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  • Writer's pictureLev Mikulitski

What does the smell of the farm say about what is to come

Smelling of farms is one of the important strategies for environmental monitoring and evaluation of the poultry/livestock production farms. It aimed to observe the farms' odors that occur due to the compromised feeding, housing, manure, and waste (including carcasses) management. These odors mainly occur due to the uncontrolled anaerobic breakdown of the manure. It is evidenced that the extended exposure and inspiration of these odors are harmful to the poultry/livestock, workers, and public health. These odors are comprised of complex gaseous mixtures. The principal gases of the poultry/livestock production farms include ammonia, nitrous oxide, methane, and others. These gases negatively impact the birds' health, growth, and production performance. Therefore, it is necessary to monitor and evaluate these farmhouse gases with efficient management and the latest technological advancements. It is the way forward to anticipate the early detection and negative consequences of these dangerous gases. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the environmental impact and perception of the poultry production forms in particular.

Environmental impact and perception of poultry production forms

The housing environment of poultry production farms is a combination of biological and physical factors. This is a very complex environment. The environmental impact of these production farms occurs due to the excretion of the harmful constituents directly into the atmosphere. Whereas, it may also indirectly contribute because of the deposition of these harmful constituents into the (ground) water. Moreover, the increased stocking density in the poultry farms may result in reduced air quality. It is due to the increased concentrations of the inorganic and organic dust, pathogenic micro-organisms and dangerous gases. Hence, it is evidenced that the poultry production farms may result in environmental pollution-associated problems. They damage the animal and human environment through the excretion of these harmful gases. Therefore, it is a pre-requisite to keep the optimal environmental conditions for poultry production.

In this scenario, environmental perception plays a crucial role in strategic planning for monitoring and evaluation systems for the poultry production farms. It aimed to anticipate the counter effects of these problems associated with the poultry production diseases. However, the environmental perception of these production farms requires a proper understanding of the composition of these gases. This understanding is extremely vital as it is the key to early detection of diseases and biosecurity events throughout the entire production chain.

Impact of poultry farm house gases

It is well-known that the production and emission of poultry farm house gases involve complex chemical, physical and biological processes. The excretion rate of these gases depends upon the various factors viz.

  • Composition of diet

  • Conversion efficiencies of the diet

  • Practices of Manure handling

  • Environmental conditions

Whereas, the concentration of these gases mainly depends upon

  • The rate and efficiency of the ventilation

  • Stocking density

  • Type of litter and management

  • Temperature

  • Humidity

Important gases of poultry production farms and their impacts

The principal gases of the poultry production farms include ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and greenhouse gases (i.e., nitrous oxide, methane, and carbon dioxide). It is reported that the ammonia (NH3) excretion from the litter accounts the 27% of the total NH3 emissions of the atmosphere. But this understanding is not enough. The structure of the various compositions is the key to the early detection of diseases. Let's see which important gases are taken into account:


Ammonia is released due to the microbiological processes occurring in manure. Its higher concentrations irritate the mucous membrane. These concentrations negatively affect the growth, performance, and welfare of these birds. It usually decreases feed intake and growth rate. Hence, it reduces the production performance of poultry birds. Moreover, it also causes damage to the respiratory tract. Thus, it makes these birds more susceptible to the various disease-causing agents.

Hydrogen Sulphide

It is excreted when the organic matter (i.e., protein) is decomposed in the manure. It exhibits the rotten egg smell. It is also considered a dangerous gas. Even the lower concentration of this gas poses severe threats to the birds and human health.

Green House Gases

It is well-known that the poultry birds have simple stomach (mono-gastric) digestive physiology, and they do not contribute significantly to greenhouse gases. Whereas, most greenhouse gases are produced from poultry feeds. Some of the important greenhouse gases are nitrous oxide, methane, and carbon dioxide).


Poultry birds produce a small amount of methane. It is usually excreted during organic matter fermentation or manure storage.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous gas is considered a potent gas of greenhouse. Its production from manure is associated with fecal composition and microbial/enzymatic involvement.

Carbon Dioxide

A significant proportion of the carbon dioxide is produced because of the respiration of birds, burning of the natural gas (i.e., heating during the cold weather or brooding of the day old chick).

It is concluded that the higher concentration of all these gases negatively impact the growth performance and productivity of the birds. Therefore, for the procurement of the environmental friendly poultry production operations, a proper understanding of farmer’s perception regarding the poultry farm environment is essential. Hence, understanding the environmental perception and gaseous composition enables the farmers to predict and early detect the birds' health-related problems. It assists the farmers in adopting the best farm management practices to minimize these farming, environmental issues.

From an environmental perspective to sustainable production

Undoubtedly, if we learn to understand the production environment in poultry, we can derive a lot of value both for the birds, for the industry, and the food consumers at the end of the production chain. As consumers, we all want healthy, antibiotic-free food. And the solution actually lies in a healthy manufacturing environment. So what approaches exist today that can take the whole field of biosecurity one step further? Which approaches effectively exhaust the environmental perception?

Some of the solutions are known as passive solutions:These include;

  • Provision of the adequate bedding

  • Regular disposal of the manure

  • Regular cleaning of the feeding utensils

  • Regular removal of the spoiled feed

  • Avoid the additional moisture in sheds (more odor)

  • Regularly clean the ventilation fans and maintenance of the recommended airflow rates (season)

Technological Advancements Solutions which are active;

Passive biosecurity solutions are not enough. There is a very clear glass ceiling for how effective it is. Understanding different gas compositions is a challenging task and requires evolving sensing abilities alongside in-depth analysis and machine learning.

It is a matter of the fact that the farmers must use the best practices and technological advances to achieve the most advantageous poultry production environment and biosecurity practices. Therefore, farmers must understand the latest technological advancements. These technological advancements ameliorate the sensing and smelling of the poultry production farms. Thus, applying the latest technological advancements is essential for optimum environment perception. These technologies usually involve the application of environmental sensors followed by controlled devices. They perform the monitoring and early warning of these poultry production environments.

In fact, they ensure the real-time and complete monitoring of the harmful gaseous concentrations. These technologies play a significant role in the early detection and prediction of farmhouse diseases. Thus, they make the farmers pro-active in efficient farm management and disease surveillance measures. In another article, the new frontier for Biosecurity in poultry farming, you can see a complete overview of a variety of existing methods and technologies that can greatly alleviate the challenge.

To sum up:

Smelling of farms is one of the important strategies for environmental monitoring and evaluation of the poultry/livestock production farms. It aimed to observe the farms' odors that occur due to the compromised feeding, housing, manure, and waste (including carcasses) management. The understanding of "what we smell" and of "what we do not smell but exists in the air", makes it possible to effectively detect early biosecurity events including early detection of diseases. Therefore, it is concluded that understanding the impacts of environmental perception and gases composition keeps the farmers aware of the best management decisions for poultry farming. Moreover, applying the latest technologies ensures efficient monitoring, early disease detection. In fact, they provide the real-time and complete tracking of harmful gaseous concentrations. Thus, they make the farmers pro-active in efficient farm management and disease surveillance measures. Finally, it ensures the optimum production environment and productivity.

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