Balancing a healthy flock with a healthy profit requires smart planning for poultry litter management.
One of the major challenges poultry growers face in today’s farming industry is poultry litter management. Ideally, growers should perform a complete cleanout annually. But with availability of fresh bedding material shrinking and the price increasing, many growers find it’s nearly impossible to make that happen.
However, if bedding isn’t properly maintained, your entire flock is in jeopardy. Unhealthy flocks mean diminishing returns in an industry that has a notoriously fickle balance between investment and profit. That’s why poultry growers need a smart, cost-effective poultry litter management system.
The best poultry litter system will depend on several factors, the most important being:
- Availability of fresh bedding
- Room to store and/or spread used litter
- Amount of downtime between flock turnover
When good poultry litter equipment goes bad
Over time, poultry bedding becomes caked from excrement, feathers, feed, water, and traffic from both the flock and growers. That caked litter may contain 40 – 60% moisture. If not completely replaced or adequately cleaned and dried, the litter will accumulate high levels of ammonia and infectious microbes.
Even if birds do not appear sick, they can contract diseases which affect their growth and subsequent price per head. Neglected poultry litter also poses a health risk to everyone working among the flock. Respiratory disorders such as ODTS (organic dust toxic syndrome) are all too common for poultry workers. Poultry litter dust carries pathogens and toxins along with gases like ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and other volatile organic compounds.
Mitigating the risk of dirty poultry litter
Ideally, the best time to clean or replace poultry bedding is in the downtime between flocks. It’s best to extend the downtime as much as possible to allow the litter to dry and to bring the ammonia levels down to a safe level.
Of course, the longer you go without raising a flock, the longer you have between paychecks. But studies have shown that good management combined with extended downtimes improves feed conversion by at least 1 – 2 points. That means a bigger return and a safer environment for your workers and flock.
Here is what a good basic Poultry Litter management system might look like during downtime:
- After selling the birds, remove litter cake as soon as possible and run it through a litter cleaner. Only remove the caked layer and don’t go too deep. If exposed to oxygen, the bottom layer is more prone to grow pathogens and produce ammonia.
- If the previous flock experienced any health or production problems, or if the poultry litter has not been cleaned for a year or longer, windrowing the litter to let it go through a heat will remove moisture and reduce the pathogen load. Allow at least 3 days of ventilation after spreading the litter back out before you bring in a new flock.
- Keep the poultry house closed and run timer fans at regular intervals daily to remove moisture and ammonia. If you have attic vents, run those too.
- Preheat the house as required for your incoming flock. If applying chemical litter treatment, closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maximum effectiveness.
Get the right poultry litter management equipment
Here at High Tech Equipment, we have several products you can implement into your management routine. These products are designed to save you time and money, while ensuring a healthier flock and a greater ROI.
We carry several new and used brands such as Lewis Brothers and Priefert. One of our most popular products is the Lewis Brothers Housekeeper, first launched in 1987. It revolutionized the poultry industry by providing:
- Reduced heating costs
- Less need for additional bedding between flocks
- Extended lifespan for in-house equipment
- Lower ammonia levels
- Reduced fly and beetle populations
- Better pathogen control
Today, Lewis Brothers has several Housekeeper models for poultry operations of all sizes, including low profile machines for houses with low ceilings.
Is your poultry litter management system up to snuff?
Whether you have a chicken or turkey operation, High Tech Equipment is here to help you develop a good litter management routine. Browse our inventory for high-quality new and used poultry litter spreaders, levelers, blowers, blades, housecleaners, and windrowers. Or call us, and we’ll help you find the right tool to handle the job.