Adapted from article published in AnSci Connection, the U of M Department of Animal Science newsletter
Sally Noll, a University of Minnesota professor in turkey nutrition, allows her Extension work to drive her research, which has steered her toward studying the management of turkey operations in addition to nutrition.
Noll and her team, including graduate student Mariah Huberty, have recently started looking into the opportunity for slotted flooring in turkey barns. Currently in the Midwest, turkey barns use a bedded system with wood shavings. These allow a comfortable place for the turkeys to rest, but they do have some downfalls when it comes to the spread of illness among the birds. In a bedded system, birds have direct contact with feces and the shavings are stirred, allowing the further spread of disease.
Because turkeys do not lie down in gentle fashion, a completely slotted floor might affect carcass quality. Noll’s team is studying the effects of a 25 percent slotted floor, 75 percent bedded system. The feeders and waters are located on the slotted floor portion because turkeys tend to defecate while standing around their feed and water, reducing the amount of excrement on the bedded area. Under the slotted floors, there is a scraper system to remove waste. Turkey manure is more solid than manure from other animals such as pigs and dairy, so they are exploring adapting current scraper systems for use in the turkey barn. So far they have not seen any negative effects of the 25 percent slotted floor, but they are currently studying this in a semi-commercial setting to see if it could be replicated within the turkey industry. University of Minnesota collaborators in this project include Kevin Janni, Erin Cortus, Tim Johnson and Carol Cardona.
In addition to research on different flooring, Noll is also looking at prebiotics and probiotics in turkey diets to see if they can help jump the development of the turkey’s immune system and digestive tract. She is also working with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, looking at the effects of different types and levels of soybean meal in turkey diets.