Alabama’s poultry growers are getting a welcome and helpful hand from the National Poultry Technology Center, located right in their home state.
The mission of the Auburn University-based center is to help improve bottom-line profitability for poultry farmers. While the center is national in its scope, it has benefited Alabama poultry growers in particular.
Experts at the center have been helping growers increase efficiency in housing, equipment, energy and environmental control of their poultry houses. Gaining such efficiencies is crucial as growers face mounting utility costs.
Tech Experts Provide Hands-On Support
Technology center engineers and economists are extremely hands-on, making frequent visits to farm sites and conducting seminars in poultry-producing centers across Alabama and nearby states.
Jim Donald, interim director of the center and professor of biosystems engineering at Auburn, says the center was established in recognition of the fact that the poultry industry was a critical part of Alabama’s economy, yet farmers were struggling with escalating costs, particularly for energy.
“We see our role as helping the farmer become more efficient,” Donald says. “If we do that, the farmer and the poultry industry will remain strong.”
The center has helped farmers reduce expenses in a variety of ways, especially to “tighten up” their poultry houses, Donald explains. This ranges from fuel savings to the critical maintenance of proper temperatures to keep chickens thriving in the houses.
The introduction of spray foam insulation in poultry houses, for example, has shown dramatic savings. While a complete insulation project may cost $8,000 to $10,000, a three-year to five-year payback achieves fuel savings of 40 to 50 percent.
A great deal of heat is concentrated in the attic areas of the poultry houses and the technology center has adopted some new methods to recirculate the warm air throughout the houses. These advances alone can save as much as 25 percent in fuel costs for farmers, Donald says.
Center Helps Farmers Keep Profitable
“We’re helping put Alabama’s poultry growers in a profitable situation,” says Gene Simpson, an extension economist at the center and professor at Auburn’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology. “This is particularly critical in the rural areas of Alabama and neighboring states.”
The center has also encouraged farmers to use energy-efficient light bulbs, a move that can save farmers their entire investment in just two to three flocks of chickens. Engineers are also studying solar energy as another way to gain energy efficiencies.
In 2010, engineers at the center introduced a system to reduce water costs by collecting rainwater in tanks beneath poultry house gutter spouts. The water is filtered and retreated so it is suitable for birds to drink. Based on early trials, this system could reduce the need for treated water by about 80 percent per year.
The tragic tornados that struck Alabama in April of 2011 brought widespread destruction to Alabama poultry farmers. Poultry Technology Center engineers have helped affected farmers rebuild their poultry houses by using the latest engineering construction methods to enable the houses to withstand some of the most severe storms in the future.