Effects of Ammonia and Methods of Control
Ammonia can lead to big problems for broiler producers if not managed appropriately. Ammonia (NH3) is a form of nitrogen that has the potential to create odors, impact air and water quality, and animal and human health (1).
Ammonia is a colorless irritant gas, created from animal waste by microbial activity. By spending money to control the ammonia in houses they farmer has the potential to get that money back plus more in profit. Many farmers would tell you they have low levels of ammonia but the truth is we can’t smell the ammonia until it’s at 20PPM; however the human nose becomes accustomed to the smell. Ammonia levels of 50PPM in a broiler house can seriously stunt bird growth. With larger birds the loss can be half a pound per bird. Studies show that even levels as low as 25PPM can affect birds. Birds can become blind if exposed long enough to high levels of ammonia. Ammonia in the colder months when houses are closed up tight can cause runts in a flock. It is shown that high levels can create 10-15% runts. If runts are present what happens when drinkers and feeders are raised? The bird has no opportunity to mature and can’t be sent to the processing plant. Experiments have shown that 50 ppm ammonia will cause about a half-pound catch-time weight loss in a typical 7-week broiler growout. With 20,000 birds in the house and being paid at a rate of $0.045 per pound, this translates into $450 loss per house (6).
In addition to the negative impact of high NH3 levels in a poultry facility on birds, they cause health concerns for the caretakers in those facilities. High NH3 levels sometimes found in a poultry house have also become a cause of concern for the atmosphere outside the poultry house. Environmental concerns have forced regulatory agencies to limit 100 lbs. of NH3 released to the atmosphere per house or farm per day. Therefore, there is a great need to reduce NH3 volatilization from poultry manure to reduce the possible harmful effects of NH3 on animal and human health, and the environment. Litter additives such as phosphoric acid, propionic acid, and ferrous sulfate have been used to reduce the volatilization of NH3 from poultry manure. These litter additives act by reducing litter pH, which in turn reduces enzymatic and microbial activity and increases the solubility (binding) of ammonia to water. More recent research has examined the use of minerals to reduce microbial uricase activity of poultry manure which would in turn reduce NH3 volatilization (5).
The floor of a new broiler house is normally covered with materials such as wood shavings or rice hulls prior to birds entering to the house. The wood shavings add their natural carbon to the droppings, accelerating decomposition. This lessens a bird’s contact with their droppings, helps absorb moisture, and the decomposition process helps to lower disease and ammonia. Poultry litter contains uric acid. When exposed to moisture, air and...