Latest advances in science for poultry farmers

Every year, hundreds of academic papers relevant to poultry are published, with their findings often trickling down to farms in the months and years that follow. Here, Poultry World rounds up some of the latest developments.

Switchgrass could prove an alternative bedding material

Issue: While research has demonstrated that native switchgrass is a viable alternative bedding material in trials, no research has reported on the long-term viability of this bedding alternative in commercial poultry houses during multiple grow-outs.

The study looked at the feasibility of using switchgrass as an alternative bedding material in commercial production houses over consecutive flocks. Three farms were used to run a comparison of pine shavings with switchgrass.

Findings: There were no significant differences in bird weights, feed conversion, liveability or foot-pad quality, suggesting that where switchgrass grows well it can be used as an alternative source of bedding.

*On-farm assessment of switchgrass bedding, Journal of Applied Poultry Research, February 2016

See also: Top performance tips for egg farmers

Effective monitoring of manure content in layer sheds


A reliable knowledge of manure nutrient content for intensive systems is imperative for the development of effective comprehensive nutrient management plans, which will minimise nutrient run-off and pollution of adjacent waterways.


To evaluate the spatial variation of manure dry-matter, phosphorus and nitrogen content in commercial high-rise laying hen houses and to determine sampling locations and number of samples that would lead to a good assessment of nutrient content of manure in the house.

Two side-by-side manure samples were collected from nine locations in each of six multitier laying hen houses (18 samples/house) and analysed.

The nine sample locations were distributed as one fourth, half, and three-quarters of the building length with three samples in locations of the cross-section of the five manure rows.


The results showed that duplicate sampling at a location added little to the precision of the data.

Manure samples collected crossways across the middle of the house or diagonally across the house in either direction yielded results most similar to the reference value for that house.

Hence, when collecting manure samples for nutrient research assessment in multitier houses, a single sample collected from every other manure pile across the middle of the building should be sufficient to obtain representative samples of the house and is therefore recommended.

*Spatial variation of manure nutrients and manure sampling strategy in high rise laying hen houses, Journal of Applied Poultry Research, March 2016

Additives that may cut fat content of poultrymeat


The study was conducted to evaluate the role of extruded flaxseed (EFS) and a-tocopherol acetate (ATA) for the enhancement of polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio (PUFA) over saturated fatty acids (SFA) in broiler meat.

A total of 96 day-old Cobb 550 broilers were randomly divided into eight treatments with three replicated, having four birds in each. EFS (extruded at 155C) at 100, 150 and 200g/kg alone and in combination with ATA at 200mg/kg were supplemented through normal feed from the third week onwards.

During the six-week growth period bodyweight gain (BWG), feed intake (FI), feed conversion rate (FCR) and mortality were recorded.

At slaughter, weight of liver, heart and kidney and fat content in breast and leg meat were measured. Fatty acid profiles in breast and leg meat were developed to elucidate PUFA to SFA ration.


The results showed that FI and FCR changed significantly in all groups and BWG increased in all the supplemented groups.

The weight of liver, kidney and heart increased more in the supplemented group containing the maximum level of EFS with ATA compared with single supplementation of EFS.

The fat content in breast and leg meat decreased as the inclusion level of EFS increased. The level was low in leg meat as compared to breast meat. Mortality decreased in all supplemented groups.

The PUFA to SFA ratio was significantly higher in leg meat (3.23) compared with breast meat (1.81) and the study therefore indicates that ATA and EFS supplementation could be used to improve PUFA to SFA ratio in broiler meat.

*Investigating potential roles of extruded flaxseed and a-tocopherol acetate supplementation for production of healthier broiler meat, British Poultry Science, April 2016

Daily water sanitation and its impact on microbes


An evaluation of poultry farm water supplies was conducted to determine the impact of broiler farm daily water supply sanitation practices on microbial levels.

The water systems of four commercial poultry barns were sanitized daily with 0.5 to one ppm of free chlorine (CI) residual, which resulted in an Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP) value of >600mV at the beginning of the waterlines.

Prior to the trial, waterlines were cleaned between flocks with a concentrated chlorine disinfectant with greater than 1,000ppm of free CI.

Waterline drip samples were collected from the nipple drinkers throughout the bird grow out period in order to determine the microbial levels including the aerobic plate counts (APC), yeast and mould in the water from all four barns from three consecutive flocks.


The evaluation showed that water systems are vulnerable to microbial contamination regardless of consistent water sanitation. Microbial growths (>4log (10) cfu/mL APC) were detected in water samples at different periods throughout the flock grow-out period.

However, daily sanitation practices helped to control the persistence of occasional microbial growth in water and kept the drinking water at a microbiologically safe level (<1,000 CFU/ml of APC).

*On farm monitoring of the impact of water system sanitation on microbial levels in broiler house water supplies, Journal of Applied Poultry Research, February 2016

Farm staff drive campylobacter contamination


The aim of the study was to test the hypothesis that farm staff are the primary vector of Campylobacter transmission into broiler flocks.

On three different farms and five different flocks (3 flocks on farm 1 and 1 flock on each of farms 2 and 3) a small section of the broiler house (3x2m (farm 1) and 1m x1m (farms 2 and 3) were sectioned off using Perspex or plastic sheeting.

The “biosecure cube” (BC) was populated with 25-125 chicks (test birds), a small subset of the general population of up to 30,000 (control) birds in the broiler house.

The BC area incorporated the water and feed-lines thus the test and control birds had access to the same feed, water and air.

However, unlike in the general broiler house, the farm staff had no direct access to this sub-population. Dead birds were aseptically removed by the researchers.

The birds were tested for campylobacter (faecal and/or caecal samples) on the day of chick arrival and every seven days thereafter.

In farm 1-flock 1 the general broiler population was campylobacter positive after 21 days but the test birds remained negative until day 35.

The general broiler population in the other four flocks was campylobacter positive as early as day 14, but in all cases the test birds remained negative. Moreover, the BC broilers were significantly (p<0.5) heavier than the control birds (400g on average), at first thinning.


It was therefore concluded that preventing direct contact between the farm staff and the broilers prevents campylobacter infection in broilers.

*Protecting broilers against campylobacter infection by preventing direct contact between farm staff and broilers, Food Control, volume 69