By Mike Surbrugg
PIERCE CITY. Mo. — Don’t expect Bill Harvill, a Stark City contract poultry producer, to just sit back and wring his hands over rising costs to keep chickens warm.
Neither will he give up on looking for support from the government to help manufacturers that make corn-burning stoves and the farms that use them.
Harvill has spent $45,000 to install corn-burning stoves in three of his broiler houses. He says the stoves cut propane costs by at least 90 percent.
The subject of a meeting held March 30 at the Shoal Creek Revival Church southwest of Pierce City was burning corn to heat poultry houses and the need for government money to help build and use the stoves.
Harvill said last year he used 8,000 gallons of propane at a cost of $1.10 a gallon ($8,800) to heat a 16,000-square-foot house.
Heat cost for the same size house using 1,000 bushels of corn at $4 per bushel was $4,000, according to his information. A bushel of corn generates the same amount of heat as 5.5 gallons of propane, he said.
“I have been upset for five years. I do not like depending on foreign oil. High propane costs are driving us in the poultry industry crazy. Propane costs are holding us hostage,” he said.
Harvill and his son-in-law, Joe Guinn, have 14 broiler houses that can each hold 32,000 birds. They get seven flocks a year, 3,136,000 chickens. Harvill and Guinn are contract growers for Tyson Foods. Tyson owns the birds and provides feed. Contract growers supply housing and care for birds.
To make the alternative heating adjustment, Harvill turned to Steve Schoen, whose family owns Schoen Equipment Inc., Freistatt. Schoen sells corn-burning stoves. Most are designed to heat smaller spaces.
Harvill obtained a 450,000 British thermal unit capacity stove that he adjusted to supply heat to a poultry house. He has spent $45,000 to install such stoves in three of his poultry houses.
His stoves were made by SRS, a company in Pocahontas, Iowa.
Randy Severson, a partner of SRS, is working with Harvill to further improve and enlarge the heating system to 600,000 Btu capacity.
The March 30 meeting was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southwest Missouri Resource Conservation and Development, Republic.
A large portion of the meeting consisted of an audio-visual presentation given by Debbie Schoen, secretary-bookkeeper at Schoen Equipment.
The presentation highlighted desired actions sought from the Missouri Legislature:
Give farmers an equivalent incentive to burn in biomass renewable energy systems.
Provide low-interest loans for farmers and private companies to build and use corn-burning stoves.
Give tax credits to insure continued use of biomass energy.
Provide grants for farmers and private companies to explore new ways to use biomass energy.
Give tax credits to poultry growers to motivate hauling litter to crop farms to use as fertilizer to grow corn.
Her program included data on how burning corn to heat poultry houses leaves drier and cleaner air as opposed to using propane. Cleaner and drier air benefits the birds and helps control the odor.
Mike Surbrugg is the farm editor for The Joplin Globe.
By Mike Surbrugg
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