Grower touts benefits of mortality freezers

The Mid-Atlantic Poultry Farmer

By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
Managing Editor

HARRINGTON, Del. (Feb. 10, 2015) — Poultry growers tired of composting mortalities should consider mortality freezers for their ease and benefits to the farm.
That was the message Brent Willin, a Seaford, Del., chicken and grain farmer conveyed at Poultry Day during Delaware Agriculture Week. 
Willin has been using freezers on one of his family’s three farms for close to a year as part of a pilot program in Delaware. On the other two farms, channel composters are still used for moralities. 
He said the challenges he’s had in composting include flies, wildlife intrusion and managing litter quality and the freezers have virtually eliminated them. 
Flies have been “drastically reduced” on the farm, he said, vultures visiting the farm are no longer an issue and odor has greatly improved.
It also saves labor by not having to clean the channel composter between flocks, which Willin said equates to about a full day’s work. 
“The last time we touch the birds is when we drop them in the freezer,” Willin said. 
After each flock Wilin’s freezers are emptied by Greener Solutions of Millsboro, Del., which also sells mortality freezers. 
In the spring of last year, Willin said he greatly appreciated having the freezers when the farm had high mortality numbers from infectious laryngotracheitis. 
Rather than having to manage those birds on the farm, he could get them picked up and hauled away quickly.
Willin said the upfront cost of buying the freezers is perhaps the biggest disadvantage especially on farms that have already invested in composters. 
He said the freezers cost about $4,800 each and use about $120 of electric per flock. 
Cost share for purchasing qualified freezers is available through Delaware NRCS to new poultry growers, growers expanding capacity and existing growers without a composter within its lifespan. 
According to an NRCS fact sheet, a grower with a 90,000-bird capacity farm on a 49-day grow out cycle would need six freezers assuming an average mortality rate. 
All the freezers would not need to operate for the entire grow-out cycle, however. 
The freezers need to be under cover and accessible by forklift. Willin said there  are also charges for having the dead birds taken off the farm. 
Willin added that backup power capability could be an issue for some growers if their generator can’t handle the initial load of several freezers running at once.
Though it’s not a perfect solution to composting, Willin said he’s glad to have them. 
“Any challenge that we’ve had has not stopped us from looking at freezers for our other farms,” he said.