Keys to reduce ammonia levels in the farm and improve animal welfare and performance
How can i prevent ammonia accumulation in my farm?
Table of Contents
- 1 What is ammonia and where do ammonia emissions come from?
- 2 Which is the effect of ammonia in the animals? Why it is important to reduce ammonia concentration in the farm?
- 3 What are the standard levels? How can i know if i have a problem in my farm?
- 4 How can i prevent ammonia accumulation in my farm?
- 5 Use of Alquernat Yucca to reduce ammonia emissions
- 6 Conclusions
What is ammonia and where do ammonia emissions come from?
Ammonia (NH3) is a toxic gas that results from the decomposition by microbes of the nitrogen present in the excreta of the animals. This gas is easily disseminated in the facility and decreases the air quality of the room.
The current intensive farming conditions, including the rearing of a high density of animals, the use of high protein diets and, often, the lack of a proper ventilation, may lead to the accumulation of ammonia and cause negative effects on productivity and animal welfare.
Which is the effect of ammonia in the animals? Why it is important to reduce ammonia concentration in the farm?
Ammonia is a gas with irritant effect on the digestive, respiratory and ocular mucosa, as well as in the skin, and it also influences the immune system development. The severity of the lesions caused by ammonia will depend on the concentration and time of exposure to the gas. The higher levels and longer time, the greater severity.
Because of this, it can affect the intestinal villi and the nutrients absorption, may cause conjunctivitis and pododermatitis. In addition, the high ammonia levels may also be related to tail-biting.
Ammonia affects the respiratory mucosa, causing paralysis and/or destruction of the respiratory cilia and epithelial cells and the irritated respiratory mucosa is not able to eliminate the mucus.
The mucus and the cilia work as a defensive barrier by capturing the pathogenic agents and avoid them to go deeper in the respiratory tract. When the mucus and cilia are altered by the irritant effect of the ammonia, those pathogens may penetrate and reach the lower respiratory tract, like the lungs and air sacs, and infect them. In this way, ammonia increases the susceptibility of the animals to suffer from respiratory disorders, like pneumonia.
As a sum up, it is important to reduce ammonia levels in the facility, as high concentrations of ammonia may have adverse effects in the welfare, health and performance of the animals, like retarded growth.
What are the standard levels? How can i know if i have a problem in my farm?
Ammonia levels are expressed in parts per million (ppm) and can be measured with different tools, ranging from permanent or portable electronic devices to test strips. It should be measured at floor level, considering the height of the animals, and it should be assessed several times a day, as ammonia concentration is variable during the day, and also in different points of the room. The priority time is the early morning, as ventilation is the minimum during the night period.
Recommended ammonia concentration is, generally, under 20 ppm, as it is stablished by the UE directive (COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2007/43/EC). Despite of this, it is common that some facilities in indoor farming may be over this value, especially in winter.
When ammonia concentration is high enough, it can even be detected by the staff of the farm. At the time that ammonia can be smelled, concentration is high enough to affect health and performance of the animals, as it is assumed to be over 25-30 ppm when detected by humans. It should be highlighted that ammonia levels that are not detected by the human smell can be already negatively affecting the animal, although it is difficult to measure the extent of the adverse effects per an specific ammonia concentration.
How can i prevent ammonia accumulation in my farm?
Preventive measures to reduce ammonia levels in the farms include the management of the diet and the digestive system, the management of the cleaning and disinfection of the farm and the control of the temperature and ventilation of the facility.
It is important to comply with the cleaning and disinfection plan, especially for the elimination of wastages and the removal of the litter every cycle, as microorganisms decomposing the organic matter will grow in there and may promote the increase in the ammonia levels.
Temperature and ventilation management should consider the weather and climate conditions of the area but should never be reduced under recommended levels. This factor is especially important in winter when ventilation is reduced to preserve the indoor temperature and there is less gas exchange with outdoors and ammonia may accumulate in the facility.
