19 May 1995

Healthy-start straw for chicks wins top award

NORFOLK farmer Peter Dixon helped thousands of day-old broiler chicks get away to a healthy start last year by using straw off 2800ha (7000 acres) of wheat from Porters Farm, Rickinghall, Diss, and neighbouring units.

This year he expects to need considerably more for an idea which took one of the top poultry awards.

Over the past two years in a joint venture with Graham Baker of PVA (UK), agents for an Austrian-produced litter additive, Enviro-Straw has been developed and trialled.

Enviro-Straw consists of chopped straw fermented with a cocktail of bacteria beneficial to broiler chickens. It is sprinkled on the litter in broiler houses, 24 hours before stocking with day-old chicks, at a rate of 10 bales to 15,000 birds, or 20g a bird. Cost is 2p a bird.

Bugs in the litter topping multiply, spread through the building and are ingested by the chicks.

, giving them a healthy gut flora from day-one of their brief lives.

Trials have shown the practice improves feed conversion and growth rates, reduces mortality, gives lower ammonia levels in the building and drier litter.

In one of the latest trials, with 75,000 birds in five groups, supervised by Dr David Sainsbury from the Cambridge Centre for Animal Health and Welfare, all four groups on the litter treated with Enviro-Straw showed 46-day weights over 10% higher than the control group. Litter moisture and ammonia levels were also significantly lower in the treated groups.

Trials with the product are now taking place with turkey poults, where it is expected similar results to broilers will be achieved.

Enviro-Straw was just one of five highly commended products in Poultry Worlds New Equipment Awards, won by Petersime with a sophisticated hand-held remote controller for incubators.

Others highly commended were a device for recording and controlling carbon dioxide in poultry buildings, from Aston Equipment; the Flockman poultry computer control system; a Chore-Time drinker marketed by Rainbow Valve Co; and a fuel-saving device developed by Wichfield Associates.