BY SCOTTIE BROWN
The Greenville Standard
Having served nine nine years on the Alabama Farmers Federation Poultry State Policy Committee, Butler County native, Tom Duncan, was recognized by ALFA during the 2019 Commodity Organizational Meeting Feb. 6 in Montgomery for his efforts in poultry producing.
Duncan said his time on the state policy committee has allowed him to see the process of poultry producing change and helped him to pass information along to budding poultry producers in the county.
“We mostly take on issues concerning poultry,” Duncan said. “We have discussions with people in Montgomery and try to make it all flow down to all the poultry growers.
“We go up to Auburn and we have a lot of meetings and learn what’s coming down the road in our field. Our job is to pass back, to bring it back to our neighborhood associations and county associations and tell our poultry growers or people that are involved in poultry what they need to be looking out for our and what’s coming down the road so they don’t get blindsided by anything.”
Duncan got his start in the poultry business more than 10 years prior to his first term on the state policy committee and said in his 32 years of poultry producing, he has seen the business become more streamlined and high-tech.
“When we first started, the chicken houses were naturally ventilated, which means everything was dependent on the natural light, and now most houses are totally uniform in their cool cells,” Duncan said.
“When there was natural ventilation and it was a hundred degrees outside, it was a honking big house. Now, with the technology the houses have, you’re going to keep them at a constant temperature. This allows you to monitor the light and everything they need to make them grow at a good rate.”
Duncan said while used limitedly, he has seen the use of antibiotics in chickens halt altogether, forcing farmers to use specified-feeds to ensure a healthy crop of poultry for the coming season.
“The feed has changed a lot, because they don’t allow you to use hormones, but they’ve been able to figure out exactly what it takes to make a chicken,” Duncan said.
“Years ago, we used some antibiotics in the chickens, which was rare. You may have used it once a year at the most to make sure your birds were healthy. But, now we go by the no antibiotics ever rule, so we don’t put antibiotics on a chicken. You just take care of them the best of the best you can.”
Regulations on antibiotics are not the only thing poultry producers face. Duncan said many farmers use the waste from chicken houses to fertilize pastures, which must be tested regularly for soil contaminations and is controlled by Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
“You are always checking your waste product,” Duncan said. “You send off your samples to Auburn, and they’ll tell you exactly what you got. Then you take soil samples from the dirt and you figure out how many times you can spread, where you need to put it, and how much you need to spread to make the most feasible utilization of it in the pasture or in the hay fields.”
Duncan stressed the importance of staying abreast of the different rules and regulations for poultry producers and said growers should look to stay in contact with those informed of the coming changes
He stated the Central Alabama Poultry and Ag Association services the counties surrounding the area for this purpose. The group hosts quarterly meetings, and those interested in learning more about poultry producing can contact the Butler County Extension office, 334-382-5111.