The Importance of Sampling for Commercial Poultry Producers

— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch
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Commercial poultry producers have a lot of recordkeeping to keep up with and sampling records are a big part of their routine. Understanding when and how producers should sample is key to getting an accurate sample analysis back from the laboratory.

Litter sampling is required within 60 days of a litter application, meaning the producer has a 120-day window to sample. When sampling stockpiled litter or a dry stack- a representative sample should be collected by taking core samples at least 18” deep in several different locations on the stack, then mixing the samples in a plastic bucket and placing about a quart of material in a clean plastic bag and shipping the sample to the laboratory in a suitable container to be analyzed.

Sampling in-house litter should be done by inspecting the house and estimating the percentage of floor space used for different activities such as feeding or watering. Then take core sections of litter in those defined areas to get a representative sample of the house. Mix samples well in a plastic bucket. Put one quart of material in a clean plastic bag and ship to the laboratory in a suitable container.

For both stockpiled litter (dry stack) and in-house litter sampling, the accompanying paperwork should be properly filled out, including an email address. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture laboratory will only mail you a hard copy if requested. Also, if you are using a third party applicator, it is your responsibility as the producer to provide the waste analysis to the third party applicator, as it will be used in determining proper litter application rates. Waste analysis fees are currently $8 / sample and $10 for each optional special test you request. Be sure to check fees before you send your samples off as they are subject to change. A few tips for proper sampling: always submit representative samples to get an accurate depiction of your waste, keep your samples cool- if you are going to store them for more than one day, they need to be refrigerated, and do not put the paperwork inside the sample containers.

Soil sampling should be done at least every three years. There is accompanying paperwork for soil samples as well. Be sure to check peak season fees. Currently, there are no fees for samples submitted from April-November. A $4 / sample fee should be submitted from around Thanksgiving – March. To properly take a soil sample, you should first pick up a soil sample kit from your local Cooperative Extension office. Agents there will be able to answer any questions you may have on how to properly take a soil sample. First, be sure to use iron or stainless steel tools and only sample dry areas of 10 acres or less (per box). Avoid combining soils that may have different treatment histories. You should collect 15-20 cores at the appropriate depths: 0-8” for plowed soils and 0-4” for no-till soils. Use a plastic bucket to mix the cores well and fill the soil sample box to the appropriate line. Be sure not to put soil samples in a plastic bag. Ship to the laboratory in a suitable container.

You can find all these forms at your local Cooperative Extension office. If you have commercial poultry questions, feel free to contact me at