Meeting the Needs of Arkansas Poultry Producers
July 24, 2016
Written By Adam Buckallew
Poultry is big business in Arkansas. Nearly 6,000 Arkansas farms produce some type of poultry, including broilers, turkeys and egg-laying hens. Poultry is the state’s top agricultural product, accounting for $4.47 billion in cash receipts or 44.3 percent of the total for all agricultural sales in Arkansas.
By far the largest segment of the Arkansas poultry industry, broilers are raised in 53 of the state’s 75 counties. As of 2013, Arkansas was the third-largest broiler producer in the nation with almost 1 billion broilers produced or the equivalent of 6 billion pounds of meat annually. Arkansas ranks as the third-largest turkey producing state, raising 29 million gobblers per year, and is also in the top 10 states for egg production.
Most of these farms rely on propane to keep their barns warm enough for poultry production. Jeff Goodwin, MFA Oil district manager for the Mid-South, says proper heating is especially critical for chicks.
“When a broiler farm is expecting a delivery from the hatchery, propane supply is top of mind because they need to keep the chicks at temperatures of at least 90 degrees for the first seven to 10 days,” Goodwin says. “If the chicks get too cold, it can result in poor growth, reduced feeding efficiency and susceptibility to disease.”
It takes a lot of propane to heat a chicken house, which can be as long as two football fields. Even maturing chickens must be kept at temperatures in the high 70s. MFA Oil is working with an increasing number of poultry farms in central and northeast Arkansas to supply the propane needed to keep their flocks warm and growing.
“We’ve seen a real uptick in business related to poultry production near our propane plants in the Lonoke and Paragould (Arkansas) areas,” Goodwin says. “Propane is reliable and relatively affordable, so it makes for a good heating source. When you combine that with the patronage farmers can earn on their propane purchases, it makes a lot of sense for growers to buy from MFA Oil.”
The increased demand in propane generated by poultry producers in the region has resulted in an additional 1 million gallons of propane sales for MFA Oil annually. Goodwin says the new poultry customers are also benefitting the company beyond the propane they use.
“We’ve gotten a lot of referrals from the poultry growers we work with and that has allowed us expand our trade territory,” Goodwin says. “People see our trucks going up and down the road to service the chicken and turkey barns and that’s helped us pick up new residential and commercial accounts.”
Each poultry barn requires about 1,500 gallons of propane storage, which usually means at least two to three propane tanks per building. MFA Oil is adding a bulk propane storage facility in Griffithville, Ark., to cover the needs of its poultry customers in central Arkansas. Goodwin says the company is also planning to build additional storage somewhere in northeast Arkansas.