AUBURN, Ala.—Don't throw that newspaper away! Research at Auburn University indicates Alabama's billion dollar a year poultry industry may need your recycled paper to replace traditional broiler house floor covering material.
Baby chicks love a soft matting of pine shavings on the floor of their poultry house. It reduces bone and joint problems abnormalities and makes them less susceptible to a host of production problems. The problem is, in Alabama, we have too many chicks and not enough pine shavings.
Every week poultrymen place about 18 million chicks in broiler houses in the state. In the past, pine shavings have been inexpensive and plentiful, but increased demand by the growing of the poultry industry, plus alternative uses for pine shavings, have caused prices to go up and the supply to come down.
Researchers at the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station at Auburn University recently tested a new type of chip made from recycled newsprint that may offset some of the shortfall in pine shavings. These ultra absorbent recycled paper chips were developed by Advanced Material Technology (AMT) Inc., in Ashville.
Paper litter materials previously tested contained a higher moisture content and had a tendency to cake. They also caused leg and foot abnormalities and breast blisters as the chicks grew into market-size broilers. However, in tests at the Experiment Station, chicks performed as well or better on the new AMT paper chips as they did on pine shavings.
"This new paper litter material is formed by completely reprocessing waste paper into chips. These chips average about 1.6 inches long, one-fourth-inch wide and one-tenth-inch thick," according to Roger Lien, an assistant professor of poultry science at Auburn.
Lien and fellow Auburn researchers Don Conner and Sacit Bilgili conducted two tests with the AMT chips, using 600 broilers in each study. These birds were placed in houses as day old chicks and grown to maturity in 50 and 51 days.
"As we expected, moisture increased more rapidly in the paper litter and was higher when we compared it to pine shaving after three weeks. However, by seven weeks we saw little difference in moisture between the two litter materials," Lien pointed out.
He went on to explain that there was little difference in body weight, feed conversion, or bird mortality between the two litter materials. Likewise, the Auburn researchers did not find any significant difference in breast blisters or leg and foot abnormalities. Foot and leg abnormalities prevent birds from reaching adequate feed and water, resulting in slower growth and occasionally death.
The AMT chips had lower yeast and mold populations than pine shavings. "Though we didn't observe any adverse effects of the higher yeast and mold counts, some of these organisms are pathogenic and/or produce toxins which are detrimental to the liveability and performance of broilers. Thus, this may be a concern of producers," according to Conner.
Whether recycled paper chips become as popular as pine shavings as poultry house litter material remains to be seen, but the Auburn researchers are optimistic. "We are concerned about the higher moisture content early in the growing period and the greater caking tendency of the paper litter. We need larger scale trials to determine how these things will affect production on an industry scale. But, the paper chips look promising as an alternative to pine shavings in broiler houses," Lien concluded.