“Fowl” Odors: A Benefit of the Country Life

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Poultry litter is an excellent source of nutrients that can be incorporated into many cropping systems in North Carolina. It contains Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfur, and other micronutrients. It also contains wood shavings that help to build organic matter into our sandy loam soils in Sampson County. Land application of litter returns these nutrients and organic matter to the soil, building soil fertility, and quality. It also can help producers offset fertilizer costs which can help to keep production costs lower. Unfortunately, poultry litter is also an excellent source of “fowl” odors that may interrupt a pleasant day outside or holiday gathering for many county residents.

There are strict rules and regulations that farmers must follow to spread poultry litter onto agronomic fields. Poultry operations that use a dry litter system and house more than 30,000 birds must meet the following conditions:

  • Maintain records for at least three consecutive years that include the dates the litter was removed, the estimated amount of litter removed, and the location of the sites where the litter was land-applied by the poultry operation
  • Apply litter at no greater than agronomic rates
  • Maintain a vegetative buffer of at least 25 feet between the area of land application and a stream or water body
  • Restrict land application of litter at least 100 feet from a well other than a monitoring well
  • Keep litter stockpiles at least 100 feet from a stream, waterbody, or well other than a monitoring well
  • Do not leave litter stockpiles uncovered for more than 15 days
  • Do not apply litter on land that is flooded, saturated, frozen, or covered with snow
  • Do not apply litter to land during precipitation events
  • If a manure hauler is used, maintain records, including the dates the litter was removed, the estimated amount of litter removed, and the name, address, and phone number of the hauler

These rules and regulations are enforced by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) and the Division of Water Resources (DWR). Notice that there is no rule on how soon spread litter should be incorporated into the soil.

If you experience unwanted odors from poultry litter, the best course of action is to discuss these issues with the local farmer and become good neighbors. A little, friendly communication can go a long way. Most, if not all farmers in Sampson County are still people of high moral value where their word counts more than their money, and deals are still sealed by a handshake.

To learn more about homeowner/farmer relationships, Oklahoma State Extension has an excellent publication titled Rural-Urban Interface.

To learn more about poultry litter guidelines, view the NC State Extension publication, Guidelines for Commercial Application of Poultry Litter.