Friday, June 22, 2012

Pastured Poultry & Rotational Grazing

Photo: Peggy Sellers - Perdue Univ.
Pasture Quality & Condition is Important 

I had the chance to visit several pastured poultry farms this week and I was reminded of how this was done in the early 1920's.  Birds were routinely pastured to take advantage of sunlight (vit. D) and the natural grasses they ate.  What is so different between operations of today and yesteryear is that we tend to restrict our birds in one area as we graze.  This creates a host of problems as the grass becomes over-run by the birds and heavy loads of manure accumulate.

Rotational grazing should be just that.  Moving the birds frequently to keep grass in good condition and to help spread out manure loads in a field being grazed.  You should move birds before all the grasses they are bedding on become stomped down.  Supplemental feeding is also important at this time to make sure the birds are receiving all essential nutrients that they are not getting from the grasses they are feeding on.  Clover for example has a high protein content than most grass species.  Therefore the corn in a full feed poultry diet will help compensate and provide the energy component of the birds daily nutritional needs.

By rotation of the pasture, the sun can help sanitize the ground last occupied by the birds.  With frequent rotation, the pastures can recover more quickly and in turn provide more forage opportunities for the birds.  Your pasture after the move of the birds will tell how well you are doing on your pasture management program.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Foot Health in Poultry

Broilers on floor
Photo: NC Extension
Putting your best foot forward                              

Like all farm animals being able to move is very important.  Over the years, foot health has gained interest in meat birds and breeding stock, since if a bird can't walk it can't eat and a dangerous spiral starts if not corrected.

It is important to note that moisture plays a large part in a bird's foot health.  Litter and floor conditions that are too wet begin to erode the skin on the foot pad and can lead to inflammation (bumblefoot) and lameness.  Moisture created by the birds along with water spillage if not managed can create lameness in a flock.  You can test litter moisture by picking up a large handful of litter and squeezing it.  Excessively wet litter will ball up or drip water, and feel sticky to touch.  Add additional litter if possible or stir existing litter to help promote drying.  Adjust ventilation rates to help remove moisture from the house and keep the litter dry.

Remember that litter floors are the environment that the birds live in, including walking and standing.  The litter volumes on floors should be adequate to supply a soft walking surface for the bird.  It also should be deep enough for water absorption from the flock.  All other associated flooring, including slats, perches and other resting devices need to be in good condition to eliminate any foot pad injury.   Good housekeeping of the floor will aid in keeping the flock in good step.