Does bed­ding af­fect your profit?

The Poultry Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE -

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.¡

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