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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » ESQRU » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #384600

Research Project: Reducing Pathogen Contamination Risks and Improving Quality Attributes of Eggs and Egg Products through Housing System Management and Egg Handling Practices

Location: ESQRU

Title: Floor substrate provided during rearing influences body condition and welfare parameters of commercial white and brown cage free pullets

Author
item ERASMUS, MARISA - Purdue University
item SCOLES, KAILYNN - Purdue University
item DONG, YIRU - Purdue University
item KARCHER, DARRIN - Purdue University
item Jones, Deana
item CAMPBELL, DANA - Commonwealth Scientific And Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Submitted to: Poultry Science Association Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/30/2021
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The rearing environment can impacts the performance and welfare of cage-free laying hens. The objective of this study was to examine the influence of flooring substrates, AstroTurf® (AT) and wood shavings (SH), on the body condition and welfare parameters of commercial brown and white pullets. Day-old chicks were randomly assigned to 8 cage-free rooms, 4 room each with AT and SH. At 12 and 17 wk (Trial 1) and 11 and 15 wk (Trial 2), 20% of the pullets were scored for footpad condition, feather condition, keel bone damage and tip fractures using a modified Welfare Quality® Protocol. Regardless of flooring substrate, feather damage occurred at the earlier time points compared to the later time points. In the AT-reared pullets, feather damage was more prevalent. However, the percentage of AT pullets with footpad lesions decreased over time. SH-reared pullets, keel damage (brown hens) and tip fractures (white and brown hens) were more prevalent closer to lay. Flooring substrates can impact the performance and welfare of laying hens and should be taken into account.

Technical Abstract: The rearing environment influences the subsequent performance and welfare of cage free laying hens. This study examined the influence of floor substrate, AstroTurf® (AT) and wood shavings (SH), on body condition and welfare parameters of commercial brown (Trial 1; T1) and white (Trial 2; T2) pullets. Day-old chicks were randomly assigned to 8 cage free rooms (both trials: n = 400/room, 4 rooms each with AT and SH). Footpad condition, feather condition, keel bone damage and tip fractures were scored (generally, score 0=better, score 1 or 2=worse) for 20% of pullets at 12 and 17 wk (T1) and 11 and 15 wk (T2) using a modified Welfare Quality® Protocol. Data were analyzed using PROC FREQ (SAS 9.4). In T1 at 12 wk, the percentage of pullets with feather damage was lower for SH than AT on the back (score 1 - SH: 0.94%, AT: 4.38%, P=0.022), rump (score 1 - SH: 4.06%, AT: 18.13%; score 2 - SH: 0.63%, AT: 20.94%, P<0.0001), and wings (right wing score 2 - SH: 0.31%, AT: 11.25%; left wing score 2 - SH: 0.63% , AT: 13.44%, P<0.0001). At 17 wk, fewer SH vs. AT pullets had damage to the tail (score 2 - SH: 32.09%, AT: 67.91%, P<0.0001) and wings (right wing score 1 - SH: 32.71%, AT: 60.12%; score 2 - SH: 2.18%, AT: 15.58%; left wing score 1 - SH: 38.63%, AT: 63.55%; score 2 - SH: 0.93%, AT: 15.89%, P<0.0001). In T2, fewer SH vs. AT pullets had damage to the tail and wings at 11 wk (tail score 2 - SH: 18.21%, AT: 47.65%; right wing score 2 - SH: 2.16%, AT: 25.08%; left wing score 2 - SH: 0.93%, AT: 25.39%; P<0.0001) and 15 wk (tail score 2 - SH: 10.94%, AT: 30.72%; right wing score 2 - SH: 1.56%, AT: 16.61%; left wing score 2 - SH: 1.88%, AT: 17.87%; P<0.0001). In both trials, footpad condition was better for SH pullets at 12 wk (T2) and 11 wk (T1) (T1 score 1 - SH: 0.31%, AT: 8.75%; T2 score 0 - SH: 97.84%, AT: 65.83%; T2 score 1 - SH: 1.85%, AT: 33.54%; P<0.0001). In T1 at 17 wk, more SH vs. AT pullets had keel damage (score 0 - SH:33.96%, AT: 48.91%, P=0.0096; score 1 - SH: 65.42%, AT: 50.78%; P=0.045) and keel tip fractures (score 0 - SH: 39.25%, AT: 57.32%; score 1 - SH: 60.75%, AT: 42.68%; P<0.0001). In T2, more AT pullets had keel damage at 11 wk (score 1 - SH: 4.94%, AT: 13.79%, P=0.0009), but more SH pullets had keel tip fractures (score 1 - SH: 24.69%, AT: 10.66%, P<0.0001) at 15 wk. Regardless of substrate, feather damage was more prevalent at the earlier than the later timepoint, whereas keel damage and tip fractures were more prevalent later on. In both trials, the percentage of AT pullets with footpad lesions decreased over time. In conclusion, feather damage was more prevalent in AT-reared pullets, but keel damage (brown birds) and tip fractures (white and brown birds) were more prevalent in SH-reared pullets closer to lay.