Aspects of Management Discussed at Turkey Science Meeting

Three presentations at the 3rd Turkey Science and Production Conference held at Macclesfield, UK, in April 2009 covered the general topic of management. The papers - on foot pad dermatitis, brooding and water quality - are summarised by Jackie Linden for ThePoultrySite.
calendar icon 12 August 2009
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EU Research Project on Foot Pad Dermatitis

Dr Teun Veldkamp of the Animal Sciences Group of Wageningen University Research opened his presentation with figures for world turkey meat production between 2000 and 2007 (Table 1). He highlighted how, despite an increase in output of 16 per cent over this period, the European share of global turkey meat production fell from almost 40 per cent to 28 per cent. This he attributed to higher labour costs and the introduction of legislation that further increases costs in Europe compared to the Americas.

Table 1. Quantity of turkey meat produced ('000 tonnes)
Continent 2000 2000
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2007
World 5,067 100.0 5,237 5,398 5,106 5,812 5,732 5,751 5,885 100.0
Africa 72t 1.4 73 68 72 84 87 98 95 1.6
Americas 2,821 55.7 2,920 3,004 3,000 3,627 3,664 3,798 3,950 67.1
Asia 178 3.5 164 161 149 155 152 143 137 2.3
Europe 1,970 38.9 2,053 2,136 1,856 1,929 1,800 1,682 1,671 28.4
Oceania 26 0.5 27 28 29 29 30 31 31 0.5
FAOSTAT, FAO Statistics Division 2008. 30 October 2008

"One of the issues/problems that may impact the future of EU turkey meat production is the incidence of foot pad dermatitis."

Dr Veldkamp said, "One of the issues/problems that may impact the future of EU turkey meat production is the incidence of foot pad dermatitis (FDP)." FPD can lead to lesions on the skin of the foot pad and the underlying tissue, and may lead to ulceration of the tissue – adversely affecting animal welfare and performance.

At the time of the conference in April, the European Commission was expected a to release a proposal for a Council Directive laying down minimum standards for the protection of turkeys kept for meat production. One of the parameters for animal welfare is the incidence of FPD as it is known that wet litter can cause foot pad problems. Based on the existing directive for broilers, it is likely that a high incidence of FPD on a particular farm will reduce its permitted maximum stocking density and thus its potential for profitability.

Dr Veldkamp then described the six phases (so-called 'work packages') in an EU project to investigate the issue of FPD in the EU turkey industry:

  1. Standardised FPD scoring method
  2. FPD-inducing model
  3. Genetics, environment and heritability of FPD
  4. Evaluation of management and nutritional tools in experiments
  5. Validation of positive outcomes in typical commercial conditions, and
  6. Dissemination and implementation of knowledge.

Dr Veldkamp sees the project as a great opportunity for developing a standard methodology for scoring FPD lesions in turkeys – which has been impossible until now – and for gaining knowledge across a broad range of disciplines, including microbiology, physiology, genetics, immunology and nutrition.

"This will improve competitiveness as well as the health and welfare of of turkeys and contribute to the sustainability of the European turkey industry," concluded Dr Veldkamp.

Alternatives to Commercial Brooding

"..potential fuel savings (up to 25 per cent less than conventional), labour savings (up to 50 per cent less than conventional) and improved poult performance."

"For at least the last 25 years, the turkey industry has attempted to perfect brooding turkeys utilising 'conventional' brooding techniques," explained Dr John Menges of Hybrid Turkeys in Canada (part of Hendrix Genetics).

He explained that this involves single ring brooding using a gas- or propane-fired brooders – typically 30,000 Btu each – with supplemental or temporary feeders and drinkers. Each ring holds between 300 and 400 poults from placement to six or seven days of age.

Challenged with rising prices of both labour and fuel, the North American industry has sought alternatives. which include large ring or whole house brooding techniques.

Whole house brooding involves brooding the poults without the use of rings to confine them under a single heat source in a manner familiar to the broiler industry. It saves labour in removing the rings and supplemental feeders and drinkers. However, there is a risk of the poults piling in the corners of the house if they lose their connection with the heat source. The remedy is to maintain the whole house at a higher and uniform temperature (Table 2).

