Poultry litter remains hot issue for states

OKLAHOMA - Chickens in Eastern Oklahoma and Northwest Arkansas generate a lot of income and a lot of manure.

There are 700 poultry farms in Oklahoma along the Arkansas border, said Mitch Fram, Oklahoma State University area water-quality specialist. Fram addressed a farm meeting recently in Afton.

The 700 farms have capacity to house 56 million broilers at one time and 300 million a year. These birds should generate 300,000 tons of litter a year, he said.

Northwest Arkansas farms have a capacity of 1.1 million broilers a year that can generate 1.23 million tons of litter, he said.

The concentration of manure in eastern Oklahoma has hurt water quality with excessive algae and nutrients, he said.

A lot of litter is spread as fertilizer on pastures where it is cycled through animals back to the land. Fertilizer options are limited because the poultry area has little land suited for grain crops, he said.

Water-quality issues increase in the spring when most broiler growers clean bedding from birdhouses. That is when heavy rains can carry litter off fields, he said.

Using litter to meet nitrogen needs builds phosphorus in the soil, Fram said.

Soil tests across Oklahoma show 18 percent of the state has excess levels of phosphorus. However, in Delaware County, 58 percent has excessive levels at more than 120 pounds per acre. Tests in Northwest Arkansas show 75 percent of land has excessive levels of phosphorus, he said.

Poultry companies in 2002 paid the city of Tulsa $7 million to settle a water dispute, he said. A similar suit is pending in Oklahoma that could result in larger payments.

Litter needs to be removed from smaller farms out of sensitive watersheds, he said. Many fields within 100 miles of the poultry area need phosphorus, he said. Alternative uses for poultry litter have generated a lot of talk and few results, Fram said.

Source: The Joplin Globe
calendar icon 5 March 2006
clock icon 1 minute read
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