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How to make a 575-ton pile of chicken litter disappear

After several delays and hiccups we got this free crop nutrient applied and incorporated into soils.

Kyle Stackhouse 2

December 10, 2021

3 Min Read
Tractor scooping poultry manure into waiting spreader.
Kyle Stackhouse

Near the end of summer, we had the opportunity to take some ‘free’ chicken litter to our custom farmed field 66 miles from home.

We had always talked about doing this, and the opportunity seemed right. About a third of the manure was free because the roof had blown off that chicken house and there was a timeline to get that product moved. Since we were willing to take it, we were allowed to buy what we needed to spread the rest of the field. In a year when it has been hard to get tons, it was a no brainer! We still had to pay for trucking, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

In late August, I drove down to the field day of the local seed dealer we buy from down there. I did double duty and visited the farm to mark off an out of the way area to stockpile the manure. With rules to be 100 feet off the road, we probably had to destroy just over an acre of hip high soybeans to dump the manure. We made arrangements with a neighbor to keep the pile pushed up as trucks came in. A few days later, there was 575-ton pile of chicken litter.

The cost to apply

Custom rates to have manure spread just keep going up. I’ve heard anywhere from $20-$40 per ton to load it and spread it. (It can cost another $20-$40 a ton for the manure and hauling.)

We knew we would have to move our equipment down there and spread it ourselves. It just wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. Harvest delays pushed back our timetable. Then, after several attempts to get the spreader hauled, we ended up with a four-hour road trip, driving the tractor and spreader 66 miles. We then hauled the wheel loader to the farm on the low boy trailer and went to work.

The actual work went pretty smoothly. Ken drove the spreader like a boss and got the job done in about a day and a quarter. We were able to hire one of the guys that does the custom work to run the loader. (Dad and I have both been getting over head colds that came on the heels of finishing harvest.)

The ground had enough frost in it that it was firm despite rain last weekend. However, the ground wasn’t frozen which kept us within preferred spreading guidelines. The custom farmer had a couple other guys chasing the spreader with chisel plows and got it finished up shortly after we got done spreading. Perfect timing as an inch of rain is forecast this weekend.

There is no better place to have the manure than spread and turned into the soil!

In the end, it worked out pretty well. However, it was a bunch of added stress at a time when we weren’t really feeling that well. I promise it will be a few years before we ‘forget’ and decide to do this again! We will retrieve the equipment early next week. It appears our ‘bonus’ days here at home have expired.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 


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