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Chicken litter on horse pastures: pros and cons

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  • Chicken litter on horse pastures: pros and cons

    Is it ok to spread fresh chicken litter directly onto horse pastures...directly from the chicken house?

    I need specifics on OK/not OK, please!

    I have a horse here for training that is NQR, and grew up on fields that are routinely top dressed with the litter from the commercial chicken houses on property. I'm having the vet to check him out today, but I have questions about this.

  • #2
    Originally posted by katarine View Post
    I have a horse here for training that is NQR, and grew up on fields that are routinely top dressed with the litter from the commercial chicken houses on property. I'm having the vet to check him out today, but I have questions about this.
    It's ok if it's properly composted and spread properly after performing a soil test.

    If it was spread fresh, no surprise the horse is NQR. I bet the fields looked like crap too. No pun intended.
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    -Rudyard Kipling


    • #3
      Scientists may need to reexamine assumptions about the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Georgia. They found that poultry litter a ubiquitous part of large broiler operations harbors a vastly larger number of microbial agents that collect and express resistance genes than was previously known. The study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that waste left behind by flocks raised in industrial chicken houses is rich in genes called integrons that promote the spread and persistence of clusters of varied antibiotic resistance genes.
      "We were surprised to find a vastly greater pool of these multi-resistance clustering agents than anyone had suspected before," said Anne Summers, a microbiologist from UGA who led the study. "Finding such a huge reservoir of integrons explains a long-standing puzzle about how clusters of resistance genes spread so rapidly and persist in bacterial communities even after antibiotic use concludes."
      Other authors of the paper included Sobhan Nandi, a postdoctoral associate in the UGA department of microbiology; and John Maurer and Charles Hofacre of the department of avian medicine in UGA's College of Veterinary Medicine. Maurer also holds an appointment with the Center for Food Safety in Griffin.
      Antibiotic resistance is a serious and growing problem for farm animal operations and human health. Antibiotic use in treating disease and increasing feed efficiency has been a common part of industrial farms for more than half a century. When antibiotic-resistant bacteria began to show up in hospitals in the 1950s, researchers initially believed that simply restricting the use of antibiotics on farms could reduce the prevalence of antibiotic resistance among humans, but it hasn't been that easy.
      "Over the past 30 yea

      Contact: Phil Williams
      University of Georgia

      Arsenic Speciation and Reactivity in Poultry Litter

      Yuji Arai,* A. Lanzirotti,§ S. Sutton,§ J. A. Davis, and D. L. Sparks
      Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19717, U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resource Division, 345 Middlefield Road, MS 465, Menlo Park, California 94025, and Consortium for Advanced Radiation Sources and Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637
      Environ. Sci. Technol., 2003, 37 (18), pp 4083–4090
      DOI: 10.1021/es0340580
      Publication Date (Web): August 19, 2003
      Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society
      * Corresponding author phone: (650)329-4520; fax: (650)329-4327; e-mail: yarai@usgs.gov.

      † University of Delaware.

      ‡ U.S. Geological Survey.

      § Consortium for Advanced Radiation Sources, University of Chicago.

      ‖ Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago.


      Recent U.S. government action to lower the maximum concentration levels (MCL) of total arsenic (As) (10 ppb) in drinking water has raised serious concerns about the agricultural use of As-containing biosolids such as poultry litter (PL). In this study, solid-state chemical speciation, desorbability, and total levels of As in PL and long-term amended soils were investigated using novel synchrotron-based probing techniques (microfocused (μ) synchrotron X-ray fluorescence (SXRF) and μ-X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) spectroscopies) coupled with chemical digestion and batch experiments. The total As levels in the PL were as high as ≈50 mg kg-1, and As(II/III and V) was always concentrated in abundant needle-shaped microscopic particles (≈20 μm × 850 μm) associated with Ca, Cu, and Fe and to a lesser extent with S, Cl, and Zn. Post-edge XANES features of litter particles are dissimilar to those of the organo-As(V) compound in poultry feed (i.e., roxarsone), suggesting possible degradation/transformation of roxarsone in the litter and/or in poultry digestive tracts. The extent of As desorption from the litter increased with increasing time and pH from 4.5 to 7, but at most 15% of the total As was released after 5 d at pH 7, indicating the presence of insoluble phases and/or strongly retained soluble compounds. No significant As accumulation (<15 mg kg-1) was found in long-term PL-amended agricultural surface soils. This suggests that As in the PL may have undergone surface and subsurface transport processes. Our research results raise concerns about long-term PL amendment effects on As contamination in surrounding soil−water environments.

      Wednesday, 9 November 2005 - 10:30 AM

      Surface and Soil Water Chemistry Following Poultry Litter Application to Pastures and a Loblolly Pine Plantation.

      Hal Liechty1, Joshua Richardson1, Robert Colvin2, Stacy Wilson1, and Robert Ficklin3. (1) School of Forest Resources, University of Arkansas-Monticello, P.O. Box 3468, Monticello, AR 71656, (2) Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Staton, 362 Hwy 174 North, Hope, AR 71801, (3) University of Arkansas- Monticello, AFRC, 203 Forest Resources Bldg., Monticello, AR 71656

      Repeated application of poultry litter to pastures has led to the reduction of surface water quality of several watersheds in Arkansas. Current regulations within sensitive watersheds have set maximum litter application rates to levels that will reduce nutrient loads in surface runoff. As a result of these regulations, the disposal of litter in these watersheds will be lower than historical levels and require environmentally suitable, alternative disposal sites to maintain the current levels of poultry production. Loblolly pine plantations respond well to nutrient additions and could be a feasible alternative to pastures for litter application. We monitored surface and soil water for one year in portions of pastures and a loblolly pine plantation that received (treated) and did not receive (control) 9 Mg/ha of poultry litter. Concentrations of N and P in surface and soil water were generally greater in the control portions of the pastures than the loblolly pine plantation. N and P concentrations of surface runoff and soil water increased with the application of poultry litter in both the loblolly pine stand and the pastures. However, the magnitude of increases was generally greater in the pine stand than the pastures. For example volume weighted P concentrations of surface runoff in the control portions of the pine stand and pastures were respectively 0.12 and 0.45 mg/l. In the treated portions concentrations were respectively 3.61 and 4.25 mg/l. Loads of N and P in the forest runoff should still be much less than pastures due to the lower volumes of surface runoff in the pine stands.

      Back to Phosphorus Chemistry in Soils: III. P Fluxes in Managed Systems
      Back to S11 Soils & Environmental Quality

      Back to The ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Annual Meetings (November 6-10, 2005)
      ... _. ._ .._. .._


      • Original Poster

        As google-around, see what you find with regard to horse's health It sucks to be a loblolly pine it seems, but I'm not treating a tree I'm finding 'oh it's ok if it's composted...' I'm still getting data from the owners but I think it's fresh litter, not composted.


        • #5
          I am going to say no, to spreading fresh chicken litter on fields. It is not OK for gardens, fresh litter will burn the plants. This is stuff fresh out of the chicken house onto green like the garden or grass. Chicken house may not have been cleaned in a year, but I would still call the litter "fresh" and avoid using it until after it sat outside for a while and got composted.

          Commercial operation chicken manure is a whole different ball game, and I probably would not use it at all. Too much medication going thru the birds, bound to come out in the droppings. I don't need that stuff in my pastures or running off into the water system. The medication may still be there, even after composting and high temps.

          Proper composting takes attention to doing it correctly. Physical turning of the pile to add air, getting the pile VERY hot to kill seeds and use up organic matter. Just making a pile of manure, doesn't always mean it composted.


          • #6
            Very interesting piece about fertilizing with manure/litter;
            ... _. ._ .._. .._


            • #7
              I was told by several vets to never spread chicken litter on fields. I was at a barn many years ago that spread it on all their cattle's fields. Stinking stuff! Vets say they are afraid of salmonela.
              Gross to think that cattle are fed 1/3 grain, 1/3 cotton SEEDS, 1/3 chicken litter!!!
              Producing horses with gentle minds & brilliant movement!


              • #8
                No to chicken litter

                Evidently, it can cause botulism in livestock:

                In addition, I had a load of hay a couple of years ago that tested high in phosphorus. So I had to supplement with additional calcium to help offset the resulting imbalance. When I mentioned it to my hay guy, he indicated that it was probably due to chicken manure he had used on that field (and promised he wouldn't do it again). Hay has been in proper balance ever since.

                So, IMO, I wouldn't use it at all, composted or not.
                Equus Keepus Brokus


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Liberty View Post
                  Evidently, it can cause botulism in livestock:
                  http://www2.dpi.qld.gov.au/health/3589.html . . . . So, IMO, I wouldn't use it at all, composted or not.
                  I agree with the above. Don't use bird manure on fields. The use of bird manure as fertilizer has been implicated in causing grass sickness in Europe. Some think grass sickness is a form of botulism. Anyway, it is often fatal as I understand it.


                  • #10
                    Our current property used to be part of a chicken farm that existed here 30 years ago. The manure, I'm told, was spread on the fields.

                    Out of curiosity, I had my Bermuda pasture grass tested. It was very low in sugar, but had a 17% protein level. I didn't have it tested for nitrate; in retrospect, I probably should have.

                    Powerful stuff to still be effective for 30 years, no?
                    Barbaro Cultist, Metabolic Nazi


                    • #11
                      as far as I know, chicken crap is the highest nitrate you can get naturally... I can't imagine what a horse could scarf up off a field dressed with chicken crap... viruses, parasites, protein, nitrates... omg. bad stuff!
                      “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                      • #12
                        We raise millions of turkeys each year in our township and the manure sells for a high price. I never use it on pasture or hay feilds but its very good to use on corn feilds then till in before planting.
                        Quality doesn\'t cost it pays.


                        • #13
                          I have used composted (had to compost myself) poultry litter in the late fall on pasture fields I wasn't using for grazing at the time. However, due to the use of antibiotics in poultry I no longer eat it or spread it.

                          I do compost my horse manure - both shavings and straw - and return it to the fields.

                          I do soil tests every two years. So far none of my fields have need Nitrogen, very little Potash and Phosporus. Also because I do not use chemical fertilizer the need for lime is negligible. These fields are all pasture and when mowed the clippings remain also "giving back." Hay fields would probably need, at least, lime.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by county View Post
                            We raise millions of turkeys each year in our township and the manure sells for a high price. I never use it on pasture or hay feilds but its very good to use on corn feilds then till in before planting.
                            County - if that's the case do the farmers out there need to rotate with soybeans? Or can they keep a monoculture and then just overseed for a covercrop in winter? I don't know what is common practice in your area.

                            We have some large commercial production out here, mostly on the Eastern Shore. The rest is pretty much small farms, organic/natural, herd shares, that sort of thing.

                            Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                            Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                            -Rudyard Kipling


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Ruby G. Weber View Post
                              I have used composted (had to compost myself) poultry litter in the late fall on pasture fields I wasn't using for grazing at the time. However, due to the use of antibiotics in poultry I no longer eat it or spread it.
                              I 'm hoping you mean to say you no longer eat poultry or spread poultry manure..
                              Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                              Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                              • Original Poster

                                Thanks all. I'm not the chicken farmer I'm the chicken farmer's trainer

                                I have a colt of his here that I'm starting u/s and he's hard muscled, a very picky eater, and can and will buck like there is no tomorrow. I'm working at understanding his environment's potential effects on who he is....trying to parse out any food/environment issues before I say you know, I think he just kinda likes the wind beneath his belly.


                                • #17
                                  JSwan we rotate beans behind corn then seed hay after the beans or plant oats and seed hay together or straight oats seeding hay after the oats has been harvested. Some people don't use beans in their rotation but I feel I get a better stand of hay if I do.
                                  Quality doesn\'t cost it pays.


                                  • #18
                                    Thanks, county. That's within the norms for what we do here.
                                    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                                    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                                    -Rudyard Kipling


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by katarine View Post
                                      ..... It sucks to be a loblolly pine it seems, but I'm not treating a tree
                                      Oh, no. If you were a loblolly pine you would be very grateful for the fertilizer provided by the chicken litter. Plants WANT extra N, P and K, and they care not a whit about what nutrients might be in the runoff water.

                                      Lots of people around here use chicken litter to fertilize pastures and hayfields. I've had some spread on my own fields at times, and would do it again without hesitation.
                                      "It’s a well-documented fact that of all the animals in the realm of agriculture, Bulls have the highest job satisfaction rate."~~Ree Drummond, AKA the Pioneer Woman


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by I'm EBO View Post
                                        I didn't have it tested for nitrate; in retrospect, I probably should have.

                                        Powerful stuff to still be effective for 30 years, no?
                                        EBO, nitrate is water soluble, thus will leach out of the soil just from the action of the water moving through the soil. Chances are that the nitrate was leached out about 29 years ago.

                                        Katarine, with that information alone (about the bucking), I'm officially taking our 6 "pasture" chickens off the 3 acres of pasture. I had NO idea of the correlation of bucking and chicken manure. Phew, and all these years I thought he was just being cheeky! Ha, mystery solved.............

                                        Seriously though, I doubt he's eating pasture with freshly spread litter. It has a pretty rank odor that would turn horses away.
                                        Alison Howard
                                        Homestead Farms, Maryland www.freshorganicvegetables.com