AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program RD&E Snapshot
As we head into a new research, development and extension (RD&E) period for the Australian chicken meat industry (2022–2027), it is timely to reflect on...
Published: 7 Nov 2023
Author(s): Mark Dunlop, Claire-Marie Pepper
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The Australian chicken meat industry is continually improving management practices in poultry sheds to ensure the best possible animal health and welfare, product quality and industry sustainability outcomes. This project focused on litter management, especially practices that disturb litter. Litter tilling is a management practice used by most Australian meat chicken growers to ensure chickens have access to friable litter that provides them with cushioning and insulation, and allows them to ‘work’ droppings into the litter.
Australian growers have been tilling litter for years and, through practical application and experience, have refined their methods and improved their understanding of best practice application. However, the practice of litter tilling is not common in the global context and there is very little reported knowledge on how litter tilling influences litter conditions and affects environmental outcomes, including the release of ammonia and odour.
The purpose of this research was to record the experiences of chicken meat growers with managing litter, with a focus on litter tilling. The effects of litter disturbance, including tilling, were then quantified in terms of litter conditions, ammonia and odour. Successful litter management requires a whole-of-system approach and a variety of tools and strategies that growers can use and adapt in the highly variable and dynamic environment in which they operate.