A new laboratory at Iowa State University is studying feeding various protein levels in pig diets as a possible way to reduce gas emissions from livestock facilities.

The Animal Emission Laboratory allows animals of all species to be fed individually or in groups, with emission measurements collected the same way. The lab has separate rooms to house one horse, one lactating cow, two growing heifers, six finishing pigs, 25 turkeys, 60 broilers or 85 laying hens.

Penning, feeding and water handling systems and manure handling equipment for each species can be removed from the rooms to accommodate the needs of different species. This is the first lab in the nation to provide such flexibility, says Wendy Powers, associate professor of animal science and environmental extension specialist and lead researcher at the lab.

Pigs will be fed one of three diets, with 20%, 18% or 16% protein levels, respectively, until they reach market weight. Manure will be collected daily and matched against the animals’ daily feed intake.

The new lab has online monitoring capabilities for hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, nitrous oxides, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, methane, carbon dioxide and volatile organic carbons. Gases and airflow rates are monitored to allow emission rates for each gas to be calculated.

“For this first group of pigs, we are looking at cumulative emissions over their growth phase,” explains Powers.