Poultry litter. Photo by OSU Extension.

Poultry litter applications

By Glen Arnold, CCA, Ohio State University Extension

Stockpiles of poultry litter can be seen in farm fields across Ohio. While common each year in wheat stubble fields, there are also stockpiles commonly found in soybean fields. Getting the poultry litter to the fields ahead of spreading makes the whole process more efficient. Poultry litter is an excellent source of plant nutrients and readily available in most parts of the state. With fall harvest just around the corner these poultry litter piles will soon be spread across farm fields.

Poultry litter can be from laying hens, pullets, broilers, finished turkeys, turkey hens, or poults. Most of the poultry litter in the state comes from laying hens and turkey finishers. Typical nutrient ranges in poultry litter can be from 45 to 57 pounds of nitrogen, 45 to 70 pounds of P2O5, and 45 to 55 pounds of K2O per ton. The typical application rate is two tons per acre which fits nicely with the P2O5 needs of a two-year corn/soybean rotation.

Like all manures, the moisture content of the poultry litter greatly influences the amount of nutrients per ton. Handlers of poultry litter have manure analysis sheets indicating the nutrient content.

Poultry manure for permitted operations needs to follow the Ohio Department of Agriculture standards when being stockpiled prior to spreading. These include:

  • 500 feet from neighbors
  • 100 feet from a public road
  • 300 feet from streams, grassed waterways, wells, ponds, or tile inlets
  • not on occasionally or frequently flooded soils
  • stored for not more than six months
  • not located on slopes greater than 6%
  • located on soils that are deep to bedrock (greater than 40 inches to bedrock).

Farmers who want to apply the poultry litter delivered to their fields are required by Ohio law to have a fertilizer license, Certified Livestock Manager certificate, or be a Certified Crop Advisor. 

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