It’s clear that things are changing in the poultry industry. Houses can now be monitored and adjusted from mobile phones, robotics are on the verge of entering the chicken house, and as of April 2019, more than 50% of U.S. broilers were being raised without any antibiotics according to the National Chicken Council.
In many ways, the industry is embracing and quickly adapting to change; but that is often not the case with litter management. However, status quo can no longer apply to litter management; not when the bird, diet and environment are all changing.
In a recent social media exchange, a producer shared a picture of his recently placed chicks with the brood curtain up and the community wanted to know why it wasn’t closed. He shared that keeping the curtain up helps keep his houses drier and that it doesn’t cost much more to heat.
Connie Mou at UGA explained that keeping curtains up “can really help spread the moisture that has been building up in the brood area. For example, the relative humidity in the brood area could be around 60-65%, but go down quite a bit moments after the curtain is lifted.”
Litter Amendments: Half or Whole?
Applying a litter amendment to the brood chamber prior to chick placement has become quite common; however, only some producers apply PLT® whole house. For those challenging the status quo, how much of a difference does whole house application make? As it turns out, a recent study conducted by the University of Delaware showed the impact is significant.
Researchers looked at the impact of whole house PLT application on production performances, water consumption, broiler spatial distribution and ammonia production. What they found over two flocks was:
Birds weights increased and feed conversion improved when PLT® was applied in the non-brood chamber.
Ammonia emissions were reduced by an average of 11% in PLT® non-brood chamber treated houses.
Water consumption and bird scale hits were more evenly distributed in the houses with non-brood chamber PLT application showing birds were more inclined to enter the non-brood chamber.
The Bottom Line of Treating Whole House
Treating the non-brood chamber has a cost, but it is one that comes with a significant return. Looking at the economic impact of a 1 million bird complex growing 7.5 lb birds, we can extrapolate over two flocks:
This study showed non treated houses needed 187.5 extra tons per week to grow birds. Assuming a cost of $228.95/ton feed, that equates to $42,928 per week in extra feed costs.
The Benefits of Challenging the Status Quo
As the poultry industry continues to change, the status quo must be challenged so that management practices can adapt. If we do things the way we always have as the environment around us changes, the result will not be the same.