WattAgNet: How to mitigate dust and ammonia in cage-free houses


A slew of novel technologies aiming to control dust and ammonia levels inside cage-free houses are arriving to the market, but are they effective?

Cage-free farming brings inherent air quality challenges, so farmers need to adapt in order to protect the health of their flock and their workers.

On April 20, Dr. Hongwei Xin, director of the Egg Industry Center, spoke about the results of research surrounding devices and methods designed to mitigate airborne pollution inside cage-free layer houses and emissions coming from them. Xin, a distinguished professor at Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, spoke as part of the Egg Industry Center Issues Forum in Columbus, Ohio.

Roots of the issue

As the U.S. egg industry rapidly shifts from conventional cages and enriched cages to cage-free operations, more bird activity inside the house is leading to increased airborne pollutants like dust and ammonia. Simply, Xin said, birds are moving around in litter areas – scratching, foraging and dustbathing – as well as flapping around the house stirring up dust. The hen’s freedom to move, and evacuate waste, wherever she pleases is another challenge. This means the manure belts in houses are no longer as effective as they once were in collecting and drying waste to simplify disposal and reduce ammonia emissions.

That raises the question of how farmers can mitigate dust and ammonia levels that can harm the workers and the birds. The issue, he said, should be examined in the sense of indoor air quality – which affects hens and farm workers, and emissions from the house – which can raise issues with pollution and its impact on the environment…

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