How well do egg producers understand their flocks’ manure, or even the best way to manage it? 

In Africa, game rangers can tell a lot from examining droppings lying on the ground. The presence of many intact leaves in elephant droppings, for example, may indicate that the animal is quite old or experiencing a dental problem.   

The same concept applies to poultry manure - and better understanding it can offer valuable payback.   

Let’s start with a question: When was the last time you had your chicken manure analyzed?   

You may wonder why would you want to do that, but the benefits of doing so are numerous.

Advertisement

The North America Manure Expo, held in late August, was an opportunity to refresh our knowledge about manure and its impact on soils, plants and the environment. Manure is currently both an asset and a liability for egg farmers as it can be used to fertilize fields, but is also one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions directly under their control.    

Good to know

Dry manure storage is definitely better than lagoon storage, yet, with the right management, liquid manure emissions can be minimized. Fully emptying storage tanks before the next manure batch arrives, prevents “aged” manure accelerating bacteria propagation and emissions.
Studies have shown a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of up to 55% when tanks are fully emptied, methane and nitrous oxide emissions can also be reduced through acid treatment.

The optimal application of manure on fields relies on the “Four Rs” – the Right rate of application, the Right time, the Right method of application and the Right product.  

Manure should be analyzed and certain compounds, such as nitrification inhibitors, may be added. Application in the Spring will also generate less nitrogen loss and fewer emissions than application in the Fall. Spring should also be the preferred period for spreading on fields, coinciding with the growing season and plants’ higher demand for nutrients. Cloudy days are also preferable to sunny days for field application to limit ammonia volatilization.

Manure’s composition is rich in information. It provides a better understanding of birds’ true feed utilization and also allows us to understand manure’s potential nutritional value for soils and crops.  

Manure is not only a source of nitrogen and phosphorus but it can also be rich in a number of other minerals, such as zinc, boron or copper. Knowing manure’s composition will reduce the use of commercial fertilizers. In the end, it will pay to know your manure!