An Integrated Technological and Marketing Strategy to Make Boiler Production More Sustainable

1992 Annual Report for AS92-001

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1992: $0.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1994
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $101,409.00
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Fee Busby
Winrock International

An Integrated Technological and Marketing Strategy to Make Boiler Production More Sustainable


The primary focus of the work has been to help private businesses, including farmers, earn income and create jobs through improved management of what many call "animal wastes." This project has allowed Winrock the opportunity to carry out a multifaceted community problem-solving effort that has involved farmers, small businesses, nonprofit organizations, elected community leaders and public agencies.

1.) Identify and demonstrate economically and environmentally sound on- and off-farm litter and nutrient management practices that produce a consistent-quality litter for sale.

2.) Establish a more formal market for broiler litter in order to (a) make it easier for growers and contractors who clean broiler and turkey houses to find buyers, (b) increase the price of litter to its real economic value as a source of nutrients and organic matter for plant and animal production, (c) get more environmentally sustainable distribution of litter and (d) provide, when necessary, a price incentive to encourage more wise storage and application of litter and improve farm profitability.

3.) Improve poultry producers', clean-out contractors', litter processors' and end-users' knowledge of the interrelationships between production, processing, marketing and utilization of litter, its nutrient content, its value and its proper handling.

Analyze existing informal marketing practices. Winrock and project cooperators have conducted case study analyses of existing marketing practices through interviews with growers, integrators, clean-out contractors, row-crop farmers, ranchers, Extension agents and specialists, Natural Resource Conservation Service (previously Soil Conservation Service) field staff, conservation district technicians and others. This work established a baseline of how the existing, informal poultry litter marketing system works.

Develop strategies to reduce variability of litter. To determine potential for fractionation technologies being developed by the University of Georgia to separate "fines" for sale to a producer of bagged potting soil and the "coarse" fraction for reuse as bedding in the poultry house, University of Arkansas and Oklahoma State University faculty analyzed chemical and structural variability of litter removed from broiler houses at different locations in the house and following each of six flocks. The project has also evaluated how companies that are producing a "processed" litter control variability.

Encourage growers to invest in litter storage facilities. To increase flexibility in when litter can be sold, purchased, delivered and used, project staff and cooperators have evaluated methods of storing litter in cost-effective and environmentally safe ways.

Bring buyers and sellers together. To facilitate contact between potential buyers and sellers of litter, Winrock established a 1-800 "poultry litter marketing" telephone hotline and developed informational and educational materials to tell farmers about the hotline and its use.

Improve buyers' and sellers' knowledge of litter prices. Winrock and the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service have used data from the 1-800 hotline and other sources to track prices paid by farmers for litter. Winrock and project cooperators have shared this information through publications and individual consultations.

Identify and develop educational programs for clean-out contractors. Winrock staff and project cooperators have identified clean-out contractors who are active in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Those that indicated a particular interest in selling litter outside the area where it was produced have been sent educational materials on handling and marketing of litter throughout the project.

Identify, evaluate and arrange least-cost transportation of litter. Winrock staff and project cooperators have evaluated various methods available to transport litter from western Arkansas to eastern Arkansas. Particular emphasis has been placed on determining the opportunities for back hauls by trucks, railroads and barges currently traveling empty from poultry production areas to areas where litter can be used.

Recommend strategies to increase demand for litter. Winrock staff and project cooperators have explored opportunities for increasing use of poultry litter as a cattle feed, particularly for use in feedlots and as a means of restoring productivity to soils damaged in various ways. Particular attention has been paid to the marketing efforts and problems of firms that are processing litter into higher-value products.

This project has expanded the knowledge base of how litter was being handled in the state. As assumed in the original proposal, we found that farmers and others are very innovative in the ways they use litter. People with concerns about the economic or environmental well-being of the state have used the new knowledge generated by this project and been given opportunities to work and learn together for the common goal of sustainable poultry production that is environmentally sound, economically viable and socially acceptable.

Many poultry farmers now have an opportunity to sell their litter at a fair price, while reducing a threat to water quality on their farm or in their communities. Some poultry farmers have been able to sell litter for the first time because of this project. Previously, they were giving it away to simply get it off the farm.

Crop farmers who have seen the productivity of their land reduced because of precision leveling or because of other soil problems now have an opportunity to purchase poultry litter at a fair price and restore productivity. While there is no way to precisely determine how much litter this project has helped move from western Arkansas where it can cause water quality degradation to areas where it can be productively used, project staff and cooperators believe that a conservative estimate of 150,000 tons were marketed as a result of this project in 1994. Working in cooperation with the Central Arkansas Resource Conservation and Development Council, the project has helped purchase five litter spreaders and locate them in counties where a demand for litter has been observed, but no equipment was available to farmers to spread the litter.

Paul Brown, project coordinator, assisted the Central Arkansas Resource Conservation and Development Council in securing a grant from the State of Arkansas of more than $50,000 to purchase litter spreader equipment. This equipment was placed in row-crop areas of the Delta to facilitate litter application. As a result the market for litter has been expanded because farmers do not have to locate a contractor.

Winrock, in conjunction with the Central Arkansas Resource Conservation and Development Council, established a Cost Share Program to demonstrate the feasibility of targeting litter removal from critical watersheds. The program provides cost incentives to Delta farmers to cover extra transportation costs for transporting litter from identified critical watersheds in remote areas.

Marketing strategies to link litter buyers and sellers together have been developed and seem to be sustainable. Independent business men and women have started firms to market litter.

This project was the first to report that about 70 percent of the poultry farmers were hiring clean-out contractors to remove litter from their broiler and turkey houses. In many ways these businessmen determine whether poultry litter is properly or improperly applied on farmers' fields. Previous to this project all best management practices, regulations, educational programs and financial incentives to encourage proper management of litter have been directed to farmers. As a result of this project, educational materials are being prepared for clean-out contractors and educational programs for these individuals will be offered by the Cooperative Extension Services in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Truckers, including farmers and clean-out contractors with trucks, can now haul bedding and litter in the same truck as long as the trailer is cleaned after hauling litter. This has helped reduce the cost of handling litter and made it a more marketable product. Several "litter brokers" have made it possible for independent truck owners and operators to obtain loads when they return from western Arkansas and eastern Arkansas. This allows them to at least cover the cost of returning to their home bases.

December 1995.