According to the 2007 United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Census, there were 2,417 poultry farms in Alabama. A typical poultry farm with four poultry houses uses about two million gallons of water a year.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has been investigating the benefits of rainwater harvesting for the past seven years in order to cut down production costs for farmers.
Gene Simpson, specialist with the center, explains the detrimental costs for the farmers to Opelika-Auburn News.
“If they are using water from a municipal water system, a four-house farm has a water bill that could be as high as $22,000 annually. That is a direct, out-of-pocket expense to growers,” Simpson said.
The center’s most recent prototype was tested out on a farm in Cullman County. Their goal is to find a method that will reduce farmers’ dependence on municipal water sources by at least 80%.
Simpson adds that this gutter system is much more complex than the typical rain and barrel method many homeowners use.
The gutter system will drain rainwater from the poultry house roofs into a 100-foot by 36-foot flexible bladder, and then a control room will pump the collected water to the chickens as needed.
This process will be able to store enough water to save costs, as just a two-inch rainfall will fill the 100,000 gallon bladder.
It is also equipped with the technology to automatically switch over to the municipal water supply in case of an emergency. Even without such systems in place, roofs, like the ones on the poultry houses, should be inspected twice a year in order to head off damage from water or ice.
The chickens will also thrive on the higher quality of water produced. Growing chickens need clean water without impurities and debris, and this new method will filter the water multiple times with an ultraviolet light.
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