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Water-based Foam Can be Used for Emergency Turkey Depopulation

31 December 2013

US - Water-based foam was found to be a suitable alternative to carbon dioxide gassing for the emergency depopulation of market-age tom turkeys in a recent study.

The results of new work at the University of Delaware demonstrate that water-based foam can be used to effectively depopulate market size male turkeys.

In a paper published in Poultry Science, M.K. Rankin and co-authors at the University of Delaware and University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine report their comparison of water-based foam and carbon dioxide gas as emergency depopulation methods for turkeys.

They explain that recommended response strategies for outbreaks of avian influenza and other highly contagious poultry diseases include surveillance, quarantine, depopulation, disposal and decontamination.

The best methods of emergency mass depopulation should maximise human health and safety while minimising disease spread and animal welfare concerns. The goal of their project was to evaluate the effectiveness of two mass depopulation methods on adult tom turkeys.

The methods tested were carbon dioxide (CO2) gassing and water-based foam.

The time to unconsciousness, motion cessation, brain death and altered terminal cardiac activity were recorded for each bird through the use of an electroencephalogram, accelerometer and electrocardiogram.

Critical times for physiological events were extracted from sensor data and compiled in a spreadsheet for statistical analysis.

A statistically significant difference was observed in time to brain death, with water-based foam resulting in faster brain death (µ=190 seconds) than CO2 gas (µ= 242 seconds).

Although not statistically significant, Rankin and co-authors also observed differences in the times to unconsciousness (foam: µ= 64 seconds; CO2 gas: µ= 90 seconds), motion cessation (foam:µ = 182 seconds; CO2 gas: µ= 153 seconds) and altered terminal cardiac activity (foam: µ= 20 seconds; CO2 gas: µ= 242 seconds) between foam and CO2 depopulation treatments.


Rankin M.K., R.L. Alphin, E.R. Benson, A.L. Johnson, D.P. Hougentogler and P. Mohankumar. 2013. Comparison of water-based foam and carbon dioxide gas emergency depopulation methods of turkeys. Poult. Sci. 92(12):3144-3148. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03341

Further Reading

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

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