Automated monitoring of urination events from grazing cattle

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Misselbrook, T. H., Fleming, H. R., Camp, V., Umstatter, C., Duthie, C-A., Nicholl, L. and Waterhouse, T. 2016. Automated monitoring of urination events from grazing cattle. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 230 (16 August), pp. 191-198.

AuthorsMisselbrook, T. H., Fleming, H. R., Camp, V., Umstatter, C., Duthie, C-A., Nicholl, L. and Waterhouse, T.

Urine patches deposited by grazing cattle represent ‘hot-spots’ of very high nitrogen (N) loading from which environmentally important losses of N may occur (ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions, nitrate leaching). Information on the quantities of N deposited to grazed pastures as urine, the spatial and temporal distribution of urine patches and how these may be influenced by pasture management practices is limited. The objectives of this study were to assess the potential of recently developed urine sensors for providing data on urination behaviour by grazing cattle and relate this to measurements of ammonia emissions from the grazed paddocks. A total of six trials were conducted across two sites; two on a 1 ha paddock at Easter Bush near Edinburgh using beef cattle (c. 630 kg live weight) and four on a 0.5 ha paddock at North Wyke in Devon using in-calf dairy heifers (c. 450 kg live weight). Laboratory calibrations were conducted to provide sensor-specific functions for urine volume and N concentration. The quantity and quality of data from the urine sensors improved with successive trials through modifications to the method of attachment to the cow. The number of urination events per animal per day was greater for the dairy heifers, with a mean value of 11.6 (se 0.70) compared with 7.6 (se 0.76) for the beef cattle. Volume per urination event (mean 1.8, range 0.4–6.4 L) and urine N concentration (range 0.6–31.5 g L−1, excluding outliers) were similar for the two groups of cattle. Ammonia emission measurements were unsuccessful in most of the trials. The urine sensors have potential to provide useful information on urine N deposition by grazing cattle but suggested improvements including making the sensors lighter, designing a better method of attachment to the cow and including a more reliable location sensor.

Keywordsurine sensor; nitrogen; ammonia emission; spatial distribution
Year of Publication2016
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems & Environment
Journal citation230 (16 August), pp. 191-198
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderDepartment of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Funder project or codeInveN20ry project AC0116
Publisher's version
Copyright license
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online18 Jun 2016
Publication process dates
Accepted04 Jun 2016
PublisherElsevier Science Bv

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