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An industry survey on litter management and re-use practices of Australian meat chicken growers

Pepper, C.-M. and Dunlop, M. W. (2021) An industry survey on litter management and re-use practices of Australian meat chicken growers. Animal Production Science .

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Article Link(s): https://doi.org/10.1071/AN21222

Publisher URL: https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/AN21222

Abstract

Litter management is important when rearing meat chickens because litter conditions can affect production as well as chicken health and wellbeing. An industry survey was conducted to gather information from Australian meat chicken growers and integrators about their litter management practices, providing an opportunity to share their knowledge, experiences and perceptions about litter re-use and litter turning. This information was essential for researchers investigating litter management practices because it provided a better understanding about litter preparation and shed configuration to ensure that representative and timely data could be collected. Eighty-four survey responses were received from all major growing regions across Australia. The survey closely reflected the proportions of conventional and free-range production systems of Australian chicken meat industry, with approximately 21% of survey responses representing free range and 80% representing conventional barn housing. Concerning litter management practices, the survey showed that litter re-use is limited (32% of responses), but litter turning is a widespread practice (89% of responses). Litter turning is used to reduce the occurrence of caked litter and to keep litter ‘working’. Maintaining ‘dry and friable’ litter has been shown to reduce the risk of health issues and allows chickens to display behaviours, such as dustbathing, which are believed to be associated with improved welfare. Comments from the survey indicated that litter turning alone does not achieve dry and friable litter, and that proactive ventilation, heater and drinker management are essential. Growers also explained that litter turning is not without its challenges, and can potentially contribute to spikes of dust, ammonia and/or odour. They also expressed concerns relating to operating machinery in poultry houses, particularly when there is high liveweight density. When growers were asked about litter re-use, several reported that it has benefits in reducing production costs and improving moisture holding capacity, but concerns were also expressed about risks relating to ammonia, litter beetle control and disease transmission. Researchers will be able to use these survey results to gain an insight into practices, perceptions, constraints, and challenges relating to the Australian chicken meat industry and ensure that future research relating to litter management reflects local conditions and practices.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Additional Information:Open access
Keywords:Keywords: broiler, industry survey, litter management, litter re-use, litter tilling, litter turning, poultry, poultry litter.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural structures. Farm buildings
Animal culture > Poultry > Chickens
Animal culture > Housing and environmental control
Deposited On:22 Dec 2021 00:08
Last Modified:22 Dec 2021 00:08

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