Table 2. Temperature guidelines for conventional and whole house brooding
Day Conventional brooding Whole house brooding
°C °F °C °F
1 29 84 36 96
2 29 84 35 95
3 29 84 34 94
4 29 84 33 92
5 28 83 32 90
6 28 83 31 88
7 28 83 31 88

Dr Menges stressed the need for adequate ventilation at these high temperatures in order to provide good environmental conditions and a plentiful supply of drinking water to prevent dehydration.

One of the most effective methods of heating for whole room brooding is fin pipe heat, i.e. pipes in which hot water flows with fins to increase the surface area.

Large ring brooding combines the conventional and whole house brooding systems, using spot heat from radiant stoves above a ring with sufficient space for 3,500 poults. This means that the rest of the room can be kept rather cooler and fewer supplemental feeders and drinkers are needed. The temperature under the heat stove should be 35 to 46°C (95 to 115°F), while the edge of the ring is 31 to 32°C (88 to 90°F) for the first two days of brooding. The rest of the room can be 2.2 to 3.3°C (4 to 6°F) cooler.

"Producers willing to adjust temperature profiles, be attentive to ventilation strategies and spend time managing the whole room/large ring brooding systems can take advantage of potential fuel savings (up to 25 per cent less than conventional), labour savings (up to 50 per cent less than conventional) and improved poultry performance," said Dr Menges in conclusion.

Water: Identifying and Correcting Challenges

"Understanding what types of chemical contaminants are present [in water] and addressing those that are known to cause poor performance can help growers improve their bottom line"

Dr Susan Watkins of the University of Arkansas offered guidelines for interpreting poultry drinking water tests and offered guidelines for common correction options.

Having described the three types of on-farm water tests: oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) meters, chlorine testing kits and pH testing kits, she recommended that the information should be used to determine if the current sanitation programme is effective. They can also prevent damage to equipment due to the over-use of chemicals. It may also be valuable to record and retain the information so that trends can be seen, she said.

There are many different water treatments available on the markets but the majority fall into one of the following groups:

Filtration removes solid particulates and microorganisms from the water that can cause nipple drinkers to block or leak. Evaporative coolers will also function more effectively. When combined with oxidation, filtration can also remove dissolved minerals. The standard retention for poultry house water systems is 20 microns, although Dr Watkins said that they may retain only about 50 per cent of the 20-micron particles, and some designs allow the water to by-pass the filter. Filters with O-ring seals and filter media that retain 95 per cent of the stated micron rating should be used, she recommended.

  • Oxidation is a process of reacting soluble minerals such as iron,, manganese and sulphur, with an oxidiser such as chlorine, chlorine dioxide, ozone or air to form an insoluble particle that can be filtered out of the system. Time for proper oxidation is critical, said Dr Watkins. The oxidation of iron, for example, require a pH higher than 7 and at least 20 minutes reaction time.

  • Water softeners are useful for removing calcium, magnesium and soluble forms of iron and manganese. The water passes through a synthetic material or resin, resulting in these minerals being exchanged for sodium. The softener tank must be flushed with salt periodically to restore the sodium ions. Water softeners are not effective against oxidised iron or magnesium, or bacteria.

  • Aeration can remove hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide and oxidised iron and manganese. These systems have the inlet at the top and allow water to cascade into a lower tank, from which the water is extracted for the poultry house.

  • Reverse osmosis is a common option for removing sodium, chloride and nitrates in water. The water is forced under pressure through a series of membranes. The disadvantages are that the resulting water can damage metal pipes and fittings, and the water must be pre-treated.

Dr Watkins concluded that water is one of the most important nutrients for poultry, yet its quality is often taken for granted. Because poor quality can impair performance, she recommends checking the water for total bacterial numbers and mineral content.

"Understanding what types of chemical contaminants are present [in water] and addressing those that are known to cause poor performance can help growers improve their bottom line," Dr Watkins said.

Further Reading

- For further information on 3rd Turkey Science and Production Conference, please contact its organiser, Dr James Bentley ([email protected]).

August 2009
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