Best practice litter management manual for Australian meat chicken farms

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Litter clean-out guide

Why important: Litter clean-out practices in meat chicken sheds can depend on regulatory approvals, current industry welfare requirements or guidance, processor requirements, or third-party accreditation requirements.

The procedure for clean-out typically involves removal of spent litter (often by contractors who supply bobcats or loaders), sweeping or vacuuming remaining material, and washing sheds with detergents and sanitisers.

Odour and dust can be released while pushing up litter within sheds, while loading litter into vehicles or during transport. Disturbing litter during removal can release built-up gasses, which can be harmful to human health in high concentrations (inside the shed).

Outcome: Litter clean-out is managed to minimise odour and dust impacts on neighbours and to minimise the risk of disease transmission between growth cycles.

Performance measures: Spent litter is moist and friable at clean-out (20–30% moisture content on a wet basis) to aid in reducing off-site odour and dust impacts.

Best management actions:

Timing and communication
• Communicate the timing and duration of litter clean-out activities to relevant stakeholders (closest neighbours) to maintain good relationships and manage performance expectations.
• Conduct litter clean-out during favourable conditions (i.e. when the prevailing wind direction is away from sensitive receptors), and at favourable times of the day. The preferable time is between 9am and 3pm, as during late afternoons and early mornings:
– atmospheric conditions are likely to be more stable, which causes odour to be trapped in the atmosphere and it will not disperse as readily
– light wind conditions are more likely, which reduces the dispersion of odour
– there is a higher likelihood of impacts at sensitive receptors.

Removal practices
• If litter is dusty at clean-out, use dust suppression equipment (e.g. water sprays), at loading.
• Minimise the height litter is released into the trucks to reduce dust emissions and blow-off.
• If washdown is conducted prior to litter removal, remove litter from the site before litter moisture causes odour problems. This will require having transport vehicles and handling equipment (loader/bobcat) onsite prior to completing the washdown.
• Ensure shed ventilation is sufficient to keep ammonia at safe levels during heaping and removal.

Loading and off-site removal
• Remove spent litter from the site following cleanout by loading it directly into transport vehicles parked adjacent to sheds without stockpiling litter near sheds.
• Immediately clean up any spillage of litter during loading and transport.
• Transport litter in appropriately covered vehicles, to minimise odour and dust emissions.

Monitoring and recording
• Record time and weather conditions during litter removal.
• Keep a record of the amount of litter removed and its destination.
• Consider providing a litter supply agreement form to ‘warn and inform’ contractors and end users of the restrictions and risks associated with spent litter. An example form is in Appendix D.

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