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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Mississippi State, Mississippi » Poultry Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #368198

Research Project: Enhancing Sustainability and Production Efficiency through Improved Management and Housing Design in Commercial Broilers

Location: Poultry Research

Title: Evaluation of field-stored switchgrass hay as litter material for broilers

Author
item Purswell, Joseph
item DAVIS, J - Auburn University
item CHESSER, G - Mississippi State University
item LOWE, J - Mississippi State University

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Poultry Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/21/2019
Publication Date: 3/1/2020
Citation: Purswell, J.L., Davis, J.D., Chesser, G.D., Lowe, J.W. 2020. Evaluation of field-stored switchgrass hay as litter material for broilers. Journal of Applied Poultry Research. 29(2):391-401. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.japr.2019.11.002.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.japr.2019.11.002

Interpretive Summary: Availability and expense of preferred litter materials such as pine shavings has prompted evaluation of other materials. Grass hay derived from high-yielding biomass cultivars has been successfully employed as litter material in both research and commercial applications. Grass hay for ruminant feed can be stored outdoors if protected, and outdoor storage may provide additional flexibility in transportation and supply of grass hay litter. This study examined live performance in straight-run broilers reared on new grass hay litter and grass hay litter that had been stored outdoors in polyethylene wrap for two seasons. Live performance was affected primarily in the starter and grower phases, with stored hay litter treatments resulting in depressed body weight and gain in the grower phase. Feed conversion for the stored hay litter treatment was elevated in both the starter phase, grower phase, and for the overall flock when compared to new crop hay litter. Performance declines diminished during the finisher and withdrawal diet phases, likely due to a reduction in litter consumption. Mortality was unaffected by litter treatment and stored hay did not appear to affect bird health. Use of hay subjected to outdoor storage for litter material may result in decreased live performance and increased feed costs in broiler chickens.

Technical Abstract: Availability and expense of preferred litter materials such as pine shavings has prompted evaluation of other materials. Grass hay derived from high-yielding biomass cultivars has been successfully employed as litter material in both research and commercial applications. Grass hay for ruminant feed can be stored outdoors if protected, and outdoor storage may provide additional flexibility in transportation and supply of grass hay litter. This study examined live performance in straight-run broilers reared on new grass hay litter and grass hay litter that had been stored outdoors in polyethylene wrap for two seasons. Live performance was affected primarily in the starter and grower phases, with stored hay litter treatments resulting in depressed BW (59 g difference ; P = 0.0034) and BWG (58 g difference; P=0.0038) in the grower phase. FCR was significantly elevated in both the starter phase (0.02 g:g difference; P=0.0052) and the grower phase (0.07 g:g difference; P < 0.0001) for the stored hay litter treatment. Overall flock FCR was significantly increased (P = 0.0404) by 0.05 g:g for the stored hay litter treatment. Performance declines diminished during the finisher and withdrawal diet phases, likely due to a reduction in litter consumption. Mortality was not different between treatments (N = 1.06% and S = 1.57%); stored hay did not appear to affect bird health.