Neighbor Friendly Best Management Practices for Poultry Growers

By Kathy Bunton, Area Specialized Agent, Poultry, North Carolina State University - With the ever increasing interaction between farmers and non-farmers, conflict over waste handling, pests, and odors is growing very quickly. Making sure you are always aware of your actions, and how what you do affects your neighbors, can make your life much easier in the long run.
calendar icon 28 August 2006
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Handling Litter

Numerous calls are received each year from poultry growers’ neighbors complaining about how growers handle their litter. Litter is removed from the poultry house and piled outside, breeding flies and causing odors. Neighbors do not seem to realize that at some times, cleanout is not at the proper time for application, and the manure must be stored for a short period. If the manure must be stockpiled outside, remember to cover the pile with a tarp. If the litter stays dry, odors and flies will be minimized. The best practice is to have a manure storage structure, built to stop runoff and keep the litter dry. Also, remember that if litter is stockpiled--technically even for one day-- it must be at least 100 feet from a well, stream, pond, etc. If the litter must be piled for a short period, make sure there is a good vegetative cover between it and a stream.

Think before you spread! Where are you going to spread? If you are going to have to spread near a cluster of homes, spreading on a sunny day will allow the sun to start "sterilizing" the litter to stop the odor. If you spread during a wet period, the dampness, lack of sun, and heavy air will all work to intensify the odor. Equate odors with unhappy neighbors!

Think about where you spread. How close are you to your neighbors property line or house. Big clods of litter, or cake landing in your neighbors yard is not a good thing. Check the wind--dust from spreading can blow onto the neighbor's house, car, and if windows are open, into the house. We have all driven behind trucks from which material is blowing and settling along the roadside. Feathers are unsightly! Clods of litter can actually damage an automobiles exterior. Cover your load. This is required by the state, and needs to be observed by farmers.

Litter Management and Flies

Possibly the most important thing for poultry farmers to remember in getting along with neighbors, actually pertains to litter management. If you can keep your litter dry, you will minimize odor, minimize ammonia problems with your birds, and minimize fly problems stemming from your operation. Prior to the use of nipple waterers, most litter was between 25 and 40 percent moisture. Now 15 to 20 percent moisture is more attainable.

Fly larvae need about 45 percent moisture to develop, so if you can keep the litter moisture level low there should not be many fly problems. If nipples leak, so that there is an isolated area in the poultry house with high moisture, there will be problems with flies developing. Spot spraying with a Larvadex type spray can treat the isolated wet areas in the house and help control flies on the farm, and in the neighborhood. Hatching egg producers should plan to have Larvadex added to the feed as soon as the pullets enter the laying house. Again, spot spraying with Larvadex will have an effect on fly numbers. It is very important to remember that dry litter means few flies and little odor!!

Control Rodents

Not only do rodents spoil and eat feed intended for your birds, decreasing your feed efficiency and pay check, but they also harbor diseases that can be transferred from flock to flock. When birds are out of the house, particularly if the layout is long, rodents may go looking for a new source of food, in a new home. The new home might be that new house down the road from your farm. Have a plan in place for controlling rodents. Low rodent numbers will not only make your operation run better, but the neighborhood might be a much easier place in which to live.

Poultry Mortality

Improper disposal of poultry mortality is also a highly charged issue with neighbors. The visibility of carcasses and odors from pits, composters, or incinerators is sure to warrant complaints. Some mortality is always going to be present in a poultry operation, but it should not be visible. Do not throw the birds out the poultry house door and leave them there all day until you can dispose of them. If they are visible, people will complain. Do not leave them for your dogs (or the neighbor's dogs) to drag away.

If you use a pit or a composter, vector control is very important. Dogs, raccoons, rodents, and fox can be a major problem if the pit or composter is not managed well. Carcasses should be covered with a foot of earth or nine inches of litter (in a composter) every day. If you compost, keep track of temperature, and estimate moisture, to insure fast, hot composting action. One way to estimate moisture is that the compost should look and feel like a damp sponge, or like chewing tobacco straight from the pack--if it is not damp, add water. After the bin is filled, temperatures should reach 140-150 degrees F. Temperature will peak and come down. Once it has come down to about 120-125 degrees, turn the pile into another bin. Introducing air will start the pile to heating again, and finish decomposition. Two to three instances of air introduction may be needed to complete the composting action. If all is going well, after the bin is filled, turnings will occur every two to three weeks (watch the temperature as an indicator!).

If you use an incinerator, be sure to provide the correct amount of fuel when burning. Adequate fuel produces a fast, hot burning of the carcasses. If the carcasses smolder, burn slowly or incompletely, there will be smell. It is a good practice, if possible, to incinerate your mortality during the daytime, when the air is not so heavy. In the evening, the air cools and gets heavy.

As the air gets heavy it stays near the ground, and odors intensify. This is when most neighbors complain about smelling the incinerator. The best recommendation in using an incinerator is to burn the birds as quickly and as hot as possible. If your incinerator has an afterburner, do not turn it off; the afterburner re-burns the smoke, removing many of the particles that cause odor. As always, consult your flock supervisor before making any management changes.

August 2006

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