Is Spontaneous Combustion a Risk on Your Farm?

January 10, 2019

When manure removal systems were introduced to the egg industry, insurers assumed the systems would lower the amount of combustibles inside the layer house.  However, without proper management, these systems can increase the likelihood of fire.

There are various manure removal designs:

  • Direct removal
  • Free-standing manure barn separated from the layer house
  • Drying systems added to existing houses with manure deposited into a storage area attached to the end of the layer house
  • Connecting manure conveyors from house to house and then conveying the manure to a free-standing manure barn

There has been a history of fires in the egg industry in which manure either contributed to the fire, or fires that started in the manure barn areas spread to the attached layer house.  If the spatial separation between layer houses was less than 50 feet, or adverse wind conditions were involved, the fire spread to adjacent houses.  Spontaneous combustion within a manure pile may have played a factor in some of these losses.

The further away from the layer house that the manure is stored the better.  If manure is being conveyed to a free-standing manure barn, make sure the manure is run-off at the end of the day and not allowed to build up on the conveyor belt to allow a fire to spread along the belt.  Consider purchasing conveyor belts that have a fire-resistive rating.

Preventing Fires in Litter Storage Structure, though not specific to the egg industry, provides recommendations that may apply.  This article should be shared within your company and procedures established regarding the monitoring of manure piles depending on the manure systems at each egg farm.  Certain conditions can lead to spontaneous combustion within a manure pile and a large fire if not properly monitored.

Remember to consider insurability when planning new construction.  Below are minimum suggestions, although recent conversations with insurers would suggest 60-65 feet as a bare minimum due to recent incidents of wind-driven fire resulting in multi-barn losses.

Non-Combustible Houses (<150K layers) - minimum of 50 feet separation

Non-Combustible Houses (>150K layers) - minimum of 75 feet separation

Combustible Frame Houses (<150K layers) - minimum of 50 feet separation

Combustible Frame Houses (>150K layers) - minimum of 100 feet separation

Please call Des Yawn, Brett Cohrs or Carolyn Grubaugh at (800) 647-5496 if you have questions or need assistance.