Green fix for chicken stink

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Sick of the smell of chook poo – or tired of having your downwind neighbours complain?

Chicken leaves its nest box at a breeder farm: the cheap green fix for chicken-shed smells is to plant VEBs.
Looking for a cheap green fix for odours and dust from chicken sheds? Plant VEBs
Australian Chicken Meat Foundation (ACMF)

Chicken farmers of Australia (and anyone downwind of them), unpeg your noses: the trusty Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC) has released a new hands-on guide to planning, installing and maintaining vegetative environmental buffers (VEBs).

The guide aims to help Aussie chicken-meat producers improve the quality of the air on and around their farms.

What is a VEB?

A VEB is “a dense multiple-row planting of trees or shrubs and grasses positioned immediately downwind of tunnel-ventilated livestock buildings to filter, intercept and absorb particulates (dust) and aerosols (odour and ammonia) from the exhaust fans’ emission plume”, explain the authors of the RIRDC’s new guide.

VEBs are a cost-effective, environmentally friendly means of reducing the off-site air-quality impacts of dust and odour from chicken-meat enterprises that can be deployed alongside other air-quality-boosting technologies, such as proper litter management.

Typically, they consist of a mix of plant species that play differing roles in the buffer zone. Those planted closest to sheds’ exhaust fans (the high-impact zone) work to trap the majority of airborne particulates, thereby protecting the health of other plants in the buffer. The remaining rows of shrubs and trees, planted further from the fans (in the low impact zone) trap more particulates and aerosols and serve as a partial windbreak, directing some of the exhaust plume over the buffer, spreading the emissions over a wider area and thus diluting their impact on surrounding areas.

How do they help?

As well as minimising negative off-site impacts from dust and odour, planting zoned vegetation near chicken farms provides several benefits, say the guide’s authors, including:

  • a reduction of wind loads on farm buildings;
  • shade for buildings (especially chicken sheds), which reduces their heat load – a key consideration and potential cost saving naturally ventilated sheds;
  • shade and protection for free-range areas;
  • a reduction of back-pressures on exhaust fans when strong opposing winds prevail;
  • a reduction of noise impacts from chicken-shed exhaust fans;
  • blocking sunlight (and heat) from entering sheds through open fan shutters;
  • an attractive visual screen that enhances the aesthetic value of the farm; and
  • capturing nutrients contained in the dust emitted from chicken sheds and/or chicken poo deposited in free-range areas, and preventing these from leaching off-site into waterways or groundwater.

Getting it done

Best news of all is that putting in a VEB is quick, comparatively cheap (the cost of plants and a day of spadework) and eco-friendly. All you need do is download the guide and read it, invest in some suitable shrubs and trees, and get them in the ground before summer hits.

Simple.

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