Chicken Litter - First Time

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ValleyView

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After a few years of trying to just get by with a little fertilizer and little seed here and there, I finally bit the bullet and had 60 tons delivered. Will be spreading in the next week or two.

My place is very P&K deficient so hoping to see some real improvements this year.

For those that routinely use litter, do you all incorporate or just let it soak in over time? This will primarily be going on “go back land” with crabgrass, fescue and Johnsongrass.
 

simme

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Chicken litter is great fertilizer. It is variable quality/strength depending on the source (type chickens, age, conditions in house, etc). Litter fresh out of a fairly dry house is best. Litter that has been stored a long time in a stacking shed will have been through a heat and not as good. Litter that has been very wet will not be as good and will smell like crap - much more than dry. Some places will compost dead chickens in stacked litter in a shed. That litter sometimes will have incomplete composting and have a danger of botulism for cattle on the pastures where it is applied.
Best to spread litter just before a rain. Similar to chemical fertilizer, spreading it during a dry spell can burn the existing grass a little and can lose some of the nitrogen to the air. Spreading it just before rain will minimize smell and maximize effectiveness. If you are putting it on tilled ground, incorporation will help effectiveness. But, most people don't incorporate, but most use here is on pasture or minimum till crops. Dry fine litter will make a heck of a dust storm when you spread it.
 
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ValleyView

ValleyView

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Chicken litter is great fertilizer. It is variable quality/strength depending on the source (type chickens, age, conditions in house, etc). Litter fresh out of a fairly dry house is best. Litter that has been stored a long time in a stacking shed will have been through a heat and not as good. Litter that has been very wet will not be as good and will smell like crap - much more than dry. Some places will compost dead chickens in stacked litter in a shed. That litter sometimes will have incomplete composting and have a danger of botulism for cattle on the pastures where it is applied.
Best to spread litter just before a rain. Similar to chemical fertilizer, spreading it during a dry spell can burn the existing grass a little and can lose some of the nitrogen to the air. Spreading it just before rain will minimize smell and maximize effectiveness. If you are putting it on tilled ground, incorporation will help effectiveness. But, most people don't incorporate, but most use here is on pasture or minimum till crops. Dry fine litter will make a heck of a dust storm when you spread it.
This is about the best pic my wife took. They claimed it was the most dry they had ever seen, but I’d have no way of knowing. The smell wasn’t near as bad as I expected from what I’ve smelled near the actual chicken houses in NW Ark. Thanks for your info, I appreciate it.
 

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FungusProudKY31

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if it is extremely dry is likely was treated in the house with alum. You will want to know as alum permanently bids a good bit of the P. K will still be there.
 

wbvs58

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Chicken litter is great fertilizer. It is variable quality/strength depending on the source (type chickens, age, conditions in house, etc). Litter fresh out of a fairly dry house is best. Litter that has been stored a long time in a stacking shed will have been through a heat and not as good. Litter that has been very wet will not be as good and will smell like crap - much more than dry. Some places will compost dead chickens in stacked litter in a shed. That litter sometimes will have incomplete composting and have a danger of botulism for cattle on the pastures where it is applied.
Best to spread litter just before a rain. Similar to chemical fertilizer, spreading it during a dry spell can burn the existing grass a little and can lose some of the nitrogen to the air. Spreading it just before rain will minimize smell and maximize effectiveness. If you are putting it on tilled ground, incorporation will help effectiveness. But, most people don't incorporate, but most use here is on pasture or minimum till crops. Dry fine litter will make a heck of a dust storm when you spread it.
I have lost one to suspected botulism. I had a load sitting waiting to spread with a temp fence around it and had to leave cows in that paddock for a couple of days, calves knocked the fence down and I found healthy cow dead a day or two later.

Ken
 

Mrcopier

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I’ve used chicken litter many ti and it will make the grass do a back flip it grows so fast, but must have rain, right fence
 

simme

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Good point about nitrates. Chemical fertilizer has a known analysis and consistent particle size and weight. You spread it with equipment with fairly accurate settings and end up close to the intended pounds of N, P and K. With litter, the applied rate of N, P and K are not as certain with variation in the litter quality and setting the spreader is more about experience and history than a number on a chart. On high nitrate prone crops like millet, there is a little more risk especially after a dry spell. Might consider testing the nitrates in the forage or hay before using.
On a pasture with low P and K, litter seems to do more long term to get the P&K up than chemical fertilizer. Yearly applications of litter will soon raise your P&K soil bank. And provide ideal surface conditions for weed germination.
 

farmerjan

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We use alot of litter. Crop and hay and some pasture. We get it delivered many times when it is too wet or muddy for the guys to get it spread on fields... winter, snow etc.... we are kind of a "sacrifice place" for the 2 different guys we have been getting it from. Sometimes they just cannot get into places that the farmers want it due to weather conditions. The cows eat it like chocolate candy. In fact, poultry litter has been used in feed for cattle for years in this area. I don't know the specifics.... but you can smell it through the cattle.... and the taste affects the meat. Had a big group of cattle go through the stockyard here about a month ago, that had been "on feed" ..... they stunk in my opinion.... he was feeding litter in the ration. I cannot tell you the percentage but thinking it is in the 30% of the ration maybe?
If we dump a trailer load in the field where the cows are they will really eat on it. Have never lost a cow to eating litter...but not saying it is not a possibility.
Broiler is different from layers, is different from turkeys..... try to get an analysis from them. We always do so we can compensate if needed.
We try to spread just before a rain and it will soak it into the ground and it won't smell much after ward.

Spread on no-till ground, don't incorporate it "into" the soil unless we are going to specifically work up that field.....

Love the added organic matter but you will get a good weed crop with the litter. Still, it is worth it for the price and the build up of the organic tilth of the soil.
 

simme

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Alum is added to the litter just prior to the baby chicks going in. The purpose is to decrease the ammonia concentration in the house. Ammonia is released by the litter and is an irritant that affects the lungs and eyes of the workers in the house as well as the chickens. And can ultimately affect the health of both chickens and workers. If alum or other treatment like PLT is not used, the ventilation rate on the house needs to be higher (more exhaust air and more fresh air makeup) which increases the heating cost. The alum chemically reacts with elements in the litter. This article explains it.
The article concludes that there is little effect on the availability of P to the plants, but does reduce the runoff of P.
 

FungusProudKY31

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I’m not sure I follow you. Are you saying that alum BINDS up the P&K?
Binds a lot of the P. A good bit of research. I worked in the field for 30+ years, saw 1000's of litter analysis - it does it. The problem with repeat applications then becomes an issue of high K. The old advantage to litter was the increase in P since it is expensive in fertilizer. Not now in broiler litter.

We have fed litter - let it go through a heat then increase rations to 70%. They do good but it is for a limited time recommendation - 180 days max.
 

simme

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is it not illegal to feed litter to slaughter cattle due to the animal bi-product being a cause of mad cow disease according to someones study?
No, it is not illegal.


Generally, you don't just scoop up a bucket of litter from the house and go feed the cows. Years ago, it was called poultry litter silage. Usually processed and often mixed with other feed stuffs.
 
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thank you ,that was the case I was referring to,didn,t know it was temporary ,we fed litter and snap corn 50/50 ratio as our winter feed to our brood cows for years until tyson shut down operations in north fla. in 2003, grew corn for a local feed lot that fed corn silage and barn litter 50/50 ,ate a lot of their beef and it was good beef no different smell or taste
 
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