From the Field: Insight on the Bacterium Posing the Greatest Risks in Poultry Production

By October 24, 2017News, PLT

By Jonathan Peeples
Territory Manager, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina

Salmonella, E. Coli and Clostridium Perfringens are Common Bacterium Posing Great Risks to all Categories of Poultry Production

In today’s world of vertically-integrated poultry production, primary breeding companies commonly invest $250,000 in the purchase and placement of 40,000 pullets. They collect, set, hatch eggs in order to deliver to a designated farm. The primary breeder insures birds arrive healthy throughout this process using rigid measures of sanitation, disease prevention, and proper egg collection.

With such a sizable financial investment, it is paramount to continue a heightened level of disease awareness regarding the litter on which these birds are placed. We do not have the ability, nor technology, to completely sterilize this environment; however, we can manage it successfully with available amendments.

“Viewing litter as a living organism allows for a more comprehensive approach to appropriate management.”

Failing to properly care for litter between flocks is a common mistake. Managers can significantly reduce the level of Salmonella, E. Coli and Clostridium organisms in the litter and pad simply by lowering the pH. Poultry Litter Treatment (PLT) is an excellent tool in lowering the pH to an acid environment. Viewing litter as a living organism allows for a more comprehensive approach to appropriate management. When PLT comes in direct contact with these organisms, it ruptures the bacterial cell walls. The salt portion of Sodium Bisulfate, then, acts as a wick to draw moisture from the cell rendering it neutral.

A professional applicator applies PLT to the dirt pad.

Pad treatment is one method that delivers success in pullet houses. All of the litter should be removed, with particular care in the removal of all material along the sidewalls. A rate of 150 lbs. / 1000 sq. feet of PLT is recommended for this procedure, following a thorough clean out.

After the rearing of pullets, hens are moved into breeder houses. The threat of harmful bacteria exists here as well and care must be given to reduce their proliferation. The aforementioned pad treatment procedure works well for these houses as well. After the pad has been treated, the house can be set up for receiving birds. Throughout the life of the flock, pH begins to climb and bacteria increases dramatically. With birds present, the environment very quickly becomes conducive for harmful bacteria growth. Waste from water and feed systems, combined with heat displaced from birds, together create a perfect habitat for organisms to thrive.

As birds enter egg production, some will deposit eggs on the floor or scratch area. Normally, Salmonella infections occur horizontally from infected birds or rodents. However, the serotypes Enteritidis and Arizonae transmit vertically, from the egg to progeny, in infected animals. This infection is mainly found through fecal contamination of the eggshell. Lowering the pH of the litter in the scratch area will decreases the presence of Salmonella, therefore decreasing the likelihood of a disease challenge. At this time, broadcasting PLT using a push spreader at a rate of 100 lbs. / 1000 sq. feet of scratch area is effective.

These methods are essential for effective litter management practices in pullet and breeder houses.

Not only does effective litter management build on initial breeder investment, it mitigates public health risks.

Diseases pose a direct hazard to the health and welfare of humans as well as poultry populations. Proper comprehension and action to manage litter should be a priority of each integrator, staff member and producer.