Poultry Growers May Use Grass for Heating

By: Deon Guillory Email
By: Deon Guillory Email

Some Valley farmers are looking at changing the way they heat their poultry houses. It's called switchgrass and the upgrade could save poultry growers money.

Switchgrass looks like a plant grown in a garden, but it's grown in fields and on farms during the summer.

This bioenergy crop has been in use since the 1980s. Back in 2006, President George W. Bush proposed using it for ethanol.

Some farmers want to use as bedding for poultry and heating poultry houses. Poultry grower Dale Reeves has experimented with the grass. He's happy with what he's seen.

"It's a little bit harder to handle and put down, but it's a lot cheaper in some cases, so it's easier to get," said Reeves.

Mike Weaver, President of the Virginia Poultry Growers Association said "On the face of it right now, at current values, switchgrass would be about half the cost of propane."

Weaver says others seem to be on board.

"So far, the success with it has been good," said Weaver.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck plans to have farmers grow switchgrass so the company can use it as a biofuel.

Reeves explains to other poultry farmers how this experimental process could soon become the norm.

"If we can grow it ourselves and use our own product, we'd just rather do that," said Reeves.

Other members of the association say they are interested in using switchgrass. They are planning a trip at the end of the month to visit a company that specializes in this.

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