Feed additives to combat wet litter in broilers

Animal Nutrition Views

Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D., gives his views on poultry, pig and dairy nutrition based on his experience as a nutrition consultant with clients around the world.

Feed additives to combat wet litter in broilers

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The problem of wet litter cannot be solved by nutrition alone, but it plays a role

Wet litter problems abound in the broiler industry. Wet litter can negatively affect animal health and productivity, and animal welfare is compromised when litter retains too much moisture. Apart from management measures, nutrition can play a significant role in preventing wet litter problems. Here, we will focus only on additives that can be added into the feed, but feed ingredient selection and water management are also part of the bigger nutritional picture.

  1. Electrolytes. Some minerals are known to reduce water excretion, while others act as diuretics. Having the right electrolyte balance is important, especially during periods of high water intake (summer). Avoiding too much ash in feeds is also helpful.
  2. Betaine. This nutrient acts as an osmoregulator, helping cells remain hydrated and reducing thirst from dehydration.
  3. Clays. Some clay products (not all) can help absorb some digesta moisture acting as a natural sponge. When excreted, these clay products retain such moisture.
  4. Fiber. Insoluble fiber acts also as a natural sponge, absorbing water in the digestive tract. Using the right product is important as fermentable fibers that increase digesta viscosity can negate such water-controlling properties. A balance is required.
  5. Enzymes. Certain enzymes against viscous carbohydrates (mainly hemi-celluloses) can help reduce excess digesta viscosity that invariably increases wet droppings. Picking the right enzyme depends on the type of cereal blends used in each formula.
  6. Zinc and biotin. Although these two nutrients will not reduce wet litter incidences, they help birds by improving footpad health, making them less susceptible to wet litter problems.

Wet litter remains a problem for the broiler industry. It cannot be resolved by nutrition alone, but nutrition has a role to play. At the very least, we should ensure that nutrition does not exacerbate an already existing problem.