Poultry litter and the environment: Microbial profile of litter during successive flock rotations and after spreading on pastureland
Tawni L.Crippena, Cynthia L. Sheffieldb, Baneshwar Singhb, J. Allen Byrda, Ross C. Beiera, Robin C. Andersona
Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, 2881 F & B Road, College Station, TX 77845, USA.
With the increasing demand for broiler meat, a thorough evaluation of the microbial community within the broiler houses and sites where litter is deposited is critical to animal and environmental wellbeing. However not much is known in this arena, so our work evaluates the litter bacterial microbial community within a house over a 2.5 year period through 11 flock rotations, a partial and a total cleanout, and the subsequent deposition of the litter as fertilizer on pastureland. The effects of both time and management practices correlated with alterations of the litter microbial community. The cleanout practices and introduction of new bedding had minimal influence on the house microbial community once it was established, which generally showed a consistent increase in the proportion of Actinobacteria and a decrease in Firmicutes over the 11 flock rotations. Analysis of the bacterial profile at the genus level gave increased resolution, revealing changes during the first and second flock rotation and after the total cleanout. The disturbance of the partial cleanout seemed to be buffered by the supporting conditions within the house while the total cleanout showed a small, but significant influence. The pastureland deposition of litter, however, was affected by time and abiotic factors that changed the litter microbial community structure weekly. The stockpiled litter had an increase in the phyla Actinobacteria and the class Bacilli that commonly have microbes utilizing nitrogen and decaying materials, in comparison to Native soil. Further, the soil beneath where the litter was stored for 20 weeks, lost diversity, indicating a possible effect of the litter stockpiling on environmental quality at that site. How management practices affect the composition of the microbial community within the litter of the broiler house is of interest in terms of bird health and environmentally for future utilization of spent litter.
Keywords: Broiler litter, Microbial community, Chicken, Litter stockpiling.