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Research Update: A Partial Slotted Flooring System for Commercial Market Turkeys-Preliminary Results

Sally Noll, Extension Poultry Specialist and Kevin Janni, Extension Engineer

Wet litter has a negative impact on turkeys (footpad dermatitis, leg problems, air quality) and can allow avian influenza virus to survive for longer time periods. Strategies to remove moisture include adding heat, tilling litter and/or adding dry bedding with an associated cost. Sharing tilling equipment between barns and hauling and distributing new bedding increases the risk of influenza introduction. Another potential strategy for improving litter condition and reducing disease challenge is to use slotted flooring (SF). Previous research at Minnesota found that using SF to replace a portion of the bedded floor area resulted in drier litter where litter was used and reduced the amount of heat needed to remove moisture from the litter. Turkeys raised on partial SF were heavier but developed more breast blisters. 

Slotted flooring was located under the feeders and waterers to collect excreta and spilled water. In retrospect, different flooring or less floor space occupied by SF might minimize breast blister incidence. A pilot study was recently conducted at the UMore Park Turkey Research Unit (Rosemount, MN) to compare five different commercial flooring materials with a conventional bedded system. The five flooring materials were: Double L Classic Red Rooster; SW Ag Plastics Dura-Slat STO; SW Ag Plastics Dura-Slat ST; and Tenderfoot rectangular or square. Each flooring was allocated to two replicate pens with 50 toms each. Flooring occupied 25% of the pen floor. The remaining area contained fresh wood shavings as did the conventionally bedded pens.

Turkeys (male, Hybrid Converter) were moved to the study facility at 5 wks of age and performance followed to 18 wks of age. No differences among treatments were detected for 18 wk body weight, feed efficiency (5 to 18 wks of age), livability, or breast blister/button scores. For the flooring treatments, the proportion of turkeys with the more severe breast scores ranged from 2.3 to 8.6% while the turkeys reared on conventional litter floor averaged 6.6 % severe blisters. Processing plant data indicated similar performance among treatments for breast trim. The preliminary results of this pilot study indicate that a partially slotted flooring system may be a suitable alternative to conventional bedded system. A second trial is planned to confirm these findings.

Acknowledgements: Funding by State of Minnesota and USDA. Technical assistance (University of Minnesota - Jeanine Brannon, Gary Backes, John Fox, Gabriella Furo, Brian Hetchler, Fred Hrbek, Elizabeth Theis and Scott Welch), Jennie-O Turkey Store (Faribault Plant) – processing data collection.

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