Results of a research study from the US Department of Agriculture released in June 2020 showed that reusing broiler litter can be beneficial and that the optimal downtime period is two weeks. Of course, the demands of live production don’t always allot for that amount of downtime. In fact, Jones-Hamilton reps recently talked to growers in Texas faced with downtimes of just three to five days.
In these cases, Connie Mou, PhD. says growers must focus on removing as much moisture from the litter as possible. The ideal method to remove this much moisture in a short amount of time is by heating up the houses. “In these situations, we recommend turning on heaters the moment birds leave the house or at least 24 hours after with a minimum target set temperature of 100°F. If houses remain wet, the next flock will be potentially challenged with wet litter which means high ammonia and bacteria levels, and issues with paw lesions.”
Heating houses to 100°F or more has the potential to reduce litter moisture.
At a 100°F for approximately three days could potentially reduce litter moisture from 35% down to 15%.
Cost vs Benefit
With more downtime, decaking and fans can help dry litter. However, heaters are the fastest way to dry litter and are therefore necessary during short downtimes.
“While there are many variables that can affect heating costs (ventilation rate, litter depth, litter moisture level, heater functionality, houses tightness, outside temperature, etc.), the growers in Texas are currently looking at $200/day/house*.” It’s important to continue to ventilate during this heating process to remove the moisture and ammonia released from the litter out of the house.
Still unsure about the benefits of additional heating costs? Consider what’s at stake. The cost of ammonia on bird weight and feed conversion (among others) has been clearly documented for decades.
*Daily cost to heat a 40 x 500 house at 100°F with propane costs at $2/gallon (at the time of this writing).
Struggling with managing litter during short downtimes? Contact your Jones-Hamilton Co. rep today for assistance.