6000 Maximizing Poultry Manure Use through Nutrient Management Planning | UGA Cooperative Extension

Casey W. Ritz1
William C. Merka1

Poultry manure fertilizer contains all the essential nutrients required for crop production, and its value as an organic fertilizer and a source of plant nutrients has been recognized for centuries. Even with its beneficial effects on plant growth, however, manure constitutes only a small percentage of the nutrients applied to cropland when compared to commercial fertilizer.

Poultry manure fertilizer is not used to its maximum potential for several reasons, including:

a)

lack of information on its value as a source of plant nutrients,

b)

failure to recognize how and where to use it, and

c)

lack of recognition of its economic value.

This publication provides current information about the appropriate application and most effective use of poultry fertilizer. It will also help poultry producers develop a simple nutrient management plan that meets permitting authority standards.

Quantity of Poultry Fertilizer Generated

Georgia’s poultry industry produces large quantities of poultry manure. Georgia’s yearly poultry production is estimated at 1.3 billion broilers, 12 million commercial laying hens, 11.8 million broiler breeder hens and 12 million replacement pullets. The manure these birds produce is a valuable by-product with a potential gross value of more than $60 million.

For each pound of feed consumed, a chicken will produce approximately 0.5 pound of fresh manure with a moisture content of about 75 percent. The manure rapidly loses water due to evaporation, and the final product typically has a moisture content of 20-40 percent, depending on bedding type and quantity, bird concentration, watering equipment and ventilation systems.

Manure production can vary substantially with management programs, so on-farm records are the most accurate means of determining manure production for each operation. Manure production estimates are as follows: 2.5 pounds per broiler, 20-30 pounds per commercial layer, 44 pounds per broiler breeder, and 8 pounds per replacement pullet.

Poultry Fertilizer Composition

Poultry litter from floor-raised birds (broilers, turkeys, broiler breeder pullets) consists primarily of droppings and bedding (usually wood shavings or sawdust). Feathers and waste feed make up the remaining litter components. Poultry manure consisting of only fecal droppings is associated with caged layers and broiler breeders. Liquid manure from some laying hen operations is typically stored in lagoons — biological digesters in which bacteria decompose organic matter into gases, liquids and sludge.

Covered Storage Covered storage enhances litter value and nutrient retention.

Poultry litter and manure vary in both physical and chemical composition. Factors affecting composition include: type of birds raised, number of birds per unit area, feed nutrient density, bedding material type and amount, time in use and other management factors. Environmental factors during production and storage and post-production handling methods also influence poultry manure composition. Average poultry fertilizer plant nutrient content is listed in Tables 1 and 2.

It is often necessary to stockpile poultry litter when producers clean out their facilities. The litter should be placed in a structure that will prevent surface or groundwater contamination. Generally, stockpiled litter will go through some degree of composting. As a result, the level of certain plant nutrients, especially nitrogen, will change. Broiler litter nutrient quality has been improved by housing multiple flocks prior to cleaning out the poultry house. It is now customary to produce four to six flocks per year followed by an annual clean-out.

Based on average nutrients, a ton of poultry litter has an estimated value of $41 (Table 3). A 20,000-bird broiler house will produce approximately 150 tons of litter per year (6 flocks) with a potential gross value of $6,150. A flock of 14,000 breeder hens will produce approximately 150 tons of manure (50 percent dry weight basis) per year with a potential gross value of $4,300.

The cost of transporting poultry litter varies. Litter removed from a broiler house is usually very bulky (67 cubic feet per ton), increasing its transportation cost per pound of nutrient. The average delivered cost for commercial operators is $20 per ton of broiler litter; thus, litter can provide an economic benefit for many growers if it is effectively marketed.

Application of Poultry Fertilizer

To maximize poultry litter’s nutrient value, incorporate it into the soil immediately after spreading. Forty to 70 percent of the total nitrogen is available during the first six weeks. The remaining nitrogen will be slowly released as organic residues decompose and may require more than one growing season. Poultry manure’s nutrient availability during the first year of application is listed in Table 4. For optimum utilization, use poultry fertilizer to meet as much of the crops’ phosphorus and nitrogen needs as possible, then use commercial fertilizer to furnish other nutrients to the levels needed as indicated by a soil test.

Phosphorus in chicken manure is predominantly in organic form and becomes available much more slowly than nitrogen, being directly related to the rate at which the manure decomposes and its binding qualities within the soil.

Potassium is present in chicken manure as both an inorganic salt in the excretions from the kidneys and in the living and dead cellular material in the feces. All forms of potassium in manure are readily available in most cases but may be rapidly lost by leaching if not incorporated.

Many other elements are present in chicken manure in small quantities (Table 2). Little is known about the rate of release of these elements, but essentially all become available through decomposition. These elements are not thought to significantly affect either plant fertility or environmental factors.

In addition to being an excellent source of plant nutrients, poultry fertilizer can increase the soil’s water infiltration rates by improving its structure. On a short-term basis, poultry fertilizer can also increase the soil organic matter content.

Buffer Development Buffer development prevents nutrient runoff.

Poultry fertilizer can be successfully used on many crops. General rates and application timings are listed in Table 5. A successful utilization program includes the following:

1)

Obtaining a soil test for application fields.

2)

Calculating crop nutrient requirements.

3)

Obtaining manure nutrient analysis.

4)

Ensuring proper application rates.

To prevent excessively applying poultry fertilizer and potentially contaminating surface and ground water, prepare a nutrient budget worksheet for each field or crop (see Appendix for sample budget worksheet). Contact your county Extension agent for assistance generating site-specific field budgets.

The figures given in Tables 1 and 2 are average values for manure nutrient content. As indicated previously, the actual nutrient profile of a particular manure sample may vary. Having your manure analyzed for its true plant nutrient content is recommended. Armed with this and appropriate soil test information, you and your county agent can decide on the best plan of action to use poultry fertilizer for your individual cropping needs.

Record Keeping

Keeping accurate records of all your poultry and commercial fertilizer uses and off-site transfers is an essential component of a working nutrient management plan. On-farm field applications and off-site manure transfers should be recorded. Such records can help to validate your use of appropriate BMPs (best management practices) and environmental stewardship practices on the farm should the environmental impact of your farm ever be called into question.

References

Soil Facts: Poultry Manure as a Fertilizer Source. North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

Poultry Waste Management and Environmental Protection Manual. Alabama Cooperative Extension.

Vest, L., M. Merka, and W. Segars, 1998. Poultry Waste: Georgia’s $50 Million Forgotten Crop. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, Leaflet #206.

2C1A
Table 1. Average nutrient composition of poultry manure on an as-received basis.

Manure Type

Total N

Ammonium NH4

Phosphorus P2O5

Potassium K2O

lb/ton

Broiler litter

64

10

54

48

Stockpiled litter

36

8

55

35

Breeder manure

31

7

40

35

Layer manure
 Highrise cleanout1
 Lagoon sludge2
 Lagoon effluent3


40
26
62


18
8
42


94
92
59


58
13
37

1Annual manure accumulation in lbs/ton.
2lbs/1,000 gallons.
3lbs/acre-inch. Acre-inch is equivalent to 3,630 cubic feet or 27,154 gallons.
Sources: North Carolina State University Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering; The University of Georgia Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratory.

Table 2. Mineral analysis of poultry litter on an as-received basis.

Manure Type

Ca

Mg

S

Fe

Mn

Zn

Cu

B

Al

Na

lb/ton

ppm

Litter

Broiler cake

36

81

91

1459

340

272

366

35

2403

5764

Broiler cleanout

43

9

15

1610

334

265

319

33

2632

5498

Broiler stockpiled

54

10

12

1437

362

286

313

33

2236

5739

Breeder manure

120

11

8

1979

321

286

121

22

2897

4097

Pullet cleanout

37

67

59

2158

294

246

142

19

3393

3908

Layer manure
 Highrise cleanout1
 Lagoon sludge2
 Lagoon effluent3


86
71
35


6
7
7


9
12
8


5
4
5


2
2
3


0.5
2
0.4


0.4
0.8
0.4


Trace
0.1
Trace







1Annual manure accumulation in lbs/ton.
2lbs/1,000 gallons.
3lbs/acre-inch. Acre-inch is equivalent to 3,630 cubic feet or 27,154 gallons.
Source: The University of Georgia Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratory.

Table 3. Example of the relative value of fertilizer elements in 1 ton of broiler litter and breeder hen manure.

Nutrient

$ per pound

Broiler ($/ton)1

Breeder Hen ($/ton)1

Nitrogen

0.30

19.20

9.30

Phosphate

0.40

21.60

16.00

Potash

0.30

14.40

10.50

Calcium

0.03

1.29

3.60

Total

$56.50

$39.50

1Assumes the following efficiency factors relative to commercial fertilizers: Nitrogen-70%, Phosphate-80%, Potash-100%

Table 4. Typical first-year nitrogen availability coefficients for different poultry manures.

Manure Type

Soil

Injection1

Soil Incorporation2

Broadcast3

Irrigation4

N availability coefficient

All poultry litters5

--

0.7

0.5

Layer
 Highrise cleanout1
 Lagoon sludge2
 Lagoon effluent3


--
0.6
0.8


0.6
0.6
0.7


0.4
0.4
0.4



0.4
0.3

1Manure injected directly into soil and covered immediately.
2Surface-spread manure plowed or disked into soil within two days.
3Surface-spread manure uncovered for one month or longer.
4Sprinkler-irrigated liquid uncovered for one month or longer.
5Includes in-house and stockpiled litters.

Table 5. Yearly application rates for broiler litter based on nitrogen application.

Crop

Maximum Application Rates

Time of Applications

Single Application

Yearly Total

tons/acre

Forages

Bahia, Bermuda & dallis grass pasture

4

6

Spring-Summer

Fescue & orchardgrass pasture

4

5

Fall & Spring

Bermuda & Bahia hay

4/cutting

cutting dependent

Spring-Summer

Cool season annual grass

4

6

Fall & Spring

Cool season annual grass with legume

31

3

Fall

Warm season annual grass

41

5

Spring-Summer

Row Crops2

Corn, grain

41

6.5

Fall-Spring

Corn, silage

41

8

Fall-Spring

Cotton

31

3

Fall-Spring

Grain sorghum & sweet sorghum

41

4

Fall-Spring

Sorghum silage

41

8

Fall-Spring

1Decrease the total application rate by 25% if incorporated immediately after application.
2Application rates should not be applied on cropland with greater than 8% slope. For recommendations, contact your local Natural Resource Conservation Service or Cooperative Extension office.

Table 6. Crop Fertilization Guidelines

Crop

lb N/RYE1

lb P2O5/RYE1

Corn (grain)

135 lb/150 bu

53 lb/150 bu

Corn (silage)

100/4.5 T

37/4.5 T

Cotton (seed & lint)

63/2600 lb

25/2600 lb

Sorghum (grain)

50/60 bu

25/60 bu

Wheat (grain)

50/40 bu

25/40 bu

Rye (grain)

35/30 bu

10/30 bu

Barley (grain)

35/40 bu

15/40 bu

Oats

50/80 bu

20/80 bu

Bermudagrass (hay2,3)

400/8 T

92/8 T

Tall fescue (hay2,3)

135/3.5 T

65/3.5 T

Orchardgrass (hay2,3)

300/6 T

100/6 T

Sorghum-Sudangrass (hay2,3)

319/8 T

122/8 T

1RYE = Realistic Yield Expectation
2Annual maintenance guideline
3Reduce N rate by 25% when grazing
Reference Sources: The Fertilizer Institute, The Potash and Phosphate Institute, North Carolina CES Circular AG-439-16

Appendix

0003 A-1 0016

0028 Estimating Annual Farm Manure Production 0027

0003 A-2 0016

0021 Poultry Litter Utilization Record 0027

0003 A-3 0016

0027 Field Record – Litter Application 0027

0003 A-4 0016

002E Field Record – Liquid Manure Application 0027

0003 A-5 0016

001C Litter/Manure Removal Record 0027

0003 A-6 0016

0023 Crop Nitrogen Requirement Worksheet 0027

0003 A-7 0016

0025 Crop Phosphorus Requirement Worksheet 4A51


1Extension Poultry Scientists


Status and Revision History
Published on Jul 30, 2004
Published on Feb 09, 2009
Published on Sep 11, 2009
Published with Full Review on Dec 16, 2013
Published with Full Review on Sep 09, 2016
Published with Full Review on Oct 03, 2016

Faculty
Casey W. Ritz Professor, Poultry Science
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