How to Achieve Optimal Poultry Production with Good Deep Litter Management practice
I remember back then when we started poultry farming newly with limited knowledge on proper deep litter management.
A deep litter management system is a method of raising poultry birds kept in confinement. It is based on the repeated spreading of straw or sawdust material in an initial layer of litter about 4 inches deep.
As the birds defecate and soil the material. The material absorbs the moisture new layers of litter are continuously added by the farmer to build up the litter to a depths of about 8”-12”
Diseases associated with poor deep litter management
Poor deep litter management system, poultry shed with improper ventilation. A leaking roof that gives room for wet and damp litter condition. These can be a recipe for pathogens that affect bird performance.
High humidity, warm temperatures, and high pH favor the proliferation of pathogens in the litter. Which could lead to the following serious poultry diseases.
- Avian influenza
- gangrenous dermatitis
- bronchitis and botulism
- Parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms, and coccidian
- Poor deep litter management practice aggravates coccidiosis by providing the proper environment for oocysts to sporulate.
- Necrotic enteritis
- Increases the incidence of breast blisters, skin bums, scabby areas, bruising.
Recipe for poor deep litter management practice
- Poor ventilation in the poultry house
- A leaking roof, that is poorly maintained will lead to wet litter
- Poor storage of litter materials will lead to dampness.
- Nutritional imbalance e.g excess salt causes broilers to consume and excrete large amounts of water, result in wet litter.
- Environmental conditions such as wet and humid weather.
- Poor maintenance of automatic drinkers, e.g drinker lines, nipple drinkers, water troughs if not properly maintained will lead to poor litter.
- Wet litter if not scooped and replaced promptly with dry fresh litter will lead to poor litter.
- Lack of good absorbent litter material.
Best deep litter material
- Pine shavings and sawdust
- Pine or hardwood chips
- Hardwood shavings and sawdust
- Pine or hardwood bark
- Rice hulls
- Peanut hulls
- Crushed corn cobs
- Chopped straw, hay or corn stover
Quality of a good deep litter
- A good deep litter should be dry, not dusty.
- A good deep litter should adhere slightly after being squeeze in your hand.
- A good deep litter should have less ammonia you should be able to walk comfortably in the poultry shed.
- A good deep litter must absorb moisture from droppings quickly.
- A good deep litter should be able to dry up easily.
- A good deep litter must be free from mold growth.
- A good deep litter should be loose to allow birds to dust bath and be able to provide a natural environment for the birds.
- A good deep litter should possess good insulating properties and protect chicks from extreme weather and climatic condition.
- A good deep litter must be cheap, and accessible locally.
- A good deep litter must be biodegradable, supply some nutrients to the birds and form good quality manure later.
- A good deep litter must have medium particle size, soft and light in weight.
- A good litter, when mixed with dropping from chicken, synthesizes Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and Vitamin B12 by chemical and bacterial actions.
Good deep litter management practice
- For proper cleaning and disinfection after each batch, a concrete floor is advised for good litter management and build up.
- About 4” of litter should be put into the house initially and, as this breaks down, more should be added till a depth of about 8-12” is reached.
- Always scooped up all wet litters and replaced them with fresh dry litter material.
- Rack the litter thoroughly to break the clumps with the help of the litter racker and allow it to dry you can top it up with a fresh litter to give it a fresh smell and look.
- The addition of slaked lime may be avoided these will increase the pH of the deep litter which in turn releases more ammonia from the deep litter and also favors the growth of coli, the most common pathogen of poultry.
- In the beginning, the deep litter contains only 12% moisture. If the moisture level exceeds 30% due to poor ventilation, too many birds, irregular stirring or damp floor, the litter will cease to function efficiently. Because the manure digesting bacteria can be active only within a 30% moisture level of the litter.
- Sometime many birds will bear “balls” made of litter materials at their claw tips. Ball formation is a sign of bad litter management.
- Built-up litter has a very important role in providing warmth to the birds in winter.
- In winter the litter depth can be increased to 10-12” while in summer it may be reduced to 2.5-4”.
- Always inspect to ensure that the watering systems are working properly to prevent leaks that will increase wet litter. Adjust drinker height and water pressure as birds grow to avoid excessive water wastage into the litter.
In any deep litter management system in which poultry production is involved. The proper management of deep litter has a direct impact on the profitability of the entire venture.
A good litter management will translate to healthy and happy birds, devoid of all disease associated with poor deep litter management.
A good deep litter should be able to absorb moisture, dilute fecal material. And provide insulation and cushion between the birds and the floor. And should be able to allow the bird’s exhibit their natural behavior such as dust bathing.
A good deep litter management is one of the cardinal factors in ensuring proper disease control and prevention. In improving in-house air quality.
The practice of the built-up of deep litter requires a higher degree of management and commitment on the part of the poultry farmer to achieve success.