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Pens with partial slotted floors appear to offer advantages

We know that wet litter has a negative impact on turkeys. It can lead to footpad dermatitis, leg problems, diminished air quality, and it can allow avian influenza virus to survive for longer time periods.

Traditional strategies to remove moisture have some shortcomings. For instance, adding heat, tilling litter and/or adding dry bedding carry associated costs. Sharing tilling equipment between barns and hauling and distributing new bedding increases the risk of influenza introduction and spread.

Another potential strategy for improving litter condition and reducing disease challenge is to use slotted flooring (SF). Sally Noll, an Extension poultry specialist and professor in the Department of Animal Science, and Kevin Janni, an Extension agricultural engineer and professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, collaborated to evaluate alternative flooring systems. The Jennie-O Turkey Store processing plant in Faribault helped collect data for the study.

Research in Minnesota 20 years ago determined 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. 

Noll and Janni conducted a pilot study at the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center 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 material was placed in two identical pens with 50 toms each. Flooring occupied 25 percent 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 weeks of age and their performance was followed to 18 weeks of age. No differences among treatments were detected for body weight (at 18 week of age), feed efficiency (from 5 to 18 weeks of age), liveability, 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 percent while the turkeys reared on conventional litter floor averaged 6.6 percent 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.

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