Livestock producers can now monitor their own progress on air emissions with a new self-assessment tool developed by a team of researchers and Extension specialists from across the country. In all, 15 universities participated.

Led by Wendy Powers-Schilling at Michigan State University, the three-year effort has produced the National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool. Funding was provided through a USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service grant.

Called NAQSAT, the tool is developed for livestock producers and their consultants to compare various management decisions and determine how best to impact air-quality emissions from a particular site, says Brent Auvermann, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service agricultural engineer in Amarillo and team member.

“This tool is for the voluntary environmental steward,” he notes. “We want a producer to be able to use the tool to look at scenarios where the greatest impact can be made for every dollar expended.”

The tool targets six animal species or sub-species: swine, dairy, beef, broiler chickens, laying hens and turkeys. It provides what the team has determined to be the most accurate, credible science currently available to reduce airborne emissions of ammonia, methane, volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter and odor.

You can access the tool at http://naqsat.tamu.edu. Once there, you will pick an animal species and answer questions that allow “what-if” scenarios for evaluation. You can then change answers to review how different management practices would affect emissions potential.

The website also includes a video illustrating how to use the tool. Go to http://vimeo.com/23497742.

 “We want a producer to be able to go through and answer questions about his operation and then determine what level of control might be achieved if he did things differently,” Auvermann says. “The producer can use that information to score his operation as a percentage of maximum performance.” The team emphasizes that the tool is for information and education only. It is not intended to provide emissions data and/or regulatory guidance. No data is stored on either the operation or the producer.

Auvermann points out that there is an on-going plan to update and improve the tool. “This is for the progressive livestock and poultry producers interested in voluntary environmental stewardship efforts. Voluntary self-assessment and attentive management are the best ways to keep the government regulations at bay,” he adds.