Calibration of Poultry Litter Applicators

Poultry litter has been used for many years in Texas as an alternative to commercial fertilizer. The poultry litter not only has the N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus), K (potassium) benefits, but it adds organic matter and all other essential nutrients to the soil. Proper precautions must be taken in order to prevent contamination of groundwater and runoff, while regulating soil P and N levels.

Most application methods consist of a manure spreader/applicator, tractor/truck, house keeping machine, or a spreader truck. These methods may be ground, PTO, or hydraulically driven. They must be calibrated in order to apply an accurate amount of poultry litter.

A soil and poultry litter test are required before accurate application of poultry litter can be accomplished. This will identify what soil nutrients are lacking and the composition of the poultry litter (%N, P, K), so that the rate of application can be calculated.

To Calibrate Manure Applicator:

  1. Obtain a tarp, bed sheet, or plastic sheet 4 ft 8 in X 4 ft 8 in
  2. Locate a nice smooth area and spread the tarp out on the ground. Large nails or tent stakes work well to secure the corners of the tarp.
  3. Start the application method away from the tarp and move toward and over the tarp at normal operating speed.
  4. Collect all of the poultry litter on the tarp. Weigh an empty bucket. Place the poultry litter from the tarp into the bucket and weigh to the nearest 1/2 pound. Subtract the weight of the empty bucket from the weight of the bucket with the poultry litter.
  5. The number you get will be in pounds. The 4 ft 8in square tarp represents 1/2000th of an acre. For every pound of poultry litter on the tarp, you are applying 1 ton of poultry litter per acre.

Ex. 3.5 lbs. of litter on the tarp = 3.5 tons of litter per acre.

  1. If your tarp is a different size, multiply the pounds of manure collected times 21.78, then divide this number by the area of the tarp in sq.ft. to get tons per acre.
  2. Repeat this procedure at least 3 times in order to get an accurate average.
  3. Remember to keep moisture content in mind when applying wet litter.


Jason D. Nerada, W. James Grichar, & Sam E. Feagley*

*Technician and Research Scientist, Tx Agric Experiment Station, Yoakum, Tx 77995; and Extension Soil Environmental Specialist, College Station, Tx 77843-2474

Funds provided by Sustainable Poultry Litter Management Project. CWA 319(h) Cooperative Agreement No. C9-996236-04-0

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