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The influence of microclimate on the development of foot pad dermatitis in broilers

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  10th International Livestock Environment Symposium (ILES X)  .(doi:10.13031/iles.18-090)
Authors:   Emanuela Tullo, Giacomo Aletti, Alessandra Micheletti, Giovanni Naldi, Alberto Peña Fernandez, Erik Vranken, Daniel Berckmans, Marcella Guarino
Keywords:   early warning system, health problem, intensive farming, PLF, poultry farming, foot pad dermatitis


Footpad dermatitis and lameness are a major welfare concern in broiler chicken farming. In general, footpad lesions are linked to poor environmental conditions. Ulcers that arise from advanced lesions can negatively affect the gait of the birds, with effects on the animal welfare, including, in the worst cases, inability to reach the feed or water.

In this study, the degree of footpad dermatitis and lameness was manually scored on four broiler farms across Europe, as part of an EU-wide welfare assessment programme (Welfare Quality® protocol). Assessment of animal welfare is typically based on manual scoring, which requires a lot of trained manpower/labour.

Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) can combine information technologies into on-line automated tools that can be used to control, monitor and model the behavior of animals and their biological response without stressing, disturbing or handling the animals. The association between the PLF and the Welfare Quality® protocol was investigated to assess whether animal welfare could be better ensured if they were closely monitored with state of the art technology that gives rapid feedback to the farmer. Thus, the aim of this study was to find the association between environmental predisposing factors, measured continuously (such as the indoor temperature and humidity) and leg problems, scored manually during the welfare assessment procedure, in order to find an automated prediction system to detect those lesions. Even if genetics is a heavy predisposing factor for leg disorders, environmental condition could trigger the presence of lesions. Indeed, immobility on litter of poor quality might cause footpad dermatitis affecting the gait of birds. The association between automated control of the environmental conditions and the welfare assessments could be the basis for the development of models and algorithms capable to automatically detect thresholds above which lesions are mostly probable.

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