Ammonia emission from animal production is a major environmental problem and has impacts on the animal health and working environment inside production houses. Ammonia is formed in manure by the enzymatic degradation of urinary urea and catalyzed by urease that is present in feces. We have determined and compared the urease activity in feces and manure (a urine and feces mixture) from pigs and cattle at 25°C by using Michaelis-Menten kinetics. To obtain accurate estimates of kinetic parameters Vmax and K′m, we used a 5 min reaction time to determine the initial reaction velocities based on total ammoniacal nitrogen (TAN) concentrations. The resulting Vmax value (mmol urea hydrolyzed per kg wet feces per min) was 2.06±0.08 mmol urea/kg/min and 0.80±0.04 mmol urea/kg/min for pig feces and cattle feces, respectively. The K′m values were 32.59±5.65 mmol urea/l and 15.43±2.94 mmol urea/l for pig feces and cattle feces, respectively. Thus, our results reveal that both the Vmax and K′m values of the urease activity for pig feces are more than 2-fold higher than those for cattle feces. The difference in urea hydrolysis rates between animal species is even more significant in fresh manure. The initial velocities of TAN formation are 1.53 mM/min and 0.33 mM/min for pig and cattle manure, respectively. Furthermore, our investigation shows that the maximum urease activity for pig feces occurs at approximately pH 7, and in cattle feces it is closer to pH 8, indicating that the predominant fecal ureolytic bacteria species differ between animal species. We believe that our study contributes to a better understanding of the urea hydrolysis process in manure and provides a basis for more accurate and animal-specific prediction models for urea hydrolysis rates and ammonia concentration in manures and thus can be used to predict ammonia volatilization rates from animal production.
Dai, X., & Karring, H. (2014). A determination and comparison of urease activity in feces and fresh manure from pig and cattle in relation to ammonia production and pH changes. PLoS ONE, 9(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0110402