Last week our new poultry vet, Sam Northing, was lucky enough to attend a Locomotory Seminar in Bruges, Belgium. The trip was kindly organised and funded by Huvepharma, a pharmaceutical company who supply us with many of our medicinal products.
Many professionals from the poultry industry were in attendance, with 28 different nations around the world coming together! Sam was treated to lots of fantastic food as well as some of the renowned strong Belgian beers while he networked with the other delegates, who work in all corners of the poultry industry. Huvepharma arranged tours of the city and even a boat cruise of the waterways through the city for the evenings.
But Sam attended the trip first and foremost to learn about locomotion as part of his training! Many important speakers gave presentations on the many problems linked to locomotion, a practical was also organised at the local Veterinary School in Ghent to put the topics into practice! Some of the key topics and most common locomotory disorders seen on farm are as follows.
Foot Pad Lesions
Dermatitis (skin inflammation) of the foot pads in broilers results in lameness, it is an indicator of wet litter as the dirty conditions underfoot lead to the foot lesions. The wet litter could be a result of poor gut health. Consult your vet if you are seeing lots of foot pad lesions or your litter is wet so that the cause can be investigated. Foot pad lesion scoring is often performed in a portion of a flock as an indicator of welfare – the higher the average score the greater the amount of lameness there is likely to be in the birds, as well as being an indicator of litter quality and health problems. Score cards such as the one in the image below are often used.
Non-infectious skeletal disorders
Rickets results in flexibility in long bones of growing chicks, due to a deficiency in Calcium, Phosphorus or Vitamin D(3). The flexibility can lead to deformities in the bones.
Tibial Dyschondroplasia is a condition diagnosed on post mortem in the tibia bone of the leg, due to disrupted cartilage development. It results in lameness in growing birds and is a result of inadequate dietary calcium or a Calcium/Phosphorus inbalance.
The above conditions can be avoided by ensuring good gut health and by providing supplemental Vitamin D3 which we stock at Avivets. Vitamin D3 plays a role in the metabolism of both Calcium and Phosphorus.
Birds walking on curled toes (see image), often in layers/pullets can be a result of a Vitamin B deficiency. A multivitamin supplement, such as our Avivits which we can supply, will correct this.
Lameness can be the result of a systemic infection with various pathogens, most commonly species of Enterococcus, Staphylococcus and E coli, which can become located at various points within the skeletal system, causing a local infection there. Common sites for these infections include the head of the femur bone, the spine and within joints such as the knee. In broilers, birds tend to go off their legs at around 3 weeks of age. Those with spinal infections often present sitting down with their legs straight out in front – like they’re reading a newspaper! A post mortem examination will reveal the location of the infection.
Once again gut health is important in preventing these problems, one route for bacteria to enter the bloodstream is across the intestinal wall, we recommend supplementation with probiotics at 3-5 days of age to improve the balance of good and bad bacteria within the gut, which will allow for optimum intestinal development and reduce the potential for bacteria to invade. Avibiome is the perfect product for this, containing three strains of ‘good’ bacteria.
Other infectious causes include Mycoplasma synoviae – a complex disease which can be controlled through vaccination of parent stock, for example!
Breast Meat Abnormalities
While not necessarily being a cause of lameness, breast meat abnormalities are an important part of broiler meat production and the latest research findings were discussed at the seminar. Breast meat abnormalities lead to rejections in the processing line!
The main three recognised abnormalities are as follows:
1. Spaghetti meat – the fibres of the breast muscle can easily be pulled apart
2. Wooden breast – the breast muscle becomes hardened and bulges in an odd shape
3. White striping – the surface of the muscle is striped white
The causes of these abnormalities are complex and often linked to stress around slaughter and incorrect chilling of carcasses. The fast growing nature of today’s broiler strains has increased the incidence of these issues!