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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Mississippi State, Mississippi » Poultry Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #375730

Research Project: Enhancing Sustainability and Production Efficiency through Improved Management and Housing Design in Commercial Broilers

Location: Poultry Research

Title: Effects of elevated perching platform and robotic vehicle on broiler production, welfare, and housing environment

Author
item YANG, X - Mississippi State University
item HUO, X - Mississippi State University
item LI, G - Mississippi State University
item Purswell, Joseph - Jody
item TABLER, G - Mississippi State University
item CHESSER, G - Mississippi State University
item Magee, Christopher - Chris
item ZHAO, Y - Mississippi State University

Submitted to: Transactions of the ASABE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/10/2020
Publication Date: 12/16/2020
Citation: Yang, X., Huo, X., Li, G., Purswell, J.L., Tabler, G.T., Chesser, G.D., Magee, C.L., Zhao, Y. 2020. Effects of elevated perching platform and robotic vehicle on broiler production, welfare, and housing environment. Transactions of the ASABE. 63(6):1981-1990. https://doi.org/10.13031/trans.14115.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.13031/trans.14115

Interpretive Summary: Provision of enrichment systems in broiler housing seeks to improve bird activity and welfare in commercial broiler production. Adoption of alternative housing designs must be evaluated to characterize the resultant economic and environmental impacts on the producer. Emerging systems such as elevated perching platforms and robotic vehicles may be used as environmental enrichment and to stimulate bird activity in broiler housing systems. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of using these platforms and/or production efficiency, internal air quality, and well-being under eight-week production cycles. The results show that FCR increased with addition of enrichment systems to the broiler environment while litter moisture decreased with addition of enrichment systems. The addition of platforms decreased ammonia concentrations and increased plumage quality. Operation of robots increased bird activity, but the effect diminished as the birds aged.

Technical Abstract: Elevated perching platform (EPP) and robotic vehicle (RV) are two emerging systems aiming to improve environment enrichment and bird activity in broiler housing systems. However, the impacts of using 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 EPP 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 with four treatments: with EPP only (EPP), with RV only (RV), with EPP and RV (EPP+RV), and with neither EPP 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 show that overall FCR were 1.806 for EPP, 1.804 for RV, 1.797 for EPP+RV, and 1.791 for Ctrl. The normalized LMC were 23.2±4.1% for EPP, 32.8±4.1% for RV, 23.4±2.5% for EPP+RV, and 35.7±7.0% for Ctrl over eight-week production cycles. The NH3 concentrations in the rooms with EPPs were 40% lower than those in the rooms without EPPs at the end of the production cycle. Broilers in the rooms with EPPs had better PQ than the rooms without EPPs. Broiler PC seemed better in the rooms with RV compared with those without RV. Operation of RV increased bird AI; however, the benefits in activity encouragement diminished as broilers grew. The number of broilers on EPP in EPP+RV room was higher than that in the EPP room. It is concluded that using EPP and RV may improve the broiler welfare and activity without compromising their production performance.