Fermentation, utilization and palatability of broiler litter ensiled at different moisture levels and with high moisture corn grain

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Virginia Tech


The feasibility of ensiling broiler litter alone, with added water or with high moisture corn grain was evaluated. Wood shaving based broiler litter was ensiled in small laboratory silos (about 4 liters) at moisture levels of 15.6 (no water added), 20, 30, 40 and 50%. Maximum fermentation was approached at 40% moisture as measured by silage pH and levels of lactic and acetic acids and water-soluble carbohydrates. Coliform bacteria were eliminated by ensiling at 20 to 50% moisture.

In a subsequent study, litter was ground and 545 kg were ensiled alone (22% moisture) or with added water to elevate the moisture to 40%. Active fermentation occurred, and coliforms were eliminated in the silage containing 40% moisture. Twenty-four wethers and 12 steers were used in a metabolism study and a palatability study, respectively. Four rations were supplemented with: (1) dry heat processed litter [260 C at a depth of 1.3 cm for 30 min.]; (2) 22% moisture litter silage; (3) 40% moisture litter silage; or (4) soybean meal. Supplements supplied 50% of the dietary nitrogen in the metabolism trial.

Nitrogen retention was lower (P<.01) for the ration supplemented with processed litter than for the other rations. Apparent digestibility was not significantly different among the three rations supplemented with litter, but digestion coefficients for dry matter and crude fiber were lower (P<.05) for the ration supplemented with soybean meal.

Litter supplied 50% of the total ration dry matter in the palatability study. Dry matter intakes by cattle were similar for the two rations containing litter silage and were significantly (P<.01) lower than for cattle fed the conventional soybean meal supplemented ration.

In another study, ground high moisture (26%) corn grain was ensiled alone or with ground litter in a 2 to 1 ratio in approximate 1 metric ton masses. The extent of fermentation in the corn-litter mixture was less than in corn ensiled alone. Twenty-four wethers were used in a metabolism trial and 12 steers were individually fed in two 15-day palatability trials. The four rations tested in both studies contained: (1) ensiled corn; (2) ensiled corn-litter mixture; (3) ensiled corn and dry heat processed litter [260 C at a depth of 1.3 cm for 30 min.]; or (4) ensiled corn and soybean meal.

Nitrogen intake was similar for the three supplemented rations (2, 3, 4) fed in the metabolism study. Nitrogen retention was lowest (P<.01) for the unsupplemented ration (1). Retention was significantly higher (P<.01) for the soybean meal than for the litter-containing rations. This can be attributed mainly to lower fecal nitrogen excretion. Coefficients of apparent digestibility were usually significantly lower for the unsupplemented than for the supplemented rations. Apparent digestibility of crude protein was lower (P<.01) for both litter-containing rations than for the soybean meal supplemented ration. Digestion coefficients for dry matter, crude fiber, and NFE were not significantly different among rations 2, 3 and 4. Dry matter intakes tended to be higher for cattle fed litter than for those fed the soybean meal supplemented ration. Intake was lowest (P<.01) for the unsupplemented ration.



microorganisms, waste material