Identifying and tracking key odorants from cattle feedlots

Steven Trabue, Kenwood Scoggin, Laura McConnell, Ronaldo Maghirang, Edna Razote, Jerry Hatfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Odors from cattle feedlots can negatively affect air quality in local communities. Our objectives were the following: 1) identify key odor-causing compounds using odor activity values (OAVs) and gas chromatography-olfactometry (GC-O) techniques; 2) compare odor threshold values from published databases; and 3) track the movement of odors from a cattle feedlot to receptor community. Odorous compounds emitted from a cattle feedlot were sampled on-site, 250 m downwind and 3.2 km downwind using both sorbent tubes and denuders. Sorbent tubes were analyzed by both GC-MS and GC-MS-O and key odorants determined using both OAV and GC-Surface Nasal Impact Frequency (SNIF) analysis, while denuders were analyzed by ion chromatography. Odorant concentrations had a diurnal pattern with peak concentrations during early morning and late evening periods. Volatile fatty acids (VFAs) were the most abundant of the major odorants. Odorants with concentrations above their odor threshold values at the feedlot included amines, VFAs, phenol compounds, and indole compounds. Key odorants at the feedlot were VFAs and phenol compounds, but their relative importance diminished with downwind distance. Indole compounds, while not the key odorants at the feedlot, increased in relative importance downwind of the feedlot. In general, the odorous compounds identified by GC-SNIF and OAV as having fecal/manure nature were similar. GC-SNIF was the more sensitive analytical technique; it identified several compounds that may have contributed to the unpleasantness of the cattle feedlot odor, but its throughput was extremely low thereby limiting its usefulness. There is a need to improve field sampling devices and odor threshold databases to enhance understanding and confidence in evaluating odors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4243-4251
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number25
StatePublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Air quality
  • CAFO
  • Gas chromatography-olfactometry
  • Odor
  • VOC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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