By Mike Surbrugg
DIAMOND, Mo. — Six large chicken houses south of Diamond are being heated by burning hay bales.
Martin Youngblood and sons Doug and Bruce worked three years to turn their concept into a big, outdoor stove. They even have patents on parts of the system.
“A lot of time was invested,” said Doug Youngblood.
In a move to lower heating costs, they and many other poultry growers in the area are turning to alternative heat sources, burning coal, wood, corn and poultry litter.
A major source of fuel for the Youngblood operation is fescue baled after seed is harvested. The stove also works with baled corn or milo, and the family would like to try some switch grass hay as a heat source.
“This unit can burn thistles, other weeds or anything as long as it is dry,” Bruce Youngblood said. The fuel needs to have no more than 16 percent moisture.
The oven is located between two of the six poultry houses at the Youngblood Farm. Each of their poultry houses has 130,000 birds. The farm gets six flocks a year and heat is needed on at least four of the flocks.
The burn chamber has a door so large a round bale of hay can be pushed into it. The oven can hold two round bales. The door is cooled by circulating water between steel panels.
It takes five to six hours to burn a large hay bale. The family burns four or five bales a day in winter months.
Two 4,000-gallon water storage tanks are nearby to supply enough water to heat the poultry houses. Heated water circulates through buried lines into three large radiators with fans in each house. The number of radiators emitting heat can be adjusted based on the age of the birds and outside temperatures.
A computer tells the units when to heat and stop.
It is a learning process, said Doug Youngblood. The farmers are making adjustments to future stoves as they learn. The next unit is to be finished in late summer or fall. They hope to build and sell the stoves to other poultry producers.
Units are transportable and are eight feet wide and 10 feet tall.
Costs for a unit without an extra water storage tank range from $50,000 to $60,000, The system could be adapted for use with any confined animal operation, greenhouses or even residences.
The Youngbloods believe the system can lower heating costs compared to systems that use propane or natural gas, and farmers could see a payback in two to three years.
Heating costs for the six houses at the farm were $20,000 last year, rather than the $60,000 they estimate it would have cost to burn natural gas or propane, family members said.
“This system works because we’ve proved it,” said Martin Youngblood.
Burning bales reach a temperature of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit and the exhaust out the top of the furnace is 250 to 270 degrees. Almost all smoke is recirculated and burned in the stove.
Source: Youngblood family
By Mike Surbrugg
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