Best practice litter management manual for Australian meat chicken farms

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  4. Properties of common bedding materials
  5. Bedding material selection guide

Bedding material selection guide

Why important: Each bedding material requires its own specific in-shed management and sometimes pre-treatment to avoid significant effects on meat chicken performance, welfare and carcass quality. Details of bedding materials used in Australian (pine shavings, recycled wood chips, sawdust, chopped straw and rice hulls) can be found in Management of common bedding materials.

Management techniques should depend on the material. For example, sawdust may require drying, and straw will require chopping and is likely to require greater in-shed management.
Outcomes: A bedding material is selected that: provides a comfortable safe bed for chickens; keeps the chickens dry and clean; maintains a healthy shed environment; is free of hazardous levels of contaminants; and the resulting spent litter can be used.
Performance measures: The selected bedding material is chosen based on the following parameters: cost; availability; quality; reliability; ability to adsorb and desorb moisture; ability to maintain performance over the period of use of the material; minimal impacts to meat chicken performance and health; and suitability for reuse or end use (land application/soil conditioner/energy generation).
Best management actions:

Where available and cost effective, give preference to bedding materials in this order:
  1. Wood shavings – excellent product but availability issues in some regions.
  2. Sawdust – very good product but can be high in moisture and susceptible to mould growth.
  3. Rice hulls – particularly good product but is mainly only available in rice-growing regions.
  4. Chopped straw – good product but is more susceptible to caking and thus requires greater management. Can also be susceptible to mould growth.
  5. Recycled wood chips – good product where available. Has the potential to contain contaminants and users need to follow a strict process in its manufacture to avoid chemical and physical (splinters/sharp edges) contamination issues.
  6. Alternatives – should only be considered after a risk assessment of their suitability.

Selection considerations
  • - Requires high adsorption characteristics and can dry rapidly.
  • - Has minimal impact on chicken health and aims to optimise performance.
  • - If litter is to be reused for multiple growth cycles, the bedding material needs to be easily treated (pasteurised and dried) between growth cycles.
  • - Has a beneficial use after removal from sheds to minimise potential environmental impacts and/or disposal costs.
  • - Chicken safety and welfare can be guaranteed. Avoid using alternative bedding material if safety and welfare cannot be guaranteed or if it may contain harmful or undesirable contaminants.

  • - Record the bedding type, amount required and amount supplied to each shed in the farm records system.
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