Poultry Litter Application Setbacks

— Written By James Parsons and last updated by Debra West

I continue to get complaints from citizens about land application of poultry litter to crop and pasture land. A few of the complaints appear to be justified, and include spreading litter across property lines, close to homes, and the over application of litter on a field. I want to take this opportunity to review regulations pertaining to spreading litter for crop production. Please make sure you apply litter according to regulations. If you use a third party applicator (commercial clean out crew), be sure that the owner and truck drivers are familiar with the regulations.

Animal waste (poultry litter) shall not be applied more than 30 days prior to planting of the crop or 30 days prior to forages breaking dormancy. Animal waste can be applied to actively growing crops in such a manner that the crop is not covered with waste to a depth that would inhibit crop growth.

Setback regulations MUST be followed when applying poultry litter. Waste Utilization Plan – (Required Specifications) state that animal waste shall not be applied closer than 25 feet to perennial waters, animal waste shall not be applied closer than 100 feet to wells and animal waste shall not be applied closer than 200 feet of dwellings other than those owned by the landowner. One of the more confusing setback regulations relate to property lines. The required specifications state that animal waste shall not be applied in a manner to reach other property and public right-of-ways.

This is also a good time to remind poultry farmers that animal waste (litter) must be sampled within 60 days of application. The cost of litter analysis has increased to $8.00 per sample. This information will tell the farmer utilizing the waste precisely what the nutrient content is in the litter and will enable the farmer to correctly land apply the litter. If a third party applicator is used, the poultry farmer should present a copy of the waste analysis to the applicator. It is ultimately the responsibility of the poultry farmer to have the waste analyzed. Normally, waste analysis results are available in about a week from the time it is received at the NCDA&CS lab or commercial lab.

Soil samples shall be tested at least every three (3) at crop sites where waste products (litter) are applied. The NCDA&CS Agronomic Division now charges $4.00 per sample for samples received between December 1st and April 31st. Soil samples received between May 1st and November 30th are still analyzed at no cost. The length of time to receive soil sample results varies much more than waste samples.

Please remember that neither waste nor soil sample results are mailed to farmers anymore. You need to go the NCDA&CS website (www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/) to get these results.

If you have any questions about the above information feel free to call me, James Parsons at 910.296.2143. I will do my best to answer your questions.

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James Parsons
Area Specialized Agent, Poultry
NC State University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
N.C. Cooperative Extension, Duplin County Center
P. O. Box 949
Kenansville, NC  28349
Phone: 910.296.2143
Fax: 910.296.2191