Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Millsboro, Del., was one of six farms across the United States to receive U.S. Poultry & Egg Association’s Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award during the 2018 International Production & Processing Expo, in Atlanta. U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) sponsors the annual awards in recognition of exemplary environmental stewardship by family farmers engaged in poultry and egg production.

Applicants were rated in several categories, including manure management, nutrient management planning, community involvement, wildlife enhancement techniques, innovative nutrient management techniques, and participation in education and outreach programs. Applications were reviewed and farm visits conducted by a team of environmental professionals from universities, regulatory agencies and state poultry associations.

For decades, the Herbruck family of Saranac, Mich., has been supplying farm-fresh eggs to major retailers and food service outlets. The farm’s roots stretch back to the late 1920s, when Harry Herbruck Sr. began an egg delivery company in another part of the state. Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch is currently run by Harry Jr.’s four sons, with their sister as a fellow shareholder. Five members of the fourth generation also work in the business. The farm’s flock has grown from 3,000 laying hens in the 1950s to nine million today. But their founding principle remains the same: “Do what’s right – for the hens, for employees, for consumers, for the community and for the earth.”

Placing an emphasis on manure management, the Herbrucks use a belt system that dries the collected litter for three days in a tunnel system. When the drying is complete, a belt transfers the litter to another building where it is further processed into a pelletized fertilizer. This creates a comfortable and healthy environment for the hens, and the litter can be processed into pellets without the need for additional heat.

In the cage-free houses, a hot water heat tubing system is installed that keeps the floors warm and bacteria at bay. This process gives them near optimum moisture content needed to efficiently pelletize litter, and there is little caking.

Egg farms use a considerable amount of water, as eggs need to be washed and equipment cleaned. The Herbrucks have constructed their own small wastewater treatment plant that utilizes a dissolved air floatation system to remove insoluble solids followed by a biological treatment process to reduce the organic and nitrogen content of the wastewater. This system improves the quality of the wastewater released to the public wastewater treatment plant, so the water is on par with residential wastewater.

“Everyone shares the environment, and reducing the impact of a poultry operation can result in a more positive opinion from the surrounding community,” explains Greg Herbruck.

The Herbrucks have installed some vegetative buffers around their farm to help reduce dust and odor leaving the farm. The vegetative buffers, in combination with all other on-farm methods used, certainly make a difference. The Herbrucks also participates in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, a proactive, voluntary program that helps prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks.

“We are stewards of all that we are responsible. This means that we take our environmental footprint very seriously and make the approach to have the ‘lightest’ footprint we can as we go about our operations.

The drying of the manure is a prime example. The volume is greatly reduced; and in the dry form, it has a lower chance of impacting the waters of our state. These factors influence how we approach the job,” commented Greg.

John Prestage, senior vice president for Prestage Farms and vice chairman of the USPOULTRY board of directors, presented the 2018 Family Farm Environmental Excellence award to Greg Herbruck of Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch.