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High Dietary Levels of Biotin and Zinc to Improve Health of Foot Pads in Broilers Exposed to Litter with Critical Moisture Content

06 August 2013

Experiments designed to induce foot pad dermatitis show the benefits of higher levels of zinc (especially in the form of zinc methionine) and biotin in the diet to minimise the risk and severity of this important welfare issue.

Foot pad dermatitis (FPD) is a widespread problem in poultry production and constitutes a welfare issue.

In Poultry Science recently, A. Abd El-Wahab from the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation in Germany and co-authors at Egypt's Mansoura University and Lohmann Animal Health published their study with the objective to test potentially prophylactic effects of higher biotin and zinc levels in the diet of broilers exposed to critical litter moisture content (35 per cent water) on the development of FPD.

Two trials were performed in each of four groups of one-week-old male broilers (Ross 708) for 33 days. The pens of all groups (25 birds in each) were littered with wood shavings of critical moisture content.

Two groups were fed high levels of zinc as zinc oxide (150mg per kg of diet), with normal levels of biotin (300µg per kg of diet) or high biotin (2,000µg per kg of diet). The other two groups were fed zinc as zinc-methionine (150mg per kg of diet) with normal levels of biotin (300µg per kg of diet) or high biotin (2,000µg per kg of diet).

External assessment of foot pads and measurements the moisture contents of excreta and litter were performed weekly. The signs of foot pad lesions were recorded on a seven-point scale (0 = normal skin; 7 = more than half of the foot pad is necrotic).

High biotin supplementation resulted in a reduction of 30 and 18 per cent of cases of foot pad lesions in trials 1 and 2, respectively.

The combination of zinc methionine and high biotin supplementation led to a decreased severity of FPD in a range of about 50 and 30 per cent in trials 1 and 2, respectively.

In broilers fed the diet containing zinc oxide and normal biotin levels, about 28 and 24 per cent of the birds had the scores of 6 and 7 (= high foot pad alterations), whereas in birds fed zinc methionine and high biotin, no high alterations (score = 7) in the foot pad (0 per cent) occurred in either trial.

The reearchers say their results suggest that it is advisable to combine the maximum levels of  zinc - especially in the form of zinc methionine - and high levels of biotin when clinically relevant alterations in the foot pad occur.


Abd El-Wahab A., D. Radko and J. Kamphues. 2013. High dietary levels of biotin and zinc to improve health of foot pads in broilers exposed experimentally to litter with critical moisture content. Poult. Sci. 92(7):1774-1782. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03054

Further Reading

You can view the full report (fee payable) by clicking here.

Find out more about foot pad dermatitis by clicking here.

August 2013

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