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Evaluation of Welfare in Commercial Turkey Flocks of Both Sexes Using the Transect Walk Method

Institute of Poultry, Birds, Small Mammals and Reptiles, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ljubljana, Gerbičeva Ulica 60, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Nutrition Institute, Tržaška Cesta 40, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Perutnina Ptuj, Perutnina Ptuj d.o.o., Potrčeva 10, 2250 Ptuj, Slovenia
Department of Animal Science, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Groblje 3, 1230 Domžale, Slovenia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Melissa Hempstead and Danila Marini
Animals 2021, 11(11), 3253;
Received: 29 September 2021 / Revised: 29 October 2021 / Accepted: 11 November 2021 / Published: 13 November 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Welfare Assessment: Novel Approaches and Technologies)
In the last decade, increased attention has been directed toward the welfare of commercial poultry. In current turkey production systems, males and females are typically reared in the same facility until slaughtering the hens. Hens are reared for 12 to 14 weeks, while toms are reared for up to 22 weeks. This study examines farm health and welfare in commercial turkey flocks of both sexes during the fattening cycle using the transect walk method. Flocks, separately for males and females, were assessed at 3 to 4 weeks of age, 1 week before slaughtering the hens and 1 week before slaughtering the toms. We found several differences in the frequency of welfare indicators between different assessments and between male and female populations. The period just before slaughtering the hens was found to be most problematic for both sexes, although several welfare indicators suggested that health problems were mainly already present at 3 to 4 weeks of age and also continued after hen depopulation. Our results show that transect walks used at different ages may provide relevant information on animal health and welfare during the fattening cycle.
The study was conducted between March and September 2019 in six meat-type turkey flocks with similar management standard procedures using the transect walk method. The concept of the method is based on visual observation of the birds while slowly walking across the entire farm in predetermined transects. Each flock was evaluated at three different times during the fattening cycle: at 3 to 4, 12 to 13, and 19 to 20 weeks of age, and total number of males and females that were immobile or lame, had visible head, vent, or back wounds, were small, featherless, dirty, or sick, had pendulous crop, or showed aggression toward birds or humans were recorded. At each visit, NH3 and CO2 were measured within the facilities. In the first assessment, the most frequently observed welfare indicators were small size (0.87%) and immobility (0.08%). Males showed a significantly higher prevalence of small size (p < 0.01), sickness (p < 0.05), and dirtiness (p < 0.1) compared to females. In the second assessment, the most common findings in both sexes were dirtiness (1.65%) and poor feather condition (1.06%), followed by immobility (0.28%). Males were significantly dirtier (p < 0.001), had more immobile birds (p < 0.01) and birds with vent wounds (p < 0.1), but had fewer sick birds (p < 0.05). In the last assessment, an increase in immobile, lame, sick, and dead birds was recorded, indicating an increase in health problems. Higher CO2 (3000 and 4433 ppm) and NH3 (40 and 27.6 ppm) values were noted only at the first assessment in two facilities. Further analyses showed that slightly elevated NH3 and CO2 levels did not influence the occurrence of welfare indicators. This study is the first description of the welfare of commercial turkey flocks in Slovenia. View Full-Text
Keywords: welfare; mixed commercial turkey flocks; on-farm assessment welfare; mixed commercial turkey flocks; on-farm assessment
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MDPI and ACS Style

Hrženjak, N.M.; Hristov, H.; Dovč, A.; Martinjak, J.B.; Šemrov, M.Z.; Žlabravec, Z.; Račnik, J.; Krapež, U.; Slavec, B.; Rojs, O.Z. Evaluation of Welfare in Commercial Turkey Flocks of Both Sexes Using the Transect Walk Method. Animals 2021, 11, 3253.

AMA Style

Hrženjak NM, Hristov H, Dovč A, Martinjak JB, Šemrov MZ, Žlabravec Z, Račnik J, Krapež U, Slavec B, Rojs OZ. Evaluation of Welfare in Commercial Turkey Flocks of Both Sexes Using the Transect Walk Method. Animals. 2021; 11(11):3253.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Hrženjak, Nina Mlakar, Hristo Hristov, Alenka Dovč, Jana Bergoč Martinjak, Manja Zupan Šemrov, Zoran Žlabravec, Jožko Račnik, Uroš Krapež, Brigita Slavec, and Olga Zorman Rojs. 2021. "Evaluation of Welfare in Commercial Turkey Flocks of Both Sexes Using the Transect Walk Method" Animals 11, no. 11: 3253.

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