Comparing paper and plastic cooling pads in poultry houses

While the industry predominately uses paper cooling pads, plastic pads are growing in interest.

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Even though paper cooling pads are the most popular choice for poultry producers, the use of plastic cooling pads has been steadily increasing. Each has its pros and cons, and not considering these differences could cause producers to have heat-stressed birds during the hot summer months.

The differences between paper and water cooling pads were discussed by Michael Czarick, University of Georgia Senior Public Service Associate, at the 2023 Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI) National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing and Live Production.

Most six-inch paper pads can be changed out with six-inch plastic pads and can produce a comparable cooling effect, explained Czarick. Nevertheless, this does not mean there are not significant differences between the two options.

The difference

Both paper and plastic can produce the same level of air cooling in poultry houses, however, the two options function differently. Plastic pads are more difficult to wet and need additional water compared to paper pads to produce a similar cooling effect.

“The amount of water flowing over the pad affects pad cooling,” said Czarick. “Most existing systems are not capable of putting enough water on plastic pads.”

Therefore, Czarick continued, to properly wet plastic pads, producers may need to replace their current circulation system.

“With the right amount of water flow over the pad, the cooling produced by the two different pads is similar,” he said. This is because plastic pads dry out faster than paper pads due to the water holding capacity.

Additionally, Czarick explained that paper pads are more forgiving of not having a good distribution system, compared to plastic, due to the natural wicking action.

Concerning cleaning, plastic pad are much easier to clean due to their material.

“Plastic pads are best suited for places that have bad water quality due to their resilience in cleaning,” he added. Mineral buildup from poor water quality can be removed from plastic pads with high pressure cleaning.

If a producer is located in an area with good water quality, Czarick recommends paper pads.

Plastic pads cost twice as much as paper pads. The return on investment for plastic pads depends mostly on the quality of water circulating over the pads, he explained.  The poorer the water quality, the more economically viable plastic pads are.

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