Antibiotic degradation during manure composting

Holly Dolliver, Satish Gupta, Sally Noll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

260 Scopus citations


On-farm manure management practices, such as composting, may provide a practical and economical option for reducing antibiotic concentrations in manure before land application, thereby minimizing the potential for environmental contamination. The objective of this study was to quantify degradation of chlortetracycline, monensin, sulfamethazine, and tylosin in spiked turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) litter during composting. Three manure composting treatments were evaluated: a control treatment (manure pile with no disturbance or adjustments after initial mixing), a managed compost pile (weekly mixing and moisture content adjustments), and vessel composting. Despite significant differences in temperature, mass, and nutrient losses between the composting treatments and the control, there was no difference in antibiotic degradation among the treatments. Chlortetracycline concentrations declined rapidly during composting, whereas monensin and tylosin concentrations declined gradually in all three treatments. There was no degradation of sulfamethazine in any of treatments. At the conclusion of the composting period (22-35 d), there was >99% reduction in chlortetracycline, whereas monensin and tylosin reduction ranged from 54 to 76% in all three treatments. Assuming first-order decay, the half-lives for chlortetracycline, monensin, and tylosin were 1, 17, and 19 d, respectively. These data suggest that managed compositing in a manure pile or in a vessel is not better than the control treatment in degrading certain antibiotics in manure. Therefore, low-level manure management, such as stockpiling, after an initial adjustment of water content may be a practical and economical option for livestock producers in reducing antibiotic levels in manure before land application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1245-1253
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008


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