Litter Treatments are a Good Investment

University of Georgia researchers show how propane use is affected by the difference between poultry house and outside air temperatures, adding that the best way to reduce heating costs is to use litter treatments. The article is published in the September issue of Poultry Health & Management Report from the US National Institute for Animal Agriculture.
calendar icon 8 September 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

It's simple: To lower the cost of keeping birds warm during cold weather, you need to limit the amount of cold air entering the house. Dr Michael Czarick, extension engineer, and Dr Brian Fairchild, extension poultry scientist – both with the University of Georgia – point out that the more fresh air brought into your house either unintentionally or intentionally, the higher your heating costs will be.

Drs Czarick and Fairchild created the table below to show how many gallons of propane have to be burned to heat various volumes of fresh air based on the difference between inside and outside temperature.

Propane required (gallons) to heat various volumes of fresh air based on the difference between inside and outside temperatures
Minimum ventilation rate Seconds on out of 300
(two 36-inch fans)
Temperature difference between inside and outside house
(degrees F)
10 20 30 40 50 60 70
1,000 15 3 5 8 10 13 16 18
2,000 30 5 10 16 21 26 31 36
3,000 45 8 16 23 31 39 47 54
4,000 60 10 21 31 42 52 62 73
5,000 75 13 26 39 52 65 78 91
6,000 90 16 31 47 62 78 93 109
7,000 105 18 36 54 73 91 109 127
8,000 120 21 42 62 83 104 125 145
9,000 135 23 47 70 93 117 140 163
10,000 150 26 52 78 104 130 156 182

"Of course, we have to ventilate our birds if we want to keep them healthy and our floor dry, but, with rising propane prices, it is important you are not actively over-ventilating your houses," Dr Fairchild states.

"One of the most common reasons for growers ventilating too much is excessive ammonia levels during partial house brooding.

"Yes, it is very important to control ammonia levels during brooding but lowering ammonia through ventilation alone is an expensive proposition."

Drs Czarick and Fairchild explain that a producer "has basically three ways of lowering their heating costs in a house with built-up litter."

Their list includes:

  1. Not increasing ventilation rates to control ammonia and the resulting high ammonia levels will result in decreased weight gains and increased feed conversions as well as the strong possibility of blind and/or sick birds.
  2. Clean out the house to the ground and bed the house in 4 inches or better of dry shavings, solving the ammonia problem and leading to lower heating costs. They add, however, that dry shavings can be difficult to obtain and are becoming increasing expensive.
  3. Simply apply some type of litter treatment before placing the chicks, allowing the use of a more economical minimum ventilation rate.

They stress that the third option is "typically the most cost effective option for most growers." They add that properly treating the brooding area of a 40-foot by 500-foot house with litter treatment will typically cost about $200 and should do a good job of controlling ammonia levels from seven to 10 days.

"With ammonia levels under control and providing the litter is dry, producers should be able to decrease their minimum ventilation rates to more reasonable levels resulting in a relatively quick payback," said Drs Czarick and Fairchild.

September 2009

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