One Size Does Not Fit All: Understanding Application Rates for PLT®

PLT® litter amendment has been the product of choice for 25 years because it works. However, due to the product’s longevity, application rates are often selected based on standard production practices of yesterday instead of today.

With the incredible amount of change that has swept the poultry industry in recent years, what we’ve always done cannot be the basis for successful decisions about litter. Insufficient rates not based on litter conditions can lead to negative performance impacts due to higher ammonia levels.

How do I know what rate is sufficient for litter?

To identify a PLT® application rate that is appropriate for litter challenges, start by answering a few questions.

How old is the litter?

Newer than 1 year, 1-2 years or 2+ years? As litter gets older, it contains more manure making it necessary to increase rates of PLT® in order to maintain proper ammonia control.

How deep is the litter base?

Deep, fine litter takes a longer time to release ammonia during pre-heating than litter that is 4-5 inches deep.

Is the litter decaked, tilled or windrowed?

Decaked litter requires less PLT® than windrowed or tilled litter, as both tilling and windrowing increase the surface area of litter, which increases ammonia.

What is the physical state of the litter?

Fine like flour or does it have larger, consistent particle sizes? Litter with a fine particle size releases a lot of ammonia even when it’s cold. Deep ammonia challenges tied to fine, built-up, windrowed litter will require higher application rates.

How much downtime between flocks?

Downtimes between 18-21 days are ideal as it allows the litter to become stable after the challenges experienced during the previous flock. However, with today’s production demands this is not always standard. Downtimes of 10 days or less will require a higher rate of PLT® application to eliminate ammonia.

In a recent trial, PLT® was applied at a rate of 100 lbs. /1,000 sq. ft. at day 0 (placement). The litter in this house was over 5 years old, had a depth of 7-8 inches and a very fine particle size (see picture).

In this fine, windrowed litter that is over nine years old, varying applications rates reduced the ammonia challenge, but did not keep levels low. Given that deep ammonia readings of this litter were well above 600 PPM, PLT performed well but rates were not sufficient to meet the high ammonia challenge.

Another study was conducted on windrowed litter to assess how broiler production performances and ammonia emissions were affected by PLT® at application rates of 75 lb./1,000 sq. ft. and 150 lb./1,000 sq. ft. The results show that birds raised in houses using the higher rate of PLT® had lower FCR and higher weights resulting in an increase in settlement.

Is the Cost of Higher PLT® Application Rates Worth It?

While there is a cost to increasing your PLT® application rate to one that is adequate for litter age and condition, the clear monetary returns realized from improvements in weights, feed conversion, livability, and condemnations more than make up for the additional product cost.

In a trial of more than 750,000 tray pack (6.3 lb) birds, using a sufficient vs insufficient rate of PLT® for litter age and conditions, provided significant performance improvements.

Higher rates yielded:

1 point feed conversion improvement

7 point weight gain improvement

1.15% livability increase

The Return

Across a 1.3M bird complex, these performance improvements would equate to*:

  • $10,238/week in improved feed conversion
  • $20,134 from increased weights
  • $61,220 from improved livability

The Cost

Complex wide, the additional cost for half house brood PLT® application at the 125lb/1,000 sq. ft. rate is $3,604 or $7,207 at the 150lb/1,000 sq. ft. rate (as compared to 100lb./1,000 sq. ft. rate)**.

Grower Settlement

 Now let’s put the same scenario above into a grower’s perspective. Considering a two-house broiler farm growing a 6.50 bird comparing sufficient vs insufficient PLT® application rates, performance improvements would equate to:

  • Feed Conversion: 1 point better (1.68 to 1.67) = $743 / flock
  • Weight Gain: 7 points more (6.87 to 6.94 avg. weight) = $1,115 / flock
  • Livability: 1.15% better (95.4% to 96.55%) = $1,857.50 / flock

The additional cost for half house brood PLT® application at the 125lb./1,000 sq. ft. rate is $257.40 or $514.80 at the 150lb/1,000 sq. ft. rate.

How do I Know What’s Sufficient?

The information below serves as general guidelines on what variables to consider when selecting a PLT application rate. Please contact your Jones-Hamilton representative or applicator for custom guidance.

Tilled/windrowed litter 2+ years
Deep, fine litter

High density
Little downtime

Litter depth below 6 inches

Litter age < 1 year
Lower density
Varied particle size, 4-5 inches deep

*based on Agristat models
**before application