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Dr. Mike Lacy, Associate Professor
Dr. Larry Vest, Associate Professor
Poultry Science Department

Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Athens


Why Should I Be Concerned?

Farmers have always been concerned about soil and water quality. Perhaps more so than any other time in history, today's farmers want to ensure that their land is protected for future generations. Proper utilization of waste materials is essential to maintaining soil and water quality.

Broilers are Georgia's largest single agricultural commodity. Some of the nutrients* contained in broiler litter and dead bird carcasses from broiler and broiler pullet/breeder operations are mobile and may be leached from litter and dead bird compost.

On average, the annual manure produced from a typical broiler house should be applied to no less than 35-40 acres of crop or pasture land in two applications per year. Exceeding that amount may result in over application and increases the risk of nitrate leaching into ground water. The manner in which litter is stored and applied to land makes a big difference in the litter's value as fertilizer. Unprotected litter and improperly handled dead bird carcasses may threaten farm water sources.

How Does This Assessment Help Protect
Drinking Water and the Environment?


Assessing Your Broiler Production Practices

For each category listed on the left, read across to the right and circle the statement that best describes conditions on your farm. If a category does not apply, for example, if you always spread litter immediately after cleaning out and thus never store litter on your farm, then simply skip the question. Once you have decided on the most appropriate answer, look above that description to find your rank number (4,3,2 or 1) and enter that number under the "RANK"column. The entire assessment should take less than 30 minutes. A glossary is on page 10 to clarify words found in italics throughout this assessment.



(rank 4)


RISK (rank 2)


(rank 1)

Litter storage Litter is stored in a non-leaking stacking shed with a concrete floor. Litter is temporarily stacked on a restrictive surface (concrete, 6-mil plastic, clay etc.) never within 100 feet of a well or surface water. Stacks are protected from rainwater by a 6-mil plastic cover. Surface water is diverted around the stacks. Litter is routinely stacked at least 100 feet from a well, but is less than 100 feet from surface water and is exposed to rain. Litter is stacked less than 100 feet from a well and surface water and is exposed to rain.
Dead Bird Carcasses disposal (mortalities)

All dead bird carcasses are collected and treated in a well designed, and functioning composter.

See Dead Bird Carcasses Composting


Dead bird carcasses are disposed of by an

approved, method other than composting according to guidelines provided by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Dead bird carcasses are disposed of in burial pits. Ground water may move in and out of the pit during rainy periods Dead bird carcasses are disposed of by a nonapproved method.**
Application rates

Litter and compost applied to fields at rates that meet crop nutrient requirements based on a nutrient management plan(NMP). Litter and soils are tested. Litter and compost applied to cropped fields at rates that do not exceed 2.5 tons/acre/application, and do not exceed 5 tons/ acre/year. Soils in application areas tested. Litter and compost applied to cropped fields at rates that do not exceed 2.5 tons/acre/application, and do not exceed 5 tons/ acre/year. Soils in the application areas are not tested. Litter and compost applied to cropped lands at rates that exceed 2.5 tons/acre/application, or exceed 5 tons/acre/ year or materials applied to uncropped lands at any rate.
Soil testing of litter and compost application sites Yearly Every 2 years. Every 3 years. frequently than every 3 years.
Nutrient (N, P, K) budgeting Based on waste analysis, soil test, and crop nutrient utilization information or done according to NMP. Soil test used. No waste analysis. Nutrient value based on published estimates. No waste analysis or soil test. Nutrientvalue based on published estimates alone. No waste analysis or soil test or effort toward nutrientaccounting.
Record keeping

Complete records kept on farm applications and nutrients leaving farm through sales or giveaways. Partial records kept on farm applications and nutrients leaving farm through sales or giveaways. Partial records kept on farm applications but no records on nutrients leaving farm. No records kept.
Application timing According to accurate nutrient accounting or NMP. Never applied in wet conditions. Based on when crop is at growth stage that usually needs fertilizing. Try to avoid applying in wet conditions. Based on convenience. When manure cleaned out of houses and compost is available. Try to avoid applying in wet conditions. Based on convenience. When litter cleaned out of houses and compost is available. Often applied when soil is wet.
Application areas All areas are more than 25 feet from rock outcrops, 100 feet from surface water sources, wells, dwellings or sinkholes and have slopes of 15% or less. Or all areas are approved by NMP Most areas are more than 25 feet from rock outcrops, 100 feet from surface water sources, wells, dwellings or sinkholes and have slopes of 15% or less. Or most areas are approved by a NMP. Litter is occasionally spread over areas that are less than 25 feet from rock outcrops or less than 100 feet from surface water sources, wells, dwellings or sinkholes, or have slopes greater than 15%. Litter is routinely spread over areas that are less than 25 feet from rock outcrops or less than 100 feet from surface water

sources, wells, dwellings, or sinkholes, or that have slopes greater than 15%.


