• Impact of direct and indirect heating systems in broiler units on environmental conditions and flock performance

      Smith, Shaun; Meade, Joseph; Gibbons, James; McGill, Kevina; Bolton, Declan; Whyte, Paul; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11SF328 (Elsevier BV, 2016-11-11)
      This study compared the impact of three indirect heating systems to direct gas flame heaters on a selection of flock performance and environmental indicators in commercial broiler units. No statistically significant differences (P≥0.05) were found in flock mortality rates, bird weight, water consumption, stress response, carbon dioxide, ammonia, temperature, relative humidity, litter quality, within-flock Campylobacter levels or mean Campylobacter counts when flock data from any of the three indirect heating systems were compared to flocks reared in houses with direct heating systems. Differences in litter quality were observed between upper and lower litter layers in all houses, regardless of heating type, which may have implications for bird health and welfare. Carbon dioxide concentrations in houses with direct heating systems were significantly higher than those in houses with indirect heating systems during the first 10 days of bird life (P≤0.05). This was due to the increased use of heating systems during this period of the flock cycle. Differences in CO2 concentrations had no effect on flock performance, possibly due to the fact that concentrations did not exceed known safe levels. A statistically significant increase in stress response was observed in birds as a result of partial depopulation (thinning) within houses, irrespective of heating system type used (P≤0.05). Stress associated with thinning may have consequences for bird welfare and food safety. In conclusion, the results of our study suggest that indirect heating systems do not appear to negatively impact on flock performance, stress response, within-flock Campylobacter levels or mean Campylobacter counts and do not appear to significantly alter environmental conditions within broiler houses when compared to houses equipped with direct heating systems. Indirect systems are a viable alternative for heating broiler houses in terms of flock performance, bird welfare and food safety.