Understanding Poultry Litter
There are many different types of poultry farms and many different poultry litters. We deal in only chicken broiler litter and tom turkey litter because they are the most nutrient rich litters available. Many lesser litters can be bought much cheaper but the trucking and application costs are the same, which makes these cheaper litters more expensive in the end.
So let’s talk about litter. Poultry litter doesn’t affect your crops the same way as commercial fertilizers. Using litter is a slower, longer term process. Unless your ground is nutrient deficient you will not likely see any benefits to litter over commercial fertilizer in the first year. Because the nitrogen is tied up in the organic matter of litter, only about 25% of it is available at the time of application. The next 50% of it will become available over the first year and the remaining 25% will become available over the second year. The phosphorus and potash are nearly all available at the time of application. Over the years we have tested hundreds of litter samples and what we have learned is that there are a lot of variables in litter and if you’re just looking at N, P and K you will see some encouraging things, but you will be missing the big picture. Consistent yearly applications can provide your crops with a steady and constant source of the three major nutrients, but there is much more to litter than N, P and K. All of us that have been involved in farming know that the fields closest to the barn lot or hog pens that dad and grandpa spread manure on year after year were the most productive. The ground worked better, held moisture longer in the summer and yielded better. Poultry litter works the same way. It is an organic material that is loaded with nutrients and micronutrients such as Sulfur, Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, and has a ph of 7.5 or higher. Poultry litter is a soil builder, and has proven itself to be a valuable commodity to grain farmers. The grain farmers that have used litter consistently have seen the proof and that is what has made litter so popular.
What is a ton of litter worth? You can find many pages on the internet that break down the analysis and try to put a value on it, but we won’t even attempt to do that here. Every farmer in the Midwest sharpens their pencil differently. It’s your job to determine what it’s worth to you; it’s our job to provide you with a trusted, dependable source for good quality litter.
When you decide to use poultry litter, purchase your litter from a source that you can trust, someone that is willing to provide a service and long term relationship, not just a few loads of litter and a bill. There are not many checks and balances in the litter business and there are many ways to get burnt. If you have a source that is as concerned about your next year as they are about your this year, then you’re on the right track.