 kg; SD = 16 kg) and finishing (n = 128; initial; BW = 480 kg; SD = 17 kg) experiments, blocked by BW, and assigned randomly to 16 pens. Pens were assigned randomly to one of two treatments (biochar vs. control) with eight replications per treatment. Four pen replications per treatment were paired within BW block and rotated randomly through an emissions barn with two chambers (each treatment was evaluated simultaneously and for two rotations) to capture average weekly emissions of CH4 and CO2. Pen was the experimental unit and chamber was included as a fixed effect for emissions data. There were no statistical differences (P ≥ 0.23) in performance outcomes between treatments for the growing experiment. Dry matter intake (DMI; P < 0.01) and average daily gain (ADG; P = 0.02) were 2.2% and 5.9% lower for biochar-fed steers in the finishing experiment, respectively, resulting in a lighter hot carcass weight (P = 0.10) and lower calculated USDA yield grade (P = 0.02). Emissions of CH4 and CO2 were not affected by biochar inclusion in the growing (P ≥ 0.22) or finishing experiment (P ≥ 0.60). Results from these experiments show no indication that feeding biochar, supplemented at 0.8% (growing), and 1.0% (finishing) of the diet DM, reduces methane emissions in growing or finishing cattle.