Boosting animal welfare with phytogenic products by Monika Korzekwa, Dr Eckel GmbH, Niederzissen, Germany
nimal welfare in turkeys is a huge challenge. When the talk is of animal welfare deficiencies, attention focuses above all on turkeys. High antibiotic doses, cannibalism, high stock densities and inflamed foot pads are influences stated in connection with low animal welfare levels. Even if it is not yet possible to solve all problems simultaneously today, initiatives and research studies are showing initial signs of being able to reduce some of these negative influences successfully for the future. It is possible to influence the wellbeing of the poultry favourably, in particular by feeding, especially by adding phytogenic ingredients to the feed. Since 2013 the binding establishment of a health monitoring programme plays a central role in Germany. The objective of the programme is to enable the participating farmers to assess the health and animal welfare of their turkeys continuously. The health monitoring programme uses indicators that can be surveyed at the slaughterhouse in the context of conducting the official meat inspection. If the health monitoring programme shows indications of deviations from the target ranges, an individual health plan is drawn up for the farm jointly by the veterinarian looking after the flock and the turkey farmer. Table 2 shows a few indicators and what possible conclusions can be drawn from them.
Healthy foot pads: a must for animal welfare
In turkey fattening, the health status of the sensitive foot pads represents a key criterion for animal welfare, for the foot pads carry the weight of the birds. Inflammation restricts their mobility and has a critical effect on overall condition and feeding behaviour. This can lead to negative effects on growth and mortality and thus reduce the profitability of turkey farming substantially. Consequently, commercially successful poultry keeping goes hand in hand with applied animal welfare. As foot pad diseases are a multi-factorial problem, they indicate deficiencies in both keeping conditions and farm management (diarrhoea diseases, population density, climate management, weather protection, litter material, littering frequency). Furthermore, the frequency of foot pad damage correlates with the occurrence of painful changes in the skin and subcutaneous tissue referred to as ‘breast blisters’. The direct connection between litter moisture content and foot pad 44 | January 2016 - Milling and Grain
diseases is undisputed. The wetter and stickier the litter/excrement mixture, the higher the occurrence of foot pad skin alterations or injuries. Moisture and excrement attack the skin of the sole and lead to lesions, which are the entry gates for dirt and germs.
Influencing litter moisture via feeding
The litter moisture content can be influenced indirectly via the feed. There are various causes for wet excrement and consequently wet litter. On the one hand, feed constituents with a laxative effect can increase water release via excrement. On the other hand, liquid excrement can also be the consequence of infections in the gastrointestinal tract. Here both Coccidia and bacterial pathogens (Clostridium perfringens and E. coli) as well as general disturbances of the intestinal flora are possible causes of wet excrement. Accordingly, good intestinal health is conducive to foot pad health. It is thus all the more important to ensure healthy digestion and hence keep diarrhoea occurrences as low as possible. It is known that various plant extracts, essential oils and secondary plant substances have a positive effect on diarrhoea diseases and faeces consistency. In a research trial, it was possible to observe an effect of the phytogenic product (Anta®Phyt, Dr Eckel GmbH, Niederzissen) on Clostridium perfringens, a known cause of wet litter, in vitro. In feeding trials with broilers, the addition of this same phytogenic product had a positive influence on the litter moisture content. This was reduced in the broiler house by on average 14 percent. In a feeding study with quails, a 20 percent lower water content in the excreta was measured after the addition of Anta®Phyt in the feed. After the successful feeding trials with broilers and quails, a comprehensive practical trial was con-ducted in turkey finishing in order to confirm the positive influence on foot pads.
New turkey fattening study confirms improved animal welfare
Nearly 10,000 turkey cocks per group were fattened on straw in separate, identical housing units for a period of 145 days. A detailed slaughterhouse evaluation has shown for the first time what influence the addition of Anta®Phyt in the feed can have on various animal welfare parameters. The trial focused on footpad health, mortality and the rejected live weight at the slaughterhouse, as well as the causes (see table 3). Already at the end of fattening, the Anta®Phyt group displayed a distinctly lower mortality rate compared with the control group fed without any additive. The good health status in the Anta®Phyt group was confirmed in the slaughterhouse evaluation. Footpads were automatically assessed via a camera system using a