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Research Note: Age-related effects of feeder space availability on welfare of broilers reared to 56 days of age Part 2: Blood physiological variables

Olanrewaju Hammed A., J. L. Purswell, S. D. Collier, S. L. Branton
Poultry science 2022 v.101 no.3 pp. -
acid-base balance, blood glucose, corticosterone, hatcheries, poultry meat
Consumption of poultry meat has increased dramatically due to the relative price-competitiveness as compared to other meat products. The rapid growth and increased production efficiency of modern genetic strains is perceived to negatively impact the welfare of the animal. Hematological analyses such as acid-base balance provide a thorough evaluation of the welfare in both animals and humans. This study investigated the effects of feeder space availability on welfare of broilers grown to heavy weights using blood physiological variables. The study was a randomized complete block design. In each of the 2 trials, a total of 1,440 one-d-old Ross × Ross 708 chicks (straight-run) were obtained from a commercial hatchery. Chicks were equally and randomly allocated to 32 pens based on feeder space treatment. Treatments were 4 different feeder space allocations: 2.3 (Single feeder), 2.30, 4.60, and 6.90 cm/bird. To maintain uniform bird:feeder floor space, 3 feeders were installed in each pen, except for the single feeder pen. Blood samples (3 mL) were collected from the brachial wing vein of 3 birds per pen on d 27 and 55, which were then analyzed immediately for whole blood physiological variables. The remaining blood samples were centrifuged to collect plasma that was used for corticosterone and thyroid hormones analysis. Results show there was no effect of feeder space on most of the selected physiological variables, but age had significant effects on most of the examined variables. However, all observed changes were within physiological ranges. Plasma corticosterone and blood glucose were not affected by feeder space and age, indicating absence of physiological stress. The results are in broad agreement with those reported in the literature and on homeostatic variation of broilers grown to heavy weights. In conclusion, expanding feeder allowance does not enhance the welfare of broilers grown to heavy weights.