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To obtain maximum broiler production potential, management of the poultry house environment is essential. An important measure of a suitable environment is proper maintenance of poultry litter.

Litter is defined as excreted manure mixed with bedding material.

Both heating and ventilation systems must be continually monitored to ensure that the moisture content of the litter is controlled and the litter remains friable. If the moisture content becomes elevated and the litter is allowed to become “sealed,” then the birds are being grown on a continually damp, slippery and sticky surface. This sealed litter is often referred to as being “caked.” In this condition, the litter is simply saturated with water and the water is unable to escape. A severe litter moisture problem can result if large areas of the house floor surface are caked. It is more common, however, to find localized areas of caking near leaky watering cups, nipples, troughs or roofs. The litter in these house locations must be continually stirred, raked or replaced to prevent the problem from becoming worse.

If litter is not kept at an acceptable level, very high bacterial loads and unsanitary growing conditions may result producing odors (including ammonia), insect problems (particularly flies), soiled feathers, footpad lesions and breast bruises or blisters.

Expect carcass downgrading at the slaughter house when birds are reared under such poor conditions. In a well-managed broiler house, litter moisture normally averages between 25 to 35 percent.

Litter that is managed correctly with the moisture content kept within the acceptable range can save a farmer from disease problems and antibiotics burden.

caked litter must be removed between flocks and replaced with new litter.

There are several causes of wet litter. A number of control measures can help prevent wet litter problems.

WATERY DROPPINGS:
Diarrhea can be caused by nutrition and/or infectious agents. High intake of the minerals potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfate or chloride can lead to excessive water consumption and wet droppings. If a wet litter problem occurs, feed levels of sodium and chloride (salt) should be determined. It is possible that a feed mixing error has occurred, resulting in an excess of salt in the diet. The water should be checked periodically for mineral concentrations, especially for sulfate and magnesium. Acidification of water plays an important role in keeping bacteria at bay !
Poor quality dietary fat or rancid fat can lead to wet fecal droppings. Likewise, using poor quality feed ingredients such as poorly dried maize, caked bran, rotten silver fish etc….will often result in excessively wet droppings.

To control wet droppings associated with some feed ingredients, it is usually necessary to use litter material that is good at absorption of water from litter for example coffee husks or rice husks.

Moldy Feed:
If broilers are provided moldy feed ingredients, consumption of mycotoxins may cause the droppings to be excessively wet. Mycotoxins are known to irritate the digestive tract and to cause marked pathological changes in the kidneys. Ochratoxin, Oosporin and Citrinin are mycotoxins known to cause these changes. Such changes can lead to increased water consumption and wet droppings. To prevent mycotoxins from becoming a problem, good quality feed ingredients must be used in both layer and broiler diets. Add sangromix active D in feed always because it has an ability to stop mycotoxins effect in the intestines.

Feed handling equipment must be cleaned and disinfected periodically. Caked and moldy feed lodged in equipment like feeders, serving plates, silos can contaminate feed as it passes through the equipment; thus any caked feed must be routinely removed.

Disease:
Numerous diseases cause poultry to excrete wet droppings. This effect may be primary where an infectious agent directly damages the alimentary canal resulting in diarrhea. Secondary effects may occur where birds go off feed but maintain water consumption, resulting in a higher moisture content of the droppings.

Coccidia infections result in direct damage to the gut and will result in wet droppings. Control of coccidiosis through improving litter hygiene, maintaining the litter dry, stopping feed spillage, and avoid pouring water on the floor as well as improving water quality.

if not controlled, coccidial infection may lead to necrotic enteritis and wet litter.

Bacterial infections caused by Escherichia coli, will also result in wet litter. In addition, several viruses phave been implicated as causative agents of diarrhea. Viruses associated with malabsorption of nutrients have an adverse effect on the consistency of the bird’s droppings.
We should know that water quality is only determined is we know the bacteria load and virus load in the water together with PH of water.
Adding an acidifier to the water helps to reduce bacteria burden.

Climate Control and Equipment Failure:
Farmers have little or no control over the ambient temperature and humidity outside the poultry house. Nevertheless, temperature and humidity largely influence water consumption and impact litter quality. For example, high temperatures within a broiler house lead to increased water consumption and wet litter. When high humidity accompanies high temperatures the problem can become so severe that it becomes very difficult to properly maintain the litter in a dry and friable condition.

Leaking watering systems, when not maintained in good working order, can cause wet litter problems. The in-line water pressure must be just enough to stop water leaking.
Roofs should be leak-free and ventilation systems should move an adequate amount of air to keep litter moisture levels in the proper range.

Cleaning water pipes and drinkers. Flushing in broiler houses should be done every after 2 weeks to avoid bacteria build up in the pipes which may eventually cause disease and diarrhea.

Bedding Type
There are a limited number of bedding materials that can be used in broiler houses. Any material that is in contact with the birds must be nontoxic, and able to absorb water and subsequently release the moisture to the atmosphere. The material must be readily available in sufficient quantities. Most importantly, it must be economical. You can chose coffee husks or rice husks

Quality soft wood shavings are also used as bedding material but you should avoid saw dust as it causes irritation and respiratory problems.

Conclusion
Maintaining moisture levels of poultry house litter in the proper range is essential if the production potential of the flock is to be realized. To accomplish this, management practices must ensure that high quality feed is provided to the flock, disease organisms are not permitted to enter the premises, and adequate ventilation systems and quality bedding material are used.
Do not allow caked litter in a poultry house at all as this is the number 1 cause of coccidiosis, cough and flu and retarded growth.

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