Doing a lot with a little
By Diane Mettler
By Diane Mettler
Bobby (Wayne) Hart will
tell you right off that he does not have the money at his disposal that
some larger farms have, but what he does have he uses effectively.
1992, Wayne Hart went from a part-time poultry farmer and road worker
to a full-time farmer, building two new layer houses and installing a
flush system to clean his 175,000 hens twice a day.
Bobby (Wayne) Hart will tell you right off that he does not have the money at his disposal that some larger farms have, but what he does have he uses effectively.
In 1992, Wayne went from part-time poultry farmer and road worker to full-time farmer. To ensure his 245 acre farm, located in Meshon, Georgia, could support his family, it had to be significantly expanded. So, Wayne did just that. “We went from 40,000 birds to 175,000 birds,” he says.
He constructed two, 50 foot by 600 foot houses and at the same time installed a flush system to flush the houses twice a day.
Four-Piece Lagoon System
When creating the lagoons, Wayne avoided the more common, large one-pit system. Instead he went with a system designed and certified by the National Conservation Resource Center (NCRS), which consisted of four smaller clay pits, each 90 feet by 90 feet, that better utilized the farm’s waste.
Three of the pits are tied together. The liquid coming from the houses is gravity fed from one pit to the next. “We have the water moving at a slow pace, so the sediments gradually fall out,” explains Wayne. At the first pit, feathers and heavier sediments fall away and by the time the liquid has made the circle to the third pit it can be recycled to flush the houses.
| In 1992, Wayne Hart went from a part-time poultry farmer and road
worker to a full-time farmer, building two new layer houses and
installing a flush system to clean his 175,000 hens twice a day.
“A floating Houle pump takes the water off the top of the third lagoon and pushes it to the front of the house and runs it down the aisle,” explains Wayne. “We use the same water for three or four months, then we pump some of that water on the field and we refill the pit back up with fresh water.”
The first pit, where the heavier materials have settled, iscleaned out using an excavator. “Because we use calcium in our feed for the eggshell quality, what we’re digging out is like white sand,” says Wayne. From the other two pits, he pumps the liquid out onto his fields.
Wayne has 220 acres where he can spread. Before pumping he uses an Aerway aerator to condition the fields. Part of the land he applies the liquid by hooking up a hard hose irrigation gun – often referred to as a lane gun – to risers, attached to underground pipe. For the other portion, he uses a 4000 gallon tank and a 1100gal/min Houle pump that he pulls with a tractor.
One reason he likes his lagoon system is that it is ideal for that area of the country, which receives heavy rains. The Hart farm is located 70 miles from the Atlantic coast and although a hurricane has not hit lately, they can receive three to five inches of rain in a day when they come in close.
“I’ve never had my lagoons run over, but I’ve had them come close,” says Wayne. He credits his perfect record to a fourth pit in his lagoon system.“If I get in trouble with rain, I can reach over and pump into the fourth pit, especially if I don’t want to pump into the field right then,” he explains. “Every spring when we start pumping on fields, we pump the fourth pit pretty well dry. That gives us all year, if we need it, to fill it back up, and that works great.”
| Wayne Hart uses a
hard hose irrigation gun and underground piping to apply manure to part
of his family’s 220 acres. For the other portion, he uses a 4000 gallon
tank and a 1100gal/min Houle pump that he pulls with a tractor.
Sometimes it can rain as much as five inches in a couple hours, and in those cases, Wayne has to be prepared to not only pump to the storage pit, but be prepared to pump onto the field as well to avoid an overflow. “I double insure myself. You have to,” he says.
Hay Allows Multiple Applications
Spreading large amounts of liquids has become less of an issue since Wayne changed his crop. In the early 1990s, he was growing primarily soybeans and corn. But that came to an end when he received a visit from the NCRS telling him that if he wanted to pump the liquid litter more than once a year, he had to get into a different business. They suggested hay.
“They actually had to force me into it,” says Wayne. “But today, I’m glad they did. Now all my fields around the chicken houses are hay.”
