Air quality on and around large livestock operations is the focus of an ongoing study at The Ohio State University.

Researchers LingYing Zhao and Mike Brugger of the university’s Department of Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Engineering, and Glen Arnold, assistant professor and ag agent for Ohio State Extension in Putnam County, started gathering air-quality data at three large animal production operations in March. The team also collected data in June and August.

The research is being conducted at a 1,000-head, swine finishing facility, a 600-cow dairy operation and a poultry farm with nearly 100,000 birds. Researchers are examining gas levels, particulate emissions and odor concentrations. They plan to collect similar information at three other large operations in 2004.

“We’re studying typical farms in Ohio to get perspective of what’s happening,” says Zhao, an assistant professor in animal facilities and environment. The research will help provide information to producers and researchers on air quality in and around large animal-production units.

The researchers are measuring three gases – ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide – as well as odor and dust. They’re collecting data at 14 points in and around the facilities, up to 500 feet downwind from the main unit. They are using two types of equipment for each measurement to get the most accurate readings possible. They also are collecting information on weather conditions, which can have a strong effect on emissions.

“We know that producers and employees are exposed to gases and dust particles in livestock buildings,” says Zhao. “High level of air pollutants can result in producers suffering acute or chronic symptoms, including a cough and tightening of the lungs. Lung function can decline during the period of exposure. But there’s limited data on the amount of air emissions inside and outside of buildings or around manure storage areas.”

The research is being funded by the Great Lakes Center for Agricultural Safety and the university’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.