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Agriculture Impact: Poultry

Poultry is Delaware’s primary agricultural industry. It’s producers are constantly searching for ways to increase profitability, improve environmental stewardship, and respond to production issues.  UD Cooperative Extension works with the industry, Delaware Department of AGriculture, and others to offer a variety of programs for the poultry industry.

First Issue:   Provided Ventilation and Litter Management Training with an emphasis on Poultry Health

Extension Response: Multiple educational workshops on ventilation, health and litter management for growers and flock supervisors. The UD Poultry Team consisting of Dr. Dan Bautista, Steve Collier from our Lasher Lab staff and Bill Brown, poultry extension agent, with technical support from Dr. Hong Li of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, produced a series of hot and cold weather ventilation seminars. Many of these sessions were approved by the Delaware Nutrient Management Program, Sydney Riggi for continuing education credits. These seminars were used in flock supervisor and grower trainings in the spring, fall and early winter and impacted 100’s of industry personnel the majority of which were contract growers.


  • One company has seen a 20% improvement in ventilation audits.
  • Two companies have changed timing of total cleanout practices.
  • Hygrometers are used in 70% of grow out houses for one integrator.
  • New Housing building programs now require actuated ceiling vents to take better advantage of attic heat and to improve litter and bird quality.
  • One company is utilizing ammonia guns and tubes on 100 % of contract farms.
  • One company is using air mixing tape to better evaluate minimum ventilation.
  • All companies are utilizing the “static Pressure test” to identify problem housing
  • One company paid to have training DVD’s produced of our training sessions.
  • Many growers received continuing education credits for nutrient management compliance.


Second Issue: Paws (feet) are exclusively exported to the Far East and are very profitable and are primarily affected by ventilation and litter quality.) Field downgrades result in nonconformance to animal welfare standards, food safety issues and enormous losses in revenue streams.  Extension, at the request of an integrator, partnered with them to help them to achieve their Grade A Paw pack out goals in their Delmarva plants.

Extension Response:  Extension conducted training for two divisions of one poultry integrator to focus on some best management practices to reach Grade A Paw pack out goals.  Attendees included  approximately 45 live production management associates.

Outcome:  The winter of 2011-2012 resulted in the best Grade A Pack out recorded for this integrator.   The Integrator reported that our educational efforts helped them significantly improve the net selling price and margin over processing for these Delmarva plants. Some integrators have stopped complete house clean outs from Nov 15-March 1 which has had a major impact reducing  litter cake and has improved  paw quality.  Timing of this outcome was significant as the industry as a whole was focused on enhancing income streams to offset high grain and input prices.


Third Issue:  Produce a poultry litter compost product using poultry litter and DAF (a sludge bio-solid from poultry plant waste water)

Extension Response:  At the request of the Delaware Department of Agriculture we facilitated a field demonstration between a litter broker and a commercial compost company.   Compost was created using a patented in vessel system. This system was monitored by our poultry Team, Steven Collier and Bill Brown. The product  was screened, cured, tested for nutrient content and presented to end users for market analysis.

Outcome:  The Composting Company is currently seeking to establish a commercial composting and pelletizing operation in Sussex County. This will add value to poultry litter while creating an alternative outlet for raw manure and DAF sludge. This will help Delaware continue to manage its State’s nutrient mass balance in an innovative, environmentally responsible and cost effective way.

Submitted by Bill Brown, Poultry Extension Agent

Visit the UD Poultry Extension webpage for more information on these and other programs.