The Role of Moisture and Relative Humidity Control In Broiler and Turkey Litter Management
Ammonia is the most discussed component of turkey and broiler litter management, but it’s important to understand that where ammonia exists, moisture exists. And excessive moisture can wreak havoc on bird performance and health.
A few things to keep in mind about wet broiler litter and turkey litter:
- Excessive moisture in broiler litter can cause litter caking, which is most commonly seen around drinker lines, sidewalls and corners.
- Wet litter does not retain heat well, so it can lower bird’s body temperature which can be detrimental to weight gain, feed conversion and immune function. Also, since floor temperatures are more important to bird health than air temperatures, increased pre-heating times are necessary to not only prepare wet litter but to maintain bird temperature, which increases fuel costs.
- Wet litter with high ammonia concentrations increases the incidents of paw lesions and makes the litter more susceptible to mold growth.
Ideal Broiler and Turkey Litter Management Practices
Proper broiler litter management is attained when more moisture is removed than deposited where the air and litter meet. To make that happen:
- Preheat houses 48-96 hours prior to bird placement to dry the bedding, purge ammonia, and warm the floor. Be sure to maintain a relative humidity of 50% to 70% by ventilating as needed otherwise caking will occur.
- Keep litter depth at about 5-8 inches. This will provide sufficient moisture absorbing capacity without being too deep. Litter less than five inches deep often has excessive caking which can lead to high bedding replacement costs.
- Add an extra inch or two of litter along sidewalls in houses with concrete footers for better insulation. The extra litter will absorb the excess moisture in theses high challenge areas.
- Keep litter level throughout the house so it doesn’t interfere with proper drinker and feeder line height.
- Ventilate to maintain the ideal relative humidity of 50-70% during brooding to prevent moisture build-up and increased ammonia production, thereby preventing paw lesions and cake formation.
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