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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Mississippi State, Mississippi » Poultry Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #318926

Research Project: Optimizing Heavy Broiler Management and Housing Environment for Sustainable Production

Location: Poultry Research

Title: Evaluation of chopped switchgrass and chopped bermudagrass as litter materials over multiple heavy broiler flocks

Author
item DAVIS, J - Auburn University
item Purswell, Joseph
item KIESS, A - Mississippi State University

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Poultry Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/15/2015
Publication Date: 1/26/2015
Citation: Davis, J.D., Purswell, J.L., Kiess, A.S. 2015. Evaluation of chopped switchgrass and chopped bermudagrass as litter materials over multiple heavy broiler flocks. Journal of Applied Poultry Research. 24(3):343-351.

Interpretive Summary: Pine shavings are traditionally preferred as bedding material for broiler production. Changes in lumber production rates and methods have reduced the availability. Reduced availability coupled with increasing diversion to energy production has increased the cost of bedding materials to broiler growers. Chopped switchgrass and chopped bermudagrass were evaluated as alternatives to pine shavings (PS) for broiler litter over three flocks. Live performance measures including mortality, body weight, feed consumption, and feed conversion were assessed. Litter performance measures included litter and cake moisture content (MC), pH, litter ammonia concentration, and cake nutrient values [nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N–P–K)]. No differences in live production were observed for litter material; all differences observed were due to season (weather conditions). Slight differences in moisture content in litter and cake were observed for different litter materials. Litter moisture content was 1% lower for switchgrass when compared to bermudagrass or pine shavings. Chopped grass of both types performed as well as pine shavings as a litter material over three grow-out cycles. Based on the results of this study, chopped grass materials appear to be a viable alternative to PS for broiler bedding.

Technical Abstract: Chopped switchgrass (SG) and chopped bermudagrass (BG) were evaluated as alternatives to pine shavings (PS) for broiler litter over 3 flocks. Twenty-four pens were filled with the 3 litter types. Live performance parameters included mortality, BW, BW gain, feed consumption, and feed conversion. Mortality was not different for litter type or flock. All other live variables were different (P < 0.0001) for flock. Mean foot pad scores (FPS) were only different (P < 0.0001)for flock. Litter performance variables included litter and cake moisture content (MC), pH, litter ammonia concentration, and cake nutrient values [nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N–P–K)]. Litter and cake MC differed by litter type and flock (P < 0.0001). Litter MC was 1% lower for SG than BG or PS. Cake depth observations were similar for litter type. Litter pH differed by flock (P = 0.008) while cake pH differed for both litter type (P = 0.05) and flock (P < 0.0001). Beginning and ending litter ammonia concentration were different for flock (P < 0.0001). Potassium was different for both litter type (P = 0.04) and flock (P < 0.0001) while nitrogen and phosphorus differed only by flock (P < 0.0001). Chopped SG and BG performed as well as PS as a litter material over 3 grow-out cycles. Based on the results of this study, chopped grass materials appear to be a viable alternative to PS for broiler bedding.