POULTRY PRODUCTION MANUAL

CHAPTER 2 - Facts and Figures

LITTER MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Poultry litter is defined as bedding material, such as wood shavings, sawdust, or straw, spread on broiler house floors. After being used, litter consists mostly of poultry manure, along with the original bedding, feathers, and spilled feed. The manure contains nutrients, including nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and calcium (Ca) that can be used to fertilize cropland. Excessive applications of nutrients, however, can create environmental risks to water and air resources. Litter management, therefore, becomes an important issue.

Farms may apply used litter to their own cropland or they can remove it to other farms or for other uses. For the broiler farms surveyed, most farms (about 71%) removed at least some litter from the farm, and a little over half of those removed all of it (Table 2.12). In terms of the total amount produced, 61% of all broiler manure produced on the farms surveyed was removed and used off the farm. Thirty-six percent of the litter removed from farms was sold. Revenue from litter sales, about 0.2¢ per pound of live weight production, added about 4% to the operation’s gross income for growers who could find buyers for their litter.

About 60% of the farms surveyed applied litter to their own fields (Table 2.12), and about half of those were able to field-apply all of their litter. Thirty-nine percent of all litter stayed on the farm and was applied to the fields on the operation. For those that did so, survey responses indicated that about 1 acre of cropland was fertilized for every 4,000 broilers produced (for ‘average’ size broilers). For an operation that removed 400,000 broilers in a year, and aimed to field-apply all litter, on average 100 acres would be required.

Table 2.12 - Methods of managing litter

Methods of litter management

Percent of farms

Percent of litter1

Methods of litter disposal:

Applied to fields on the operation

60.2

39.0

Removed from the operation

70.8

60.7

Other

2.5

0.3

Method by which litter was removed:

Sold by the operation

33.4

36.3

Hauled off operation for a fee

4.5

4.2

Exchanged for clean-out and hauling

33.9

33.8

Exchanged for other services

5.8

5.2

Given away free of charge

21.9

20.5

1Some farms have more than one method of litter disposal or removal, so the ‘percent of farms’ column will not add to 100.
Source: 2006 Agricultural Resource Management Survey, version 4, production contracts only.

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