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Title: Systematic evaluation of in-house broiler litter windrowing effects on production benefits and environmental impact

item LIANG, Y - University Of Arkansas
item PAYNE, J - Oklahoma State University
item PENN, C - Oklahoma State University
item TABLER, G - Mississippi State University
item WATKINS, S - University Of Arkansas
item VANDEVENDER, K - University Of Arkansas
item Purswell, Joseph - Jody

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Poultry Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/18/2014
Publication Date: 8/22/2014
Citation: Liang, Y., Payne, J.B., Penn, C., Tabler, G.T., Watkins, S.E., Vandevender, K.W., Purswell, J.L. 2014. Systematic evaluation of in-house broiler litter windrowing effects on production benefits and environmental impact. Journal of Applied Poultry Research. 23:625-638.

Interpretive Summary: Managing recycled litter remains a critical housing management tool. Windrowing litter has been adopted as a means to reduce pathogens and improve litter quality prior between flocks, but the effects of windrowing on ammonia levels during brooding and bacterial populations has not been evaluated over successive flocks in a commercial scenario. Litter windrowing was compared to tilling as a means to prepare litter for chick placement over five consecutive flocks at commercial scale on a research farm. Bird performance data, microbiological assessments for Clostridia and E. coli, fertilizer value, and ammonia emissions were evaluated for each flock. No reduction in Clostridia or E. coli were observed, and no differences were found in early mortality. Both treatments reduced moisture content by 2 to 5%, but ammonia emissions were increased for windrowed litter. Increased ammonia emissions may require additional energy use in ventilation and heating prior to chick placement and additional litter amendments may be needed in excess of nominal application rates.

Technical Abstract: In-house windrowing of broiler litter between flocks has been adopted by producers to reduce pathogens and improve litter quality before chick placement. In this study, 5 consecutive windrow trials were conducted in commercial broiler houses for their effect on litter bacterial populations, organic matter stabilization, cumulative ammonia emissions, and nutrient transformation and compared with litter conditioning (tilling) in adjacent houses. No significant reduction of Clostridium spp. and Escherichia coli populations was found in windrowed litter from d 0 to 7. No significant difference of 7-d mortality was found between windrow and nonwindrow houses. The windrowed house resulted in better foot quality than the nonwindrowed house from 1 of 3 scored flocks. Water-soluble phosphorus increased in both windrowed and nonwindrowed litter; therefore, appreciable biotic and abiotic activity occurred in litter with both treatments after flocks were removed. Overall, no negative effect of windrow treatments on litter quality for agronomic applications was observed. Both the control and windrow treatments resulted in a decrease in litter moisture content (2 to 5%) likely beneficial to bird health conditions. High ammonia emissions persisted after windrow spreading; therefore, a need may exist for an extended period of ventilation or a litter amendment as crucial before chick placement. Litter amendment at a low dose was effective in lowering ammonia concentrations after windrowing and was more economical comparing to operating fans in winter conditions.