Danielle Ayan, research scientist, Georgia Institute of Technology, spoke on the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) at USPOULTRY’s Information Systems seminar. A GIS is a collection of computer hardware, software and geographic data used to capture, manage, analyze and display geographically referenced information. GPS coordinates for poultry farms and other poultry facilities are combined with other information on the GIS data base.

Many state poultry associations working in conjunction with government agencies use GISs to track information on the location of poultry farms and other poultry related facilities to plan movement of birds, feed and vehicles during a disease outbreak. GISs have been used affectively to plan quarantine zones and depopulation zones in poultry disease outbreaks in a number of states. On an experimental basis, a GIS was used in Alabama to help with litter management on a regional scale. With data on roads, topography, poultry farms and other farms, which might use the litter, in the GIS, the shortest total travel miles for moving litter from farms with surplus to farms that have nutrient needs can be calculated and then implemented to keep hauling costs to a minimum. This type of approach is particularly useful in areas where there are limited funds available to subsidize litter movement.

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GIS can also be used to help site new feed mills and or facilities that could utilize poultry litter as a fuel to minimize hauling costs. Topographical information can be part of a GIS, and this data can be used in formulating nutrient management plans for watersheds. Some GISs have the capability of displaying satellite images of farms and not just the farms GPS coordinates. These images can show the distance of poultry houses from the road and can be useful in routing trucks around farms in the event of a disease outbreak.