Does bedding affect your profit?
Poultry producers todays can easily spend upwards of R 3-million to build a state-of-the-art poultry house. Modern production systems like controlled lighting, automated feed lines and water drip feeders or nipples, and computer-controlled and monitored heating and cooling systems.
In addition, biosecurity checks and controls must be set up to protect the flock. These are expensive but essential, as the risk of disease spreading through the house must be rigidly contained. With profit margins in poultry production very tight, no producer can afford high mortality rates in his flock.
Focus on the floor
Once the producer has set up his house with light, feed, water and heating, and taken care of biosecurity protocols, the next focus is on bedding. Appropriate bedding should be absorbent enough to avoid ammonia burns, splinterfree to avoid damaging the feet of chicks, dust-free to avoid respiratory tract disorders, and of course, sterile to avoid the risk of salmonella, E.coli, or aspergillus. It should also be
deep enough to insulate the chicks from the ground.
Many farmers use agricultural, timber or factory waste. Agricultural waste includes sunflower husks, peanut shells, chopped mealie husks, and chopped wheat straw. Timber waste includes millings from sawmills or shavings from the manufacture of wood products. Factory waste originates from the manufacture of windows and doors, pine furniture and the shavings and sawdust from belt sanders. All these have been used for poultry house bedding. Much of this waste must be supplied cheaply; so the bulk of it is loaded into recycled wool packs to save on transport costs.
Factoring in price
Bedding manufactured specifically for use in poultry houses, including custom made fumigated
bedding, comes in at a much higher price than waste products. Nevertheless, some but farmers who have switched to a specifically made alternative reckon that there is a difference in their bottom line. It has been reported that chicks reared on dusty bedding develop respiratory diseases that impact on growth, while those grown with fumigated, dust-free bedding develop healthy lungs and large chests. The risk of disease is minimised, and the flock can thrive.
Ultimately though, there is no substitute for the eye of the farmer and the experience of the producer. Does it make commercial sense one way or the other? Does the initial expense of custom bedding outweigh the potential risks of disease and mortality, which negatively impact the bottom line? You decide.¡