Poultry growers’ field day draws hundreds
HARRINGTON, Del. — Set up in a pair of nearly-completed poultry houses designed for USDA Organic production, farmers had several opportunities to learn at the Maryland and Delaware Poultry Field Day on March 28.
More than 400 people attended the event at Hawkins Farm with presentations repeating every hour on good neighbor practices, generator maintenance, heater maintenance and repair, tunnel ventilation, animal agriculture advocacy, mortality management, water sanitization and farm safety.
“It gave growers the freedom to go around and see what they want,” said Georgie Cartanza, University of Delaware Extension poultry agent. “Really, it’s just trying to build awareness and give growers and opportunity to learn.”
Cartanza said. as chairwoman of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc.’s Grower Committee, she asked the committee for the most important production issues grower are facing and tailored the field day to their feedback.
“We just rounded up the people to do it,” she said.
Along with the presentations were a slew of commercial exhibitors with information available about numerous products and services.
“This is all about the farm today, what the farmers need,” said Dr. Jonathan Moyle, University of Maryland Extension poultry specialist.
Moyle said their goal was to bring growers together from across Delmarva for multiple topics.
In the good neighbor presentation, Bob Coleman, a Delaware Department of Agriculture environmental scientist, talked about the procedure he follows when a neighbor complaint is filed with the department. He said neighbor complaints have increased in the last two years, and especially in the last 12 months with the most common complaints being odor, flies and mortalities leaving the farm, usually by wildlife. Keeping litter swept up from heavy use pads and kept inside the houses or manure sheds goes a long way in controlling odor and flies is key, along with keeping wildlife and other animals from getting access to mortalities in the composting area.
Coleman said the state’s Nutrient Management law requires the coordinator to respond. After speaking with the person making the complaint, he visits the farm and if there are problems, he talks with the farmer about what measures can be taken.
“We want to work informally first,” Coleman said, adding in the cases where he makes recommendations for change, nearly all growers are receptive. “The typical Delaware farmer says, ‘tell me what I need to do.’”
Jim Passwaters, vegetative environmental buffer coordinator for DPI, said planting trees and tall grasses in key places around the poultry houses can id in good neighbor relations.
Trees along property lines provide privacy for the grower and neighbors. Grasses like switchgrass and miscanthus are used to catch dust and ammonia coming out of tunnel fans.
“One of the best thing you can do for neighbor relations is plant the trees,” he said. “The grasses are extremely tough.
“They like the moisture and the ammonia coming out of the fans.”
Passwaters said he’s also looking at shade trees planted near the house’s cooling pads to aid in saving energy, cooling the air as it enters the pads to ventilate the house.
Tim Norman with Barnes Electric stressed safety repeatedly during his presentation ias a on generator care. When there are power outage on the farm and the generator doesn’t turn on, quick action is crucial to keep the chickens alive but growers also need to act smartly.
“You’ve got to force yourself in that moment and ask yourself, ‘how do I keep myself safe?’” he said. “Take a couple seconds, step back and ask yourself, ‘what risks am I taking and how do I reduce or eliminate that.”
He urged growers to make frequent visual inspections, test run the farm’s generator weekly and take rodent control measures around the generator shed.
“When the weather’s cold, what’s warm? That motor is warm,” he said, sharing stories about mice chewing wires and wrecking radiator fans.
A similar field day was held in 2014, spearheaded by the late Bill Brown, former UD Extension poultry agent.
Moyle said he and other organizers hope to have the large field day-style event every other year with a classroom-style workshop focused on farm management in the odd years.
“We’re just trying to get everyone working together,” he said. “With all of us working together, we can do big events like this.”
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