Farmers in general are continually searching for new tools to put in their “farming toolbox.” The farmer’s toolbox is comprised not only of wrenches and hammers, but of ideas. Poultry litter is in the news on what seems to be a daily basis. Litter, working litter, and the amendments used to keep litter functional are a large cost center for poultry farmers. Shavings have gone up, by some accounts, 30 percent in the past few years. There are also areas of the country where finding a plentiful amount of shavings suitable for poultry is a challenge. In house litter composting, also referred to as windrowing, is rapidly becoming one reliable tool.
In the past few years, growers have turned to windrowing as an innovative way to reduce pathogens and improve performance. Windrowing has typically been used during the down time between flocks. Most guidelines that have been issued are based on studies done with “windrowing turners,” that are manufactured by companies like Brown Bear and Wildcat. However, in most areas, creative growers have used bobcats and farm tractors with a three point hitch blades set at an angle to achieve the same affect. The windrow turners do have the benefit of being more efficient. However, a grower might want to try out a few rounds of windrowing before investing in a turner, to make sure this methodology is for him, and that it returns results.
Turners come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are three main types of turners; the straddle type turner, the Auger type turner and the elevating face turner.
The process of windrowing can be time consuming but it has resulted in improved bird health and performance, in studies conducted. The perfect time to start your windrowing experiment and adventure is directly after a full clean out. If you can’t wait to get started, and a cleanout isn’t in your near future, it’s best to start in warm or moderate weather. This allows you to ventilate your house better during the initial burst of ammonia from previously used litter. You should have a minimum of 14 days of downtime to implement your windrowing plan. If you don’t have the minimum amount of time, you shouldn’t try it, as you won’t have sufficient time to allow for moisture and ammonia removal.
You should start implementing windrowing within two days of your flock moving out. This will allow you to capture and use the residual moisture and heat within the litter. It will help you raise the temperatures within your windrows more rapidly.
Litter depth is one of the most important considerations in windrowing. Ideal depth will be four to six inches. If your litter depth exceeds eight inches you should cut the centers from the house prior to windrowing. Having your litter too deep will cause moisture removal and ammonia will be harder to control. The optimum recommended windrow size is 2-3 feet high, in a cone shape. This size allows the windrow to heat quickly. This size is also easier to turn and allows the most moisture and ammonia release. The number of windrows is variable, depending on your litter depth and the size of your house. It’s also helpful to remove excessive cake before you build your windrows in cold weather. One of the primary benefits to using windrowing is exposing your floor. As much as you can, you should remove litter and cake from the floor. Four days before you receive your next placement, you should level the litter.
To reduce pathogens and pests such as darkling beetles, the goal is to reach 130 F, and maintain that temperature for three days at the minimum. Three to four days after you construct your windrows, you should turn them. It’s best to turn your litter at least once, and preferably a couple of times before you level. The turning process releases moisture and ammonia, reduces the pathogen load and reduces cake. For farms with disease challenges, all litter should be removed from sidewalls and corners, and mixed into the windrow. Farms with significant darkling beetle infestations can also incorporate a pesticide. The beetles will start moving to the top of the windrow within an hour. Applying insecticide within the first six hours will give you the maximum benefit.
Good ventilations should be maintained throughout the process to ensure that ammonia and moisture are moved out and that good air quality is maintained. To control high ammonia levels in flocks following windrowing, it’s essential to follow all the steps and to have as much knowledge as possible in your toolbox.
Higher ventilation during brooding may be needed to control ammonia. Failing to control your levels of ammonia during brooding will impact your performance and cause producers to lose the advantages of all the work they’ve put into the windrow system. Producers who have used windrowing say it takes at least two cycles to see the full benefit of the process.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here