Litter management is a critical piece of pathogen control in any poultry growing operation.  Good quality poultry bedding is a necessary component of any poultry growing facility, but poultry bedding comes in all conditions, microbial background and quality.  We use rice hulls, oat hulls, fescue hulls, sunflower hulls, hardwood, softwood, wood with bark, ground pallets, built up litter, straw and yes even some have tried sand.  If the bedding source is stored in a rodent infected facility, is dusty-moldy or is a high moisture product, one can expect problems.  But even if your “new” poultry bedding is perfect quality and low microbial background, expect a Microbial Litter Explosion (MLE) in a short period once the birds are placed on the bedding.  Brooder facilities are perfect environments to grow not only birds, but microbes as well.  These facilities provide heat, moisture, and nutrients that will grow the organisms your poultry facilities do not need.  Poultry bedding is responsible for harboring, creating and supporting the ammonia, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, mold, fungus, insects, toxins and parasites producers try very hard to control or eradicate.  Poultry bedding, by its very nature, will develop a microbiome with its own discreet background and microbial signature.  Due to the nature and inherent behavior of birds to pick, peck and scavenge the floor of their enclosure, it serves to reason that the bird itself plays its part in the circle of microbial life which exists in the barn.  This microbial incursion is especially virulent if we receive chicks or poults already carrying, let’s pick Salmonella, in the gut.  Even if just a few animals are bringing in an organism, the stage is set for a rapid trans-infection to occur in the population, sometimes referred to as Microbial Litter Explosion (MLE).

Eat, drink, peck, poop and repeat!  This is just another day on the farm, growing poultry.  As one studies the makeup of litter in the poultry facility, it becomes quite the science project, teaming with microbial, parasites, protozoa, viruses, fungi, mold, toxins, ammonia and insect life.  I find it fascinating and quite the “microbiology laboratory” all powered and driven by nature.  Gram negatives, gram positives, pathogenic and beneficial bacteria all vying for resources/nutrients.  Anaerobes, aerobes and facultative organisms living and replicating exponentially.  Most of these bacteria need a host in which to replicate due to their nutritional and oxygen needs, and they find the feathered incubators with their 105 to 106-degree body temperature – pecking – scratching and ingesting the litter to be a readily available source and the perfect host.  These bacteria, if unchallenged go on to form their colonies within the Gastrointestinal tract (GI) of the bird and go about their business of replicating billions of identical offspring which are then defecated out into the primordial soup of the litter.  The natural microbial background associated with litter, should, in theory, be in a constant state of bioremediation.  The good bacteria are designed to eliminate the bad guys through Competitive Exclusion (CE).  Beneficial bacteria would normally compete with and overcome the pathogenic bacteria and keep an environment in balance.  However, bad organisms are replicating so fast; we always think we must assist our feeding, watering programs and environment with a backup of additional friendly bacteria, highly digestible and immune enhancing nutrients.

The drawback to natural bioremediation, composting, and natures clean-up mechanism, is that it is slower than the population of bacteria are being created.  Natural microbial bioremediation was most likely not geared up to accommodate thousands of birds living near one another in close quarters either.  The ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria quickly gets out of balance.  More bad guys than good guys begin to populate “litter town,” and before you can say Bourbon Red, the environment conditions have favored the bad bugs over the good and microbiological mayhem erupts.

It is apparent that this holistic concept of managing the bird on the ground, as well as the ground under the birds, can have a significant impact on the finished product.  We must realize that managing not only the environment, but properly formulated diets, highly digestible, immune and gut health enhanced, enhancing nutrient assimilation-absorption, maximum feed intake (feed efficiency), fortified with beneficial microbes, produces healthier animals.  This synergistic approach to reduce immune challenges by reducing harmful ammonia, pathogenic organisms, mold, fungi, toxins, parasites, litter eating, protozoa, viruses and pests will involve controlling the “Microbial Explosion” (MLE) taking place in the litter!  A cleaner, less immune challenging environment with minimally viable litter is pivotal to maintaining a healthier house and producing healthier animals, overall.

So, what should we do when the litter challenges are overwhelming?  We know what to do in the feed to maintain gut health and strengthen the immune system, but we must control the Litter Microbial Explosion (LME), or all programs are out the window, especially when you receive compromised poult or chick.  If our environment is out of control, our interventions will continually be working against these environmental conditions.  Our goal should be to get hurdles and interventions to work together through proper bio-utilization and bio-assimilation.

Such products and practices are demonstrated by:

Jump Start – a feed attractant, great for starting poults and chicks, helps increase feed intake, supports immunity, aids in nutrient assimilation and absorption, highly digestible, improved uniformity, stimulates appetite, supports gut health and feed efficiency, helps maintain feed consumption, especially when birds decide to eat from the floor.  Top dress feed as soon as you see a change in bird’s behavior.

Z Bioscience – A full line of great products that enhance any NAE program.  W+, a water supplemented probiotic product – use as needed (2 to 3 times per week). C+, a cleaning product that cleans and leaves your environment microbial friendly, great for cleaning water lines when barns are empty; never use a Disinfect/Hydrogen Peroxide with ANY of the Z-Bioscience products. M+, a nebulizing or misting product that helps assist with disease and environmental challenges. CO+, a dirt floor treatment, works well on CD issues.  Always treat 3 to 5 feet outside your facility, especially exhaust fan areas, entrance/exits and where dead birds have touched the ground.

Nebulizing/misting a probiotic and utilizing probiotics in the water as needed to support the feeding program is another key practice.  Knowing what is in the feed is critical, so a unified nebulizing/misting of M+ and water products will work hand-in-hand, not against the ultimate goal of producing a healthier and heavier bird.  Nebulizing of a properly formulated phytogenic product works well in the production of NAE birds, also.

Stalosan – A great dirt floor and litter treatment product.  Many producers are receiving big dividends after treating their facility as needed with Stalosan.

Technology is now available that will allow a producer to look at the molecular activity of Salmonella (and other microbes) species in the environment.  A proven floor treatment and litter amendment that is friendly to the environment and birds, all natural, has residual long-term mode of action and yields satisfactory results is critical to the overall success of NAE programs.  Stalosan should be your choice and Prairie Livestock Supply resources, laboratories, distribution, and personnel, can handle ALL your animal production needs.

It is always best to test and know what enemy (organisms) you or your operation is dealing with and what their numbers look like over the area of the barn, composter, new bedding, feed mill, feed, litter, water, air (environment), but also over time (seasonality).  This knowledge can be acquired by simple and inexpensive microbial and also molecular testing here at Prairie Livestock Supply laboratory group.

Premiboost SB70 & Premiboost SB70+ with Essential Oils – is a required nutrient in poultry Feeds and Feeding.  Sodium Butyrate contributes greatly to growth and early development such as:  Capillary development, stimulates appetite, villus and crypt development, immunological activity, anti-microbial activity, gut health, anti-inflammatory properties, short and medium chain fatty acids and is encapsulated.  What else needs to be said – add Premiboost SB70 or Premiboost SB70+ with Essential Oils, ASAP.

PLS has ALL your Animal needs – VTM, Micro/Mini pellets, Packs, Premiboost SB 70 or Premiboost SB 70 with essential oils, AnPro-NT, Stalosan, Z-Bioscience, Jump Start and many other fine products.

See your Prairie Livestock Supply personnel for these and other performance enhancing products.

“Thoughtfully produced animals”, will yield immeasurably good performance.  Measure – Monitor – Manage!!!


Kindest Regards,

Jim Plyler – M.S. – Poultry Consultant