The Effects of Poultry Litter Biochar as a Viable Feed Ingredient in Poultry Diets

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,989.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: West Virginia University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Joseph Moritz
West Virginia University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: poultry


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed formulation, manure management
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

         Poultry is the number one agricultural commodity in West Virginia. Decreasing diet cost and environmental impact, and improving the overall sustainability of production are a few of the most important issues currently surrounding the poultry industry in the state as well as the poultry intensive Eastern United States (US). Recent legislation surrounding agricultural run-off and the increase of phosphorus deposition in the Chesapeake Bay has promoted West Virginia broiler producers to find alternative management strategies for poultry manure. Gasification of poultry litter and feeding the resultant ash may represent a viable solution to manure application problems and provide a cost effective essential nutrient for poultry diets. This accomplishes two goals: 1) provides a source of heat for poultry houses and 2) the ash can replace part, or all, of the expensive inorganic feed phosphorus sources currently used in poultry feeds.     Our goal is to perform applied research pertaining to feed manufacture manipulations that can directly benefit the poultry industry. The long-term goal of this project is to provide the industry with a simple, viable alternative to applying litter to the land. The objective of this project is to assess the effectiveness of poultry litter biochar (PLB) as a replacement for expensive ingredients in poultry diets. Preliminary research conducted at West Virginia University demonstrated potential draw-backs to using high levels PLB including: anti-nutritional effects due to high amounts of arsenic and the potential for increased digesta viscosity. This project is aimed at addressing these issues.  

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall purpose for this project is to determine if the poultry litter biochar (PLB) is successful at partially replacing the rock phosphorus in the diet and the birds fed this diet will perform similar to birds receiving a diet sufficient in phosphorus. Six specific objectives have been identified:

    1.    Decrease heavy metal content in PLB
    2.    Determine pellet quality of diets with/without PLB
    3.    Determine digesta viscosity (broiler chicks)
    4.    Determine tibia ash content (broiler chicks)
    5.    Determine ileal amino acid digestibility (broiler chicks)
    6.    Determine true amino acid digestibility (roosters)

    Objective 1: Decrease heavy metal content in PLB
    A new PLB has been generated containing much less arsenic than the product used in the preliminary study.  Product generation has primary been associated with the lack of feeding arsenic containing feed additives to broilers. The maximum tolerable level of arsenic for poultry is 30 ppm. The PLB used in preliminary research contained 99 ppm of arsenic and the new PLB contains 22 ppm of arsenic.

    Objective 2: Determine pellet quality of diets with/without PLB
    Eight diets will be formulated in a four levels of diet formulation X two levels of phytase enzyme factorial design.  The four levels of diet formulation include: negative control (NC, formulated with 0.23% aP), positive control (PC, formulated with 0.45% aP), 2% PLB, and 4% PLB. The two levels of phytase enzyme will be enzyme is or is not included in the diet. These diets will be pelleted at West Virginia University’s pilot feed mill and descriptive feed manufacture data (hot pellet temperature, mill amperage, production rate, pellet durability) will be collected.

    Objective 3: Determine digesta viscosity (broiler chicks)
    At the conclusion of this project, the contents of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract will be collected and viscosity will be determined using a Brookfield Viscometer that our laboratory group has used for several years. Increased digesta viscosity measures in the preliminary study were suggested to contribute to poor bird growth and performance.

    Objective 4: Determine tibia ash content (broiler chicks)
    At the conclusion of this project, the left tibiae will be excised to determine total bone mineralization. Bones will be dried and ether extracted to remove any adhering meat and fat content prior to being placed in the muffle furnace. Bones will be ashed in a muffle furnace at 600°C for 16 hours.

    Objective 5: Determine ileal amino acid digestibility (broiler chicks)
    At the conclusion of this project, the contents of the lower ileum will be collected, lyophilized, and sent to a commercial laboratory for total amino acid content.

    Objective 6: Determine true amino acid digestibility (roosters)
    True amino acid digestibility will be determined using cecectomized Single Comb White Leghorn roosters. This is an important step to consider because it will allow amino acid digestibility comparison between mature roosters and growing broiler chicks, and be utilized to more accurately formulate diets containing PLB.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.