Best practice litter management manual for Australian meat chicken farms

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  4. Impacts of bedding type and litter management
  5. Meat chicken health

Meat chicken health

Litter quality can affect meat chicken performance and welfare, and is also a major component of the environment within production sheds. Litter moisture contributes to chicken health and, according to Dunlop (2017) and Ritz et al. (2017), poor litter quality (due to excess moisture) can result in:
– increased ammonia production leading to:
– respiratory conditions and increased infection
– eye conditions and blindness
– human health and environmental concerns
– proliferation of pathogens
– increased odour production
– breast blisters
– skin burns, including hock and footpad
– scabby areas
– bruising
– condemnations and downgrades.

Overly dry litter can also affect chicken health. Dry litter results in increased dust generation, which impacts meat chicken respiratory health, human health and the environment. As litter moisture is a major factor impacting chicken health, managing moisture in sheds is crucial for farm operators.

Other factors may also affect chicken health. For example, proliferation of pathogens in litter increases in environments with high temperature, humidity and pH (Ritz et al., 2017). Some litter viral and bacterial pathogens and diseases of concern (Ritz et al., 2017; Runge et al. 2007) include:

– Avian influenza
– Infectious laryngotracheitis
– Gangrenous dermatitis
– Gumboro
– Reovirus
– Bronchitis
– Pathogenic fungi (mycosis and mycotoxins)
– Parasites (e.g. coccidia, tapeworm and roundworm)
Campylobacter jejuni
Clostridium botulinum
Listeria spp.

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