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Foot-pad dermatitis, a key indicator of well-being in poultry farms

How can we reshape intensive poultry farming when facing increasingly demanding societal expectations? To answer this question, The TECHNA Group poultry experts devoted their 2017 technical seminar, "Producing tomorrow", to the prospects of the development of poultry farming. Among other topics, this seminar focused on foot-pad dermatitis.

Welfare in poultry farms, a major societal expectation

poultry seminar techna well being poultry intensive production broiler turkeyThe technical seminar on poultry organized by TECHNA FRANCE NUTRITION took place on Friday, June 23rd in France, in the Nantes area. Between societal constraint and intensive production, the TECHNA Group feed experts went over the perspectives of the poultry sector.

French and European consumers currently want to eat meat from well-treated animals. They are sensitive to the messages of animal welfare groups. These welfare organizations regularly publicize and denounce the harsh farming conditions in which animals are kept. Yet consumers are not ready to pay for drastic changes in the way poultry animals are reared. The development of public opinion regarding animal treatment is shaking up traditional poultry rearing systems.

Strong societal expectations are emerging around the way animals are produced. How can we anticipate the changes to come, what breeds will be raised tomorrow, how will we feed them? It is in this role of scientific monitor and long-term reflection that the TECHNA Group feed service company finds its full purpose.

Foot-pad dermatitis in turkey and broiler productions, an indicator for evaluating poultry welfare?

foot pad lesion dermatitis broiler chicks legsHow can we evaluate animal welfare? In their presentations, poultry experts Samia Messaoud and Marine Traineau focused on the specific case of foot-pad dermatitis in poultry. Foot-pad dermatitis is a condition that causes foot pad lesions in poultry. This condition results from a degradation of litter. In France, assessment of this condition on farms consists merely of detection on the legs of poultry animals. Yet the Danes have been paying more attention to this disease for a very long time: this country was among the first to implement scores of Foot-pad dermatitis in poultry farms (FPD).

Foot-pad dermatitis: a formal indicator of well-being. Foot-pad dermatitis are part of the well-being indicators set out in the European Directive. These lesions are not currently penalized on farms but it is only a matter of time. How can we adapt to the future consideration of Foot-pad dermatitis as a formal indicator for poultry well-being? By adjusting breeds, nutrition, farming management techniques. In 2016, our experts carried out a meta-analysis covering all the poultry trials which were run between 2005 and 2015 at the Euronutrition experimental center. Well-known field data among poultry specialists showed that excess moisture coupled with the accumulation of feces in litter produces ammonia. This highly corrosive substance causes the foot to be ulcerated through contact. This meta-analysis also showed that common inputs such as protein, energy and some raw materials (wheat, meal, corn) are more likely than others to lead to water excretions. Yet all the aforementioned elements are also those that make it possible to achieve the best cost-competitiveness ratio.

Foot-pad dermatitis: zootechnics, the first action lever. Environmental factors should not be overlooked. The reduction of waste around the drinking area requires an appropriate zootechnical approach regarding the choice of material and its setting. It is important to know the exact moment when the animal has sufficiently drunk and does not produce waste. The empirical adjustment results from regular checks in terms of consumption, flow rate, litter condition, pressure, weight gain, and the height of nipples. Thus, it is possible for the farmer to manage his flock on a day-to-day basis according to the evolution of these parameters. The humidity also comes from feces and the animal’s exhalation. Therefore the ventilation must rid the building of this excess moisture. This is all the more difficult in farms where animal density is high. The choice of litter material is also crucial as some materials (wood chip, crushed straw) are more or less water absorbent.

When confronted to a high rate of foot-pad dermatitis, zootechnics is definitely the first lever to activate. The trend towards farms conforming to animal welfare production indicator is not in opposition to achieving an optimized production cost, a crucial priority at all levels of the poultry industry. The nutritional lever can then be activated if both the technical requirements and the production costs are met. Our experts can provide you with farm audits and tools that take account of the foot pad dermatitis criterion. Feel free to contact them!

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