Best practice litter management manual for Australian meat chicken farms

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Surveys conducted by Watson and Wiedemann (2018) showed that various issues can affect the supply streams for litter in Australia. For example, droughts affect the supply of litter in states that are dependent on rice hulls or straw. Similarly, supply of wood-based products has been impacted by increasing costs, competing uses, bushfires and changes in primary product demand.

States such as Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania have large timber industry suppliers that have maintained a regular supply over the last 20 years. However, growers have noted the increasing price of wood-based products and the possibility of changes to government policies for the timber industry. This may force them to find alternative sources of litter. For example, the Runge et al. (2007) study identified that there has been a significant increase in the use of recycled wood pallets as litter in WA primarily due to the closure of several major wood mills in the state.

One alternative is recycled wood pallet litter sourced from the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council recycling facility in Perth. It is made from timber pallets, packaging and timber off-cuts (see Figure 5). There were initial problems with contamination, but after consultation and communication with growers, policies were enacted to ensure the quality and safety of the litter supplied. This has been successful due to stringent operating procedures in the recycling plant, as well as the chemical testing of each batch of bedding material to ensure quality. This material offers good potential as a bedding material, provided hazards are identified and a satisfactory quality assurance program is implemented to ensure it is safe to use. In NSW, there is also information available from the NSW EPA on the specifications for the supply of recycled timber (Environment Protection Authority and Timber Development Association (NSW), 2012).

Three photos - the first photo is wood pallets ready for recycling, second photo is wood pallets coming out of chipper and third photo show meat chickens on recycled wood pallet litter.
Figure 5. Australian recycled wood products used for litter. (Source:, courtesy of Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council).
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