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Poultry Waste Management

       Waste management can not only benefit the environment, but farmers pockets as well. A broiler grower with two houses having a combined capacity of 50,000 birds per flock and growing five flocks per year could save over $9,000 per year in commercial fertilizer costs by optimum handling and utilizing the litter. A custom applicator might charge this grower less than $4,000 to clean the houses and apply the litter to crops or grassland. If this same grower owns land adjacent to one of the state's designated nutrient-sensitive watersheds, he may also be eligible to receive $1,500 from the N.C. Agricultural Cost-Share Program for Nutrient-Sensitive Waters. The counties with qualifying areas are: Rockingham, Caswell, Person, Granville, Guilford, Alamance, Orange, Durham, Chatham, Wake, Bertie, Northampton, Hertford, Gates and Chowan.

        North Carolina's broiler and turkey production industries generate about 1 million tons of litter consisting of manure and wood shavings annually. When utilized correctly, this waste can become a valuable resource in growing crops, but if not handled properly can ruin the water supply. The following tips are recommended to conserve nutrients and minimize environmental effects when litter must be temporarily stored:

  • Stockpile the litter on high ground which is well-drained and not subject to ponding or surface erosion and is located at least 100 feet from flowing streams or drainage ways.
  • Stockpile on an impermeable base such as well-compacted clay, when possible, to minimize leachate infiltration into the soil.
  • Do not locate the pile closer than 100 feet to a source of drinking water.
  • Cover the pile with a polyethylene sheet held in place with old tires, similar to the cover on bunker silos, to prevent rainwater from mixing in the pile and producing excessive leachate;
  • Route surface drainage into an infiltration terrace at least 100 feet long or into an overland flow filter area at least 50 feet long seeded with fescue, orchard grass, or coastal Bermuda grass over seeded with ryegrass.
  • Operate litter removal equipment on dry firm ground to minimize soil disturbance.
  • Do not locate the pile closer than 150 feet to a production house or dwelling to control diseases and to avoid the threat of fire in case of spontaneous combustion within the pile.
  • Practice recommended fly and rodent control measures around the production houses and in the vicinity of the litter stockpile.
  • Remove the litter stockpile as soon as possible and immediately renovate the site and seed to grass.
  • Never merely "dump" litter with the sole intention of "just getting rid of and forgetting it.”
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