Submitted to: International Symposium on Animal Production
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/7/1999
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: Cattle and poultry production are enterprises common to small farms throughout the U.S. Low cattle prices in recent years have contributed to lower profitability for small scale producers. Alternative low cost feeds need to be utilized by these smaller ranchers to maintain profitable operations. Composted broiler litter has been used in the U.S. as an alternative feed ingredient in cattle diets for the past forty years. Broiler litter has potential as a low-cost feed ingredient, but it must be properly processed, stored, and fed to assure its effectiveness as a feed ingredient that is free of health risks to cattle and beef consumers. A few incidences of animal health problems with feeding broiler litter to cattle have been documented outside of the U.S., but these have been related to improper processing. A review of the literature was conducted to compile available information on processing and storage, nutritional value, potentially harmful residues, and animal performance for composted broiler litter that is used as a feed. Deep-stacking litter that is free of bird carcasses and has correct moisture levels can be adequately composted to eliminate known pathogens and improve palatability. Feeding cereal grains in combination with broiler litter to animals on forage-based diets can increase dietary energy and dilute the high levels of micro-minerals that can be prevalent in broiler litter. This review of current literature regarding processing and handling of broiler litter for use as a feed is of interest to farmers and ranchers that reside in countries or regions where confinement poultry production is present and the availability of protein supplements is low.
Technical Abstract: Composted broiler litter has potential as low-cost protein supplement for cattle in developing countries. Precautionary measures must be taken to improve its effectiveness as a feed and to abate any health risks to cattle and beef consumers. A review of the literature was conducted to compile available information on processing and storage, nutritional value, potentially harmful residues, and animal performance for composted broiler litter that is used for feed. Internal temperature of deep- stacked broiler litter should reach between 50 and 55 degrees C to eliminate known pathogens and must be stacked at least 20 days to assure that the litter has thoroughly composted. Optimum composting occurs if the litter has moisture levels between 20 and 25%, and the litter must be free of bird carcasses. Litter can remain free of molds and fungi by storing under a cover and on a dry surface. Cereal grains should be fed in combination with broiler litter to provide sufficient dietary energy for effective utilization and metabolism of the high concentrations of non-protein nitrogen in broiler litter and to dilute the high levels of microminerals that can be in toxic concentrations if composted litter comprises a high percentage of the diet. Cattle performance with broiler litter generally is not as high as with cereal grains, but low costs associated with feeding composted litter compensates for the reduced performance. Broiler litter can be fed to ruminants as a protein supplement, but it is imperative that litter is properly processed, stored, and fed for it to be an effective feed ingredient that is free of known health risks.