Hay was the ideal choice because every time it’s cut, it’s considered a
crop. And Wayne is allowed to spread on each crop. “If I cut five times a year, I can pump five times a year. So now we’ve got somewhere we can go with the water.”
He has found benefits to growing hay besides the multiple applications. In addition to cutting on average three times a year, the hay season runs from March to the first frost in October or November. Wayne is also no longer paying for commercial fertilizer and he is able to take advantage of a ‘hot’ hay market.
security is an important issue on the Hart farm. Anyone coming onto the
farm is monitored and all vehicles are sprayed. Anyone walking into the
barns has to first dip their feet and anyone new has to wear a bio suit
to go into the hen house.
“The last five years has been unbelievable,” adds Wayne. “The hay business in our area is the hottest commodity going on right now. It’s way better than the chicken business.”
And because Wayne removes the feathers and large sediment before spreading, his hay is idea for the horse market, which likes their hay clean.
Wayne had to make some serious investments getting into the hay business, including two hay barns – one 120 feet by 120 feet and the other 60 feet by 100 feet – as well as trailers. It’s been well worth it. “We’re doing about 120 percent better than we were growing row crops,” he says. And he’s had to trim his clientele down to two customers, who are buying more than he can grow.
Part of the Hart farm’s manure management requires leaving 25 foot buffers around the fields. But Wayne hasn’t let those buffers go to waste. “I can’t pump on the 25 foot buffer, so I fenced them off and I have cows graze there,” he says. “It’s better than just wasting the dirt. And if I didn’t have cows, I’d just have to keep it mowed.
It’s also worked out great because it keeps me from crossing that line and going in there.”
|The Hart farm features a four-piece lagoon system designed and certified by the National Conservation Resource Center. The system consists of four clay pits, each 90 feet by 90 feet, with three tied together. At the first pit, feathers and heavier sediments fall away and by the time the liquid has made the circle to the third pit it can be recycled to flush the houses.|
Wayne also grows trees — 10 to 20 foot fencerows — down the highway-side of his land to avoid cars being hit by the drift when he pumps. Here again, he’s found an economical solution. “We used just old scrub oaks; something that’s good for nothing in our area. But they make leaves so thick that nothing will go through them. And in three years they look like they’ve been there for 30.”
Part of a good manure management requires accurate monitoring. “We pull soil samples and manure samples from the lagoon twice a year. And we’ve got monitoring wheels on the farm to keep the nitrate in check,” says Wayne. “In addition, wherever we pump litter, we pull samples… to make sure we don’t have a
The family also monitors anyone coming into the farm, using a strict bio security system. All vehicles that come in are sprayed and anyone walking into the barns has to first dip their feet into a solution. Also, anyone new has to wear a bio suit to go into the house. “It’s all about animal welfare,” says Wayne. “You can’t have any diseases.”
Although they take security seriously, it is not as big an issue on their small family farm as it is for larger operations. And the Hart farm is a true, family business. Wayne’s wife teaches school, and Cliff, 14, and his dad take care of the hay side of the business. Breanna, 11, helps with the chickens, along with two female employees that handle the egg operation. (Alex, 4, is too young to get involved
| The Harts also share
their manure with their neighbors. For a time, they looked into selling
the manure, but it turned out that giving it to the neighbors was a
win/win situation. Currently, the family’s neighbors are spreading
their operation’s manure on 150 acres.
The Harts know that to ensure their success in the commercial egg business, the family must, among other things, be a good neighbor. “I try to do what I can,” says Wayne. “If our neighbors need eggs, I’ll bring some over. Or if they’re growing a garden and they want to put some litter on it, I bring if over.”
They also share their manure. For a time, the Harts looked into selling the manure, but it turned out that giving it to the neighbors was a win/win situation. “They want it and I need their land to put it on. They move it, so it doesn’t cost me move it. Sure, I could sell it. But sometimes you’ve got to give to take.” Currently, his neighbors are spreading his manure on 150 acres.
And there is also the other benefit of sharing with neighbors. “When they spread it on their land, they can’t complain about odor from my farm, because they’ve got it just as much as I do,” Wayne says with a laugh. “But I’m blessed. I’ve got