The density of the animals should always be considered, as high densities will favour the ammonia accumulation and the risk of respiratory disorders.
Diet formulation and digestibility also plays an important role on ammonia production. Amino acids source and digestibility are causally related to the amount of ammonia excreted in faeces. In addition, a healthy digestive tract is also a key player to reduce the presence of non-digested feed in the faeces, which may be the ideal environment for microorganisms to produce ammonia. Thus, the use of highly digestible ingredients as well as the use of exogenous enzymes may improve the digestibility of the diet.
Furthermore, the use of feed additives, such as Alquernat Yucca, to reduce ammonia production is highly recommended.
Use of Alquernat Yucca to reduce ammonia emissions
The use of effective feed additives to reduce the ammonia production may be a great and essential tool to avoid the negative effects derived from high concentrations of ammonia.
Alquernat Yucca is a natural solution intented for the reduction of environmental ammonia levels. It is a product based on Yucca extract and cimenol ring. The Yucca extract contains two principle active able to capture the ammonia and avoid its dissemination in the air and decrease, partially, the presence of ammonia-producing microorganisms. In this way, it can be prevented the toxic effects of the gas.
Alquernat Yucca has the added value of the cimenol ring, which increases the antimicrobial properties of the product against ammonia-producing bacteria. Therefore, thanks to the inclusion of cimenol ring in the formula, Alquernat Yucca obtains a higher efficacy than similar marketed products. The effect of Alquernat Yucca starts at digestive level and lasts also in the faeces.
The efficacy of Alquernat Yucca has been demonstrated in trials performed worldwide, where the use of the product achieves a reduction of more than 70% in the ammonia concentration of the farms, both in poultry and swine production.
This way, better air quality leads to the reduction of respiratory and intestinal disorders and will favour the animal welfare and the productive parameters. In broilers, if the results obtained are extrapolated to 1 million birds, Alquernat Yucca, can obtain 450 tons more of meat and save 377.6 tons of feed compared to a negative control group.
In the case of pigs, 85% reduction on the environmental ammonia concentration in the farm after one week using Alquernat Yucca was observed. In this case, environmental ammonia went from 40 ppm, which can negatively affect animal health and productivity, to 6 ppm, which is under the threshold risk. Despite this, the recommendation is to use the solution for longer periods to obtain the greater ammonia reduction and improve productive parameters even more.
Ammonia (NH3) is an irritant gas originating from decomposed animal excreta, which may be accumulated in the farm environment and negatively affect the animal health, welfare and performance. Therefore, its control is basic to ensure the benefits of the farm.
Management measures should be taken to avoid the accumulation of faeces and wastage in the litter, as well as management of the animals and density, the diet and the ventilation.
The use of Alqurenat Yucca, a natural feed additive, to reduce ammonia production is fundamental to avoid the effect of the gas on farm productivity. It is available in powder and liquid.
Alquernat Yucca is a product researched, developed, manufactured and marketed by Biovet S.A., based on Yucca extract and cimenol ring, which reduces ammonia-producing microorganisms and binds the ammonia particles to avoid its dissemination. This unique solution contains cimenol ring to boost the antimicrobial properties of the product and eliminate ammonia-producing bacteria, offering an added positive value.
Thanks to the use of Alquernat Yucca, ammonia concentrations in the facility can be reduced up to 70% in poultry and swine, preventing the toxic effects of the gas and improving the productive parameters.
- Kristensen, H. H. & Wathes, C. M. (2000). Ammonia and poultry welfare: a review. Worldâ€™s Poultry Science Journal, Volume 56, Issue 3, September 2020, pg 235 â€“ 245. DOI:Â https://doi.org/10.1079/WPS20000018
- Ni, J.; Heber, A.; Lim, T. T. (2018). Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in swine production. Air Quality and Livestock Production, pg 29-47. 1st Edition. CRC Press. ISBN 9781138027039.