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Effects of Elevated Platform and Robotic Vehicle on Broiler Production, Welfare, and Housing Environment  Open Access

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

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 63(6): 1981-1990. (doi: 10.13031/trans.14115) @2020
Authors:   Xiao Yang, Xiaojing Huo, Guoming Li, Joseph L. Purswell, George T. Tabler, Gary D. Chesser, Jr., Christopher L. Magee, Yang Zhao
Keywords:   Behavior, Broiler, Elevated platform, Robotic vehicle, Welfare.


Using an elevated platform with a manure catcher reduced litter moisture content and ammonia concentration.

A robotic vehicle encouraged bird movement and use of the elevated platform.

Using the elevated platform and robotic vehicle jointly improved broiler paw quality and plumage cleanliness.

Abstract. Elevated platform (EP) and robotic vehicle (RV) are two emerging systems aiming to improve environment enrichment and bird activity in broiler housing systems. However, the impacts of these systems on broiler production, welfare, and housing environment have not been evaluated. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of using EP and RV individually or jointly on broiler feed conversion ratio (FCR), litter moisture content (LMC), ammonia (NH3) concentration, gait score (GS), paw quality (PQ), plumage cleanliness (PC), and bird activity index (AI). Broilers were reared for eight-week production cycles. Four experimental rooms (54 birds room-1) were randomly assigned four treatments: EP only, RV only, EP and RV (EP+RV), and neither EP nor RV (Ctrl). Broiler GS, PQ, and PC were assessed following welfare protocols. Bird AI was determined through image processing. The experiment was repeated three times. The results showed that overall FCR values were 1.806 for EP, 1.804 for RV, 1.797 for EP+RV, and 1.791 for Ctrl. The normalized LMC values were 23.2% ±4.1% for EP, 32.8% ±4.1% for RV, 23.4% ±2.5% for EP+RV, and 35.7% ±7.0% for Ctrl over the eight-week production cycles. NH3 concentrations were 40% lower in the rooms with EP than in the rooms without EP at the end of the production cycle. Broilers had better PQ in the rooms with EP than in the rooms without EP. Broiler PC seemed better in the rooms with RV compared to those without RV. Operation of RV increased bird AI; however, the benefits in activity encouragement diminished as the broilers grew. The number of broilers on the EP was higher in the EP+RV rooms than in the EP rooms. It is concluded that using EP and RV together may improve broiler welfare and activity without compromising their production performance.

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