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Broilers and wet litter are a perennial problem that will not go away as long as we raise broilers the way we do now — on litter. Apart from the common causes due to disease, ventilation and watering problems, nutrition has a role to play. Nutrition, or rather poor feed design, can be the causative factor of wet litter, and likewise, nutrition can offer solutions to the same problem.
Let’s think first what causes wet litter through nutrition. Wet litter is caused by excess water in droppings. This means that birds either drink more water than they need, or they do not absorb as much as they should from the hindgut. The first is due to excess protein and minerals in the feed, both of which require extra water to be removed from the body. The same can be said for certain drugs. The second is due to certain feed components that trap water and prevent it from being reabsorbed — here the highly soluble, gel-like, properties of certain types of fibers come to mind.
So, how can nutrition resolve or ameliorate this problem? First, we can reduce the amount of offensive ingredients in formulas. However, this is often not easy due to economic reasons. Second, we can add certain additives that control the excess moisture or help in releasing trapped water.
Wet litter remains a problem for broiler production. Solutions abound, and the right combination of additives and re-formulation depend on the actual problem at hand, plus the available ingredients.