Thermophilic composting of the pack can reduce nitrogen loss from compost-bedded dairy barns

H.C. De Boer*, M. Wiersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Volatile nitrogen (N) loss from dairy barns is a concern. In compost-bedded pack barns, where the cattle rest on an organic pack, controlled thermophilic composting of that pack could promote microbial conversion of inorganic N (excreted by the cattle on the pack) into organic form, resulting in a reduction of pack inorganic N concentration and of volatile N loss from the barn. We tested this hypothesis during an 8-month period, including winter, on a commercial farm in the Netherlands where a specific composting method had been developed for a woodchip-bedded pack. A conversion of excreted inorganic N into organic form was assessed by repeated pack analysis; volatile N loss from the barn by calculation of its accumulating N mass balance. Our results show that volatile N loss from the barn was closely related to pack C:N ratio (P < 0.001; R2adj. = 83 %) and was negative during the first two months of composting. The negative loss was likely the result of NH3-absorption and/or N2-fixation by microorganisms from ambient air, two phenomena reported in literature. The critical pack C:N ratio, at which volatile N loss from the barn was zero, was 35, in line with critical ratios found in other studies. We conclude that controlled thermophilic composting of a woodchip-bedded pack, at a relatively high C:N ratio, has potential to minimise volatile N loss from compost-bedded dairy barns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-32
Number of pages13
JournalBiosystems Engineering
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Compost-bedded pack barn
  • Nitrogen mass balance
  • Thermophilic composting
  • Volatile nitrogen loss
  • Woodchips


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