Biochemical identification and biological origin of key odor components in livestock waste

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Animal production results in conversion of feeds into valuable products such as meat, milk, eggs, and wool as well as into unavoidable and less desirable waste products. Intensification of animal numbers and increasing urbanization has resulted in considerable attention to odorous gases produced from animal wastes. It is clear that animal manure was, and still is, a valuable resource. However, it may be a major obstacle to future development of the animal industry if its impact on the environment is not properly controlled. Poor odor prevention and control from animal wastes is related to a lack of knowledge of the fundamental nature of odor and its production by farm animals. Odor, like noise, is a nuisance or disturbance and there is no universally accepted definition of an objectionable odor. Thus, regulation and control of odors in the environment is difficult because of the technical difficulties of defining odor limits and their measurement and evaluation. A variety of direct (sensory) and indirect (analytical instruments) methods for measuring odor intensity and determination of individual or key odor components are discussed. The biological origins of the four principal classes of odor compounds, namely branched- and straight-chain VFA, ammonia and volatile amines, indoles and phenols, and the volatile sulfur-containing compounds, are reviewed. Because more than 50% of N from animals is excreted as urea, one strategy to conserve N in waste is to inhibit the urease enzyme that converts urea to ammonia. Laboratory studies to evaluate di- and triamide compounds to control urea hydrolysis in slurries of cattle and swine wastes are presented. Finally, a brief overview of various intervention strategies is provided. Multiple combinations of nutritional management, housing systems, treatment options as well as storage and disposal of animal wastes will be required to reduce environmental pollution and provide for long-term sustainable growth.