A Practical Guide for Composting Poultry Litter
Mississippi State University , 1992

Brake, J.D.

The increasing size and concentration of poultry production in certain areas of the United States, especially in the Southeast, is a long-established and continuing trend. This poultry concentration can present problems for procurement, management, and disposal of litter. One possible solution is recycling litter through the ageold process of composting. Composting of waste is viewed as a viable means of reducing litter needs by recycling and reusing litter. If composting proves to produce a suitable reusable litter, the headaches and expenses associated with procurement of new litter material for each poultry house on a yearly basis will be reduced. Composting also results in a product that is much more environmentally acceptable than raw litter for land application. The 1987 Amendments to the Clean Water Act require each state to assess nonpoint water pollution problems and to develop a management plan to address these problems. Wastes generated by animal agriculture operations have been implicated as potential contributors to nonpoint source pollution. If not properly managed, the waste can pollute water resources, lose fertilizer value, and create a negative social and regulatory environment. Therefore, the poultry industry should develop management plans for use and disposal of waste. It is in the best interest of all concerned for the poultry industry to regulate itself rather than have the process placed in the hands of those who may not understand the industry. The development of practical methods of recycling poultry litter and rendering it more suitable for land application has been described by the Mississippi Poultry Association, Inc. (MPA) as a top research priority in Mississippi. In fact, the MPA Research Committee has requested the Poultry Science Department of Mississippi State University to lead an industry-wide effort to develop a comprehensive plan. The plan is intended to provide a means for poultry companies in Mississippi to develop guidelines for litter management and disposal. In response to the industry request, an extensive review of published results of composting research was conducted. In addition, studies were initiated in a number of commercial poultry houses to determine the most efficient and effective methods of composting and recycling litter. The "how-to-do-it" section is based on knowledge gained from earlier research combined with extensive studies in Mississippi poultry houses.