Nutrient application equipment calibrated to proper application rate before each application and checked at least once during the application period. Uniform application over the area, is


Nutrient equipment calibrated before each application but not rechecked during the application period. No effort to assure uniform nutrient application over the area. Use custom nutrient hauler and applicator and assume equipment is calibrated, or calibrate equipment only once a year. Never calibrate nutrient application equipment or ask custom applicator about calibration procedure.
Drainage and areas around broiler houses All areas without vehicle traffic have more than 90% vegetative cover. High traffic areas are paved or graveled. No visible soil erosion or surface drainage problems. More than 50% of the area has established vegetative cover. Traffic areas are graveled. Few erosion or drainage problems. Less than 50% of the area has established vegetative cover. Erosion and drainage problems are evident in traffic areas. Area around broiler house has less than 25% vegetative cover. Erosion gullies are evident in many areas.

** These conditions are in violation of State and/or Federal Law

Number of Areas Ranked ______ Ranking Total _____

(Number of questions answered. There are a total of 11 questions.) (Sum of all numbers in the "RANK" Column)



What Do I Do with These Rankings?

STEP 1: Identify Areas That Have Been Determined to be at Risk

Low risk practices (4's) are ideal and should be your goal. Low to moderate risk practices (3's) provide reasonable protection. Moderate to high risk practices (2's) provide inadequate protection in many circumstances. High risk practices (1's) are inadequate and pose a high risk for causing environmental, health, economic, or regulatory problems.

High risk practices, rankings of "1" require immediate attention. Some may only require little effort to correct, while others could be major time commitments or costly to modify. These may require planning or prioritizing before you take action. All activities identified as "high risk" or "1's" should be listed in the recommended action plan. Rankings of "2's" should be examined in greater detail to determine the exact level of risk and attention given accordingly.

STEP 2: Determine Your Broiler Risk Ranking

The Broiler Risk Ranking provides a general idea of how your broiler production practices might be affecting your ground and surface water or contaminating your soil.

Use the rankings total and the total number of areas ranked as determined on page 4 to determine the Broiler Risk Ranking.


_______ _______ = _______


3.6 to 4 Low Risk

2.6 to 3.5 Low to Moderate Risk

1.6 to 2.5 Moderate Risk

1.0 to 1.5 High Risk

This ranking gives you an idea of how your broiler production practices might be affecting soil, surface and ground water. This ranking should serve only as a very general guide, and not as a precise diagnosis since it represents the average of many individual rankings.

STEP 3: Read the Information/Fact Section on Improving Your Broiler Production Practices

While reading, think about how you could modify your practices to address some of your moderate and high risk areas. If you have any questions that are not addressed in the broiler production practices facts portion of this assessment, consult the references in the back of this publication or contact your county Extension agent for more information.

STEP 4: Transfer Information to the Total Farm Assessment

If you are completing this assessment as part of a "Total Farm Assessment," you should also transfer your broiler average ranking and your identified high risk practices to the broiler farm assessment.


Reducing the Risk of Pollution by Improving Broiler Litter Management and Disposal of Dead Bird Carcasses

Broiler litter and compost from mortalities(dead bird carcasses) are nutrient-rich materials. These materials can benefit the farm if they are protected adequately and correctly land applied following storage or treatment. However, storage, disposal, or application of these nutrient-rich materials can be a threat to farm water sources if not done properly.

Litter storage and land application are important management concerns for poultry producers. Sound management maximizes fertilizer value while reducing the risk of water contamination.

Several dead bird disposal options are available to Georgia poultry producers. Specific requirements and guidelines for these disposal methods can be obtained from your broiler company or the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA), call 404-656-3671.

