Best practice litter management manual for Australian meat chicken farms

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Litter re-use guide

Why important: Litter can be re-used for multiple growth cycles, as opposed to the common practice of changing the litter between each batch. As such, litter re-use reduces the need for new bedding. Litter re-use may involve partial re-use of litter between growth cycles, or full re-use of litter over multiple growth cycles.

Re-used litter can lead to increased odour and ammonia emissions, and increased risks to meat chicken health, but this can be managed to reduce these potential risks.

Outcomes: Air emissions and meat chicken health and performance impacts associated with litter re-use practices are minimised.

Performance measures: Caked litter is not present in litter that is being re-used.

If required by the integrator/processor, litter to be re-used has been pre-treated via a pasteurisation process.

Re-used litter meets the physical and contaminant standards of fresh bedding (e.g. moisture levels, ammonia levels, pathogen content).

Best management actions:

Treatment processes
• De-cake litter between growth cycles to improve quality.
• Remove heavily caked litter between growth cycles, with attention to areas under drinkers, feeders and air inlets.
• If pasteurisation of spent litter before reuse is required:
– Push litter up into piles/windrows in the sheds to allow the material to partially pasteurise. Heat from the pasteurisation process will reduce pathogen load in the litter. Refer to Walkden-Brown (2016a) for details of practices and procedures to use in pasteurisation.
– If the litter is too dry, add water to accelerate the pasteurisation process.
– Leave until the litter temperature reaches 55 ℃ (typically three days).
– Turn the outside of the piles or windrows into the centre to ensure this outer material also reaches 55 ℃ (typically a further three days).
• Consider the use of flame sanitisers on reused litter between growth cycles to reduce pathogens, insects and ammonia emissions.
• If acceptable shed ammonia levels (<20 ppm) cannot be achieved via ventilation, consider using litter amendments between cycles to release ammonia when the reused litter is spread.

Shed management and recording
• Spread the litter for reuse evenly following pasteurisation.
• If using partial litter reuse, provide new bedding in the brood end of sheds and a minimum of 5 m past the edge of the brooding curtain.
• Pre-heat and ventilate sheds before introducing chicks to reduce odour and ammonia emissions.
• Add additional new bedding if required to ensure the minimum depth requirements of approval conditions, farming schemes and processor requirements are achieved across the sheds. This will generally be a minimum of 50 mm.
• Replace or top-up reused litter if it fails to exhibit desired characteristics, such as appropriate porosity and the ability to adsorb/desorb water (refer to Section 6.1 for information on assessing these characteristics).
• Record the numbers of batches reused and any treatment processes used between batches

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