We investigated the ability of EC flux measurements to reliably quantify the contribution of the grazing animals to the CH4 and CO2 exchange over pasture systems. For this purpose, a field experiment with a herd of twenty dairy cows in a full-day rotational grazing system was established in the Swiss central plateau. Net CH4 and CO2 exchange of the pasture system was measured continuously by the eddy covariance technique (Sonic Anemometer HS-50, Gill Instruments Ltd; FGGA, Los Gatos Research Inc.). To quantify the contribution of the animals to the net flux, the position of the individual cows was recorded using GPS (5 s time resolution) on each animal.
An existing footprint calculation tool (ART footprint tool) was adapted and CH4 emissions of the cows were calculated. CH4 emissions from cows could be used as a tracer to investigate the quality of the evaluation of the EC data, since the background exchange of CH4 was very small. Daily mean CH4 emissions compared well to emission values calculated based on animal weights and milk yields. Based on a corresponding quality analysis we investigated to which extent the presence of cows can be detected or missed in the CO2 exchange measurements. For CO2 a partitioning of the net flux was performed to separate the animal respiration flux from contributions of vegetation and soil (assimilation and respiration). The resulting animal related CO2 emissions showed a considerable scatter but scaled with the animal density in the EC footprint.