Stored litter and compost residue materials should be sampled and tested to determine their nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content. These nutrient values, combined with the amount of litter or residue applied per acre, allow for determination of whether more commercial fertilizer should be added to meet realistic crop production goals.

A nutrient management plan (NMP) assists you in effectively using broiler waste in an environmentally safe manner. Any situation where waste is not effectively managed gives rise to potential pollution. Broiler waste can be a source of fecal bacteria. Nitrogen in broiler manures also can be converted into nitrate-nitrogen. Runoff of phosphorus can cause excessive aquatic growth in surface water.

A sound nutrient management plan begins with the kind and number of animals in the farm operation and includes every aspect of waste handling. It includes how the waste will be gathered and stored including how large the storage facilities need to be. It also specifies areas to be used for manure application, crops to be grown, the area of land needed to utilize available nutrients, and the method and timing of application.

For more information and assistance in developing your nutrient management plan, contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service, agricultural consultant, or county Extension office.


Poultry Litter Composition

Nearly all broiler and broiler pullet/breeder operations manage birds on earthen floors. A

2-6 inch base broiler of wood shavings, peanut hulls or other bedding is placed on the earthen floor before the birds arrive. The manure and bedding mixture, commonly called litter, is removed and replaced periodically. Most broiler operations produce 1.2 to 1.7 tons of litter per 1,000 birds. For a flock of 18,000 to 20,000 birds, this amounts to between 22 and 34 tons of litter per flock. The total nitrogen content of fresh poultry litter is usually 3 percent or more by weight on a moist-weight basis (20 to 30 percent water). This results in the litter containing two-thirds to one ton of total nitrogen for each flock of 18,000 to 20,000 birds. Nitrogen contained in fresh litter can be fairly mobile and may be subject to leaching if not stored and applied properly.

Litter Storage

Not all of the nitrogen from a temporary litter stack would be expected to be leached by exposure to rain, but surface or ground water contamination from an unprotected litter stack is possible. Stacking unprotected litter in fields, particularly during periods of wet weather, is not recommended.

If you cannot avoid temporary field storage, then litter must be protected. Stack the litter on some type of restrictive surface, such as concrete, plastic, a compacted clay or other materials that limit leaching. The stack should also be covered with 6-mil plastic that is securely anchored against the wind. An up slope surface water diversion (ditch, dike, grassed waterway, etc.) should be provided to keep runoff water from reaching the stack. The stack should be located at least 100 feet from any water source and down slope if possible. Any down slope surface water source within 100 feet of the stack should be protected by a grass filter area between the source and the stack.

A stacking shed, a roofed structure with a concrete floor, is the safest and most effective method for temporary storage of litter. Large quantities of litter can be stored and kept dry, promoting easy handling and distribution.

Cost sharing for stacking sheds may be available from the Consolidated Farm Service Agency (CFSA, formerly the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service). These funds are only available for farms that have an approved nutrient management plan. These plans are developed through the NRCS and include application acreage, crop nutrient requirements, litter application rates and application times. These factors are considered together with the size of the operation to arrive at the storage volume requirement and other design considerations for a planned stacking-shed. The stacking-shed design must be approved by the NRCS before CFSA acceptance.

Mortalities Disposal

The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA), which regulates the disposal of dead animal carcasses, currently approves the following disposal methods:

All disposal methods require permits from the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA), 404-656-3671. Some disposal methods require a special application form.

Composting of poultry carcasses has proven to be an effective on-farm disposal method. There are several different versions of composters available.

All must:

Some Georgia farmers use a storage and treatment shed that has primary and secondary composting bins and ample room for temporary storage of broiler litter. These facilities allow ready access to the storage and compost bins. Materials can be added or removed as often as necessary for their effective treatment and land application.


Poultry Litter Application

At this writing, there are no state of Georgia regulations governing the land application of poultry litter. Some counties, however, have regulations. Contact your county Extension office to determine if such regulations exist. A farm nutrient management plan should be developed with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or your county Extension office assistance.

The nutrient management plan (NMP) should identify the locations, acreage, and types of crops or pasture to which any wastes are to be applied. An owner may have plenty of land for application of animal wastes, but some of it may be located a great distance from the poultry houses. The practice of spreading animal manures only on the nearest fields can result in excessive nutrient loading rates to the soil and possibly cause water quality problems.

