Use of aerobic bacteria to break down poultry droppings without smell and with minimum handling is the basis of interesting practical experiments being carried out at Greenmount Agricultural College, Muckamore, near Antrim.
The experiment started in August last year and results so far have been favourable, indicating that a high percentage of the solid content of poultry droppings can be readily broken down by this means, reducing labour required for their disposal.
Being used at Greenmount in the experiment is a 140ft x 36ft Wigfield and Pluck laying house erected by the Warwick firm’s Ulster agents, Hoods (Ireland) Ltd, of Belfast.
The house was originally conceived to demonstrate various types of cages to poultry students at Greenmount and to give them experience of the different types – belt clean, scraper clean, California, etc – and a chance for personal evaluation of their virtues and vices.
This is still the main role of the house and one half of the building, which is divided by a central feed store, has three different types of belt and scraper cleaned cages.
The other half of the house contains a four-tier paperclean cage block and a three-tier 1000 bird block of Californian laying cages.
The experiment at Greenmount centre around the Californian block which as a 4ft deep, cement block and concrete lined oxidation ditch, or tank, underneath it.
This 10,000 gallon tank was built at the same time as the baseworks of the house specifically to test out the oxidation ditch principle.
The Ministry of Agriculture in Northern Ireland has over the past two years been interested in the commercial possibilities of digestion of material, via aerobic bacteria, conducting its own experimental schemes, primarily with pig and cattle slurry.
Head of the Poultry Department at Greenmount is Mr Robin McIlwain.
He is deeply interested in the commercial possibilities of such techniques and, as a result of his co-operation, part of the new Wigfield and Pluck house was allocated to this project, with the oxidation ditch included in the house plans.
The ditch runs the complete length of the Californian cage block and out under the gable wall to the outside of the house where a special aeration rotor, powered by a three-phase, 1½ hp electric motor, driven via a gearbox, is installed.