Management factors influencing the occurrence of cellulitis in broiler chickens
One of the main reasons for condemning fattening broiler