As a State Park Naturalist at Roaring River State Park I had the opportunity to participate in the dye tracing at the headwaters of Roaring River Spring. Roaring River State Park is located in Barry County South of Cassville Missouri and this story will become a full circle as you will read on. We placed phosphorescent dyes in many sinkholes around in the suspected drainage area of the spring. The landforms that surround this area to the north is mainly rolling farmable land with thousands sinkholes or “recharge” areas to the many caves and springs in Barry County. To no surprise and after a good rain the dye traces were showing up down the path to Roaring River Spring. This issue of water drainage in the area soon became a future earthquake, in the following topic of Poultry Production in Southwest Missouri.
As the number of poultry farms became larger in the county, it made for many individuals to sit up and take notice. The phrase “Not in My Backyard,” became a daily phone call into the United States Department of Agriculture and that is where my second job came into play. I was hired by the Natural Resources Conservation Service as a soil technician to understand, educate and deal with the many issues that was becoming a large mountain of chickens. As I wrote in a past blog we were having many problems with the proper way of disposal of those chickens that died in the process of just being in a confined poultry house. After seeing what was going on around the county and the complaints of neighbors and even the smell of those chicken houses, now we were dealing with the extra nitrates from the excessive spreading of chicken litter or manure. I heard this time and time again…”If a little chicken litter was good fertilizer, a lot was even better!” Unfortunately we saw way too much nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into Roaring River Spring, which also feeds into Table Rock Lake. Just like when the Department of Natural Resources had to get involved with the dead bird composting for the poultry houses along came the “wise use” of the chicken litter spreading policies that had to be geared and implemented towards the poultry growers and “parent” companies they belonged to. The DNR was handed the teeth to chomp down on the excessive waste produced by the poultry producers and the USDA came into play by teaching and assisting these growers of the new laws handed down to them by the agencies involved. As USDA employees, we were to find and encourage with much tact, all the poultry growers in the area and invite them to become “stewards” of the land they were managing. The growers had guidelines to follow as far as to when, how much, and to whom they sold their litter too. They had to follow a plan on what land was used for chicken litter spreading and engage with their neighbors to smooth down a hostile environment. Because of a few poultry growers for example, spreading chicken litter on Sundays, on top of well heads, on neighboring yards, the local roads, ditches, at night, even neighbor clothes lines…it was just a cloud of “overspray” and “disgust” that gave all the poultry growers a black eye. Once the litter plans were implemented and our poultry neighbors became aware of the danger even to their animals eating the heavily fertilized soil, life with neighboring chicken farmers, became a little more tolerable. The best invention to the chicken litter management problem was with the building of “stacking sheds” or huge open air barns to store the chicken litter to keep it in the dry. It is best to be stored for spreading at a more suitable time like when the plants can use the fertility in the Spring and Summer months, not December! In closing to this huge enterprise, we are as farmers able to feed America and the world cheaply and with safety. I would hate to buy a chicken that is hanging in an open air market like you see in third world countries.