Dead Bird Compost Application

Application rates, calibration and timing, and record keeping should be handled like manure. The Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, NRCS county offices and GDA can provide information on composting as well as other disposal methods.

Application Rates

The best application rate depends on the crop being produced, the soil's nutrientcontent and the nutrient content of the applied material. Soil testing and litter nutrientanalyses are recommended procedures for best determining litter application amounts. Application equipment should be calibrated for accurate and even distribution.

Poultry litter should be evenly distributed over application sites at a rate not to exceed 5 tons per acre per year, with no more than 2.5 tons/acre in each application or according to a site-specific nutrient management plan. As a rule of thumb,annual litter production from one standard 20,000 square feet house 40 X 500 feet should should be spread over no less than 35-40 acres.

Vehicles must be covered or tarped for transporting poultry litter on state or federally maintained roads or any public road.

Your county Extension office can provide more information on soil testing, litter analyses, equipment calibration, record keeping and other areas related to poultry-litter land application.

Soil Testing of Waste Application Sites

Stored manure or compost residue materials from dead bird carcasses can be sampled and tested to determine their nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content. These nutrient values combined with manure or residue amount produced and applied per acre allow the determination of whether more commercial fertilizer should be added for desired crop production.

Record Keeping

Keep records of the dates, quantity and specific application sites. If you sell the litter, keep a record of buyers, dates, amounts and the farm sites where buyers apply or use the litter.

Application Timing

Surface land application of poultry manure and compost residue should not be undertaken when soil is saturated, during rainy weather or when rain is in the immediate forecast.

Application Areas

Consider unique features of the farm and make your management plan specific for these features. Do not apply poultry litter to the surface and subsurface within 100 feet of streams, ponds, lakes, springs, sinkholes, wells, water supplies and dwellings. Grass, vegetative and/or forest buffer strips along stream, pond or lake banks have been shown to be helpful in preventing nutrientrunoff from adjacent fields and pastures.

Nutrients should not be applied on slopes with a grade of more than 15 percent or in any manner that will allow nutrients to enter the waters of the state.


Calibration of waste application equipment, such as irrigation systems, tank wagons and manure spreaders, is needed to ensure safe and efficient distribution of waste materials. Equipment should be calibrated and rechecked at least once during the application period since the consistency of the manure can vary greatly. For more information about calibration of waste-spreading equipment, contact your county Extension office.


Air Quality

Air quality affects the health and well being of both animals and their caretakers. Odor concerns are drawing increasing amounts of attention as the urban/suburban areas expand into traditional agricultural areas.

Management measures to reduce or minimize odors in broiler houses include maintaining a low little moisture content and chemical treatment of litter. Soil injection or incorporation of manure into the soil reduces odor problems associated with land application. Odor suppressants, counteractants, masking agents and numerous chemicals have also been used in animal production to reduce odors.


Under certain circumstances abandoned chicken houses or old earthen chicken house foundations can be threats to the environment and farm water sources. Any abandoned structure should be completely emptied and the litter properly land applied or stored.

In the case of earthen floor facilities where floor soil is high in nutrients, remove soil to a depth of 1 foot and spread with the litter. The remaining hole should be filled and leveled. Litter packs remaining from moved or demolished poultry houses should also be removed and properly land applied or stored. The soil area under the litter pack should be cored and tested for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sodium chlorides, nitrates and sulfates. If any of these compounds and elements are high, you should contact your county Extension agent or NRCS for guidance in dealing with the soil.


Broiler Management

Compost: Organic residues that have been collected and allowed to decompose.

Composting: A controlled process of decomposing organic matter by microorganisms.

Cost Sharing: A program in which Consolidated Farm Service Agency (formerly the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service) pays a percentage of the costs of a project, facility or effort.

Decompose: The breakdown of organic materials.

Leaching: The removal of soluble substances from soils or other material by water.

Mortality: Birds that died during production.

Nutrient: Usually referring to those elements necessary for plant growth

nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

Nutrient Management Plan: A specific plan designed to manage animal manures and mortalities so that the most benefit is obtained and the environment is protected.

Stacking Shed: A structure designed and built for the storage of poultry manure.


An action plan is a tool that allows you to take the needed steps to modify the areas of concern as identified by your assessment. The outline provided below is a basic guide for developing an action plan. Feel free to expand your plan if you feel the need for detail or additional areas not included. Consult the list of references on the next page if additional assistance is needed to develop a detailed action plan.

Area of Concern Risk


Planned Action to Address Concern Time Frame Estimated Cost



Organization Responsibilities Address Phone number
Poultry Science
Information on poultry production practices. University of Georgia
Four Towers Building
Athens, GA 30602
Georgia Poultry Federation General information on Georgia's Poultry Industry. P.O. Box 763
Gainesville, GA 30503
Georgia Poultry
Improvement Association Inc.
General information on Georgia's Poultry Industry. P.O. Box 20
4457 Oakwood Rd.
Oakwood, GA 30566
US Poultry & Egg Association General information on the Poultry Industry. 1530 Cooledge Rd.
Tucker, GA 30084
Poultry Water Quality Consortium Environmental concerns related to poultry production TVA, Suite 4300
5700 Brainerd Rd.,
6100 Bldg.
Chattanooga, TN 37411
Georgia Department of Agriculture
General Field Forces
Questions regarding dead bird disposal. Georgia Department of Agriculture, Capitol Square
19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Suite 134
Atlanta, GA 30334
Consolidated Farm Service Agency (CFSA, formerly the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service) Agricultural Conservation Programs (ACP) Contact Your Local Consolidated Farm Service Agency Office
Agricultural Pollution Prevention (P2AD) Opportunities for pollution prevention in poultry operations. BAE Department
305 Hoke Smith Bldg.
Athens, GA 30602
Cooperative Extension Service, County
Extension Office
Information on nutrient management planning. (See local directory)


State Soil and Water Conservation Commission
P.O. Box 8024
Athens, GA 3063

University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension Service
Athens, Georgia 30602

Poultry Water Quality Consortium
TVA, Suite 4300
5700 Brainerd Rd., 6100 Building
Chattanooga, TN 37402-2801

Georgia Farm*A*Syst


The Georgia Farm Assessment System is a cooperative project

of the Pollution Prevention Assistance Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources,

the University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service,

the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission and the

Georgia Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA.

This publication is an adaptation of the Florida Farm*A*Syst, Reducing the Risk of Ground water Contamination by Improving Broiler Liter Management and Mortalities Disposal Fact Sheets and Work Sheets (revised from the Wisconsin and Minnesota prototype versions) authors, Michael D. Ouart and Don R. Sloan, UF/IFAS Dairy and Poultry Sciences Depart.

The Publication of this document was supported by The Pollution Prevention Assistance Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and was financed in part through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under provisions of section 319 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended in 1987.


Mark Risse, Ph.D., Biological & Agricultural Engineer, Georgia Cooperative Extension Service/Pollution Prevention Assistance Division

William Segars, Ph.D., Extension Agronomist & Water Quality Coordinator, Georgia Cooperative Extension Service

Lisa Ann Kelley, Program Specialist, Farm*A*Syst Coordinator, Georgia Cooperative Extension Service/Pollution Prevention Assistance Division


G. Robert Kerr, Director, Pollution Prevention Assistance Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Dr. Gale Buchanan, Dean and Director, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia

F. Graham Liles Jr., Executive Director, Georgia Soil & Water Conservation Commission

Earl Cosby, State Conservationist, Georgia Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture


Larry Goff, Poultry Water Quality Consortium: Donald Carns, Poultry market News, Georgia Department of Agriculture; Delane Borron, Field Operations, Gold Kist Inc.

This document was also reviewed by Extension and Pollution Prevention review committees and the Georgia Poultry Federation Farm*A*Syst Advisory Committee.

While the technical reviewers provided guidance in copy revisions and assisted in assuring accuracy of content, the views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the reviewers.


EDITOR: Lisa Ann Kelley, Georgia Cooperative Extension Service/Pollution Prevention Assistance Division

GRAPHICS: Tina Fields,, Georgia Cooperative Extension Service

LOGO DESIGN: Jody Mayfield, Senior Artist, Georgia Department of Administrative Services

DESIGN REVIEW: Carol Nimmons, Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and Susan Williams, Florida Farm*A*Syst