Michael is currently half way through his PhD at Ohio State, and will use his one year residence in Australia to investigate bacterial and viral pathogen survival in composted litter, and link this to bird welfare and performance across 2-5 batches (flocks). “Litter reuse in the United States is very common across multiple batches” Michael said. “This is not so in Australia, but as Australian broiler production exceeds 450 million birds annually, the cost and availability of bedding material have created a need to consider reusing poultry litter more frequently”. “Currently around 70% of bedding material used in Australia is single-use”.
However, there are justifiable concerns associated with litter reuse. “Australian broiler litter (both single-use and reused) has been found to serve as a reservoir for potential foodborne-related pathogens, namely E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter species” said Michael. “It has been previously demonstrated that with continued reuse litter moisture and ammonia levels increase, which has compromised bird welfare”.
Michael is also looking to duplicate his experiments in Ohio upon his return. “DNA microarray techniques exist at the Ohio State University which would allow me to further characterize the microbial community structure and diversity more completely for litter and gut samples collected in both Australia and Ohio”. By gaining a better understanding of pathogen survival in litter (associated with temperature and time) reliable models can be developed to assist industry in further utilisation of this resource, with positive economic and bird welfare outcomes.