New alternatives are necessary if the environmental impact linked to intensive poultry production is to be reduced, and different litter handling methods should be explored. Among these, acidifying amendments added to poultry litters has been suggested as a management practice to help reduce the potential environmental effect involved in multiple flock cycles. There have been several studies on the use of aluminum sulfate (alum) and its benefits, but almost no data are available under farm conditions in Europe. An experiment with Ross 308 broilers from 1 to 42 days of age was conducted to evaluate the effect of alum on litter composition, the solubility of some mineral elements and NH3 emission during a single flock-rearing period in commercial houses located in southeast Spain. Broilers were placed on clean wood shavings in four commercial houses, containing 20 000 broilers each. Before filling, alum was applied at a rate of 0.25 kg/m2 to the wood shavings of two poultry houses, whereas the remaining two were used as control. Litter from each poultry house was sampled every 3 to 5 days. Ammonia emissions from the poultry houses were monitored from 37 to 42 days of age. In comparison with the control group, alum treatment significantly reduced the pH level of the litter (P < 0.001) with an average difference of 1.32 ± 0.24 units. Alum-treated litter showed, on average, a higher electrical conductivity than the control litter (5.52 v. 3.63 dS/m). The dry matter (DM) and total N and P contents did not show differences between the treatments (P > 0.05). Regarding the NH4+-N content, alum-treated litter showed a higher value than the untreated litter, with an average difference of 0.16 ± 0.07% (on a DM basis). On average, alum-treated litter had lower water-soluble P, Zn and Cu contents than the untreated litter. Alum noticeably reduced the in-house ammonia concentration (P < 0.001), with an average of 4.8 ppm at 42 days of age (62.9% lower than the control), and ammonia emissions from 37 to 42 days of age were significantly reduced by the alum treatment (P < 0.001), representing a reduction of 73.3%. The lower pH values might have reduced ammonia volatilization from the litter, with a corresponding positive effect on the building environment and poultry health. For these reasons, litter amendment with alum could be recommended as a way of reducing the pollution potential of European broiler facilities during a single flock cycle.
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