Linda Benedict, Morgan, Donna S.
Gary Lirette and his son Stephen are poultry producers in the heart of Natchitoches Parish near Marthaville, La. Gary, who owns Little Flower Farm Enterprises, is one of three poultry producers certified as Master Farmers in the Louisiana Master Farmer Program. Gary and his son have a large poultry and for age operation that includes 12 poultry houses and hay land on approximately 120 acres. With more than 3 million birds that pass through the houses every year, waste management is a priority. Gary says that having two litter barns is essential in holding the massive amount of waste generated by the birds. More than 650 tons of litter are removed from the houses annually, with the majority of it being loaded onto 18-wheelers and transported to an off-site location. The original litter barn built for the first six houses is utilized for not only litter storage but for composting birds. This is valuable in that an additional composting facility is not needed. The newer litter barn is set up only to hold waste removed from the additional six houses. Both litter barns were built with the assistance of U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the Environmental Quality Improvement Program.
A portion of the waste is allocated to fertilizing the pastures for forage production. Soil tests are taken at least every three years, and litter is applied with a calibrated litter spreader according to soil test recommendations from the LSU AgCenter. One application in 2009 included three tons of litter per acre to just over 27 acres of a common Bermuda grass and Bahaia grass pasture. Applications are commonly applied twice per year, if needed. A hay cutter is then contracted to cut and bale twice per year. Gary uses the litter in two ways he sells it to an off-site cattle ranch for additional income and he fertilizes his pastures to increase his hay production.
One technique new to the operation includes using a horizontal aerator to stack litter into windrows, which allows for biological aerobic composting. This, in effect, generates beneficial heat to sterilize the litter. This stacking allows volatilizing of the moisture and ammonia, which reduces mold, bacteria, pathogens and insects. Some of the benefits include increased body weights and improved feed conversions, reduced mortality rates, and control of many common industry diseases. In addition, it is an environmentally friendly product for land applications. The Brown Bear Corporation is one company that sells this horizontal aerator.
Donna Morgan, Extension Agent and Master Farmer Coordinator for Central Louisiana, Alexandria, La.
(This articles was published in the spring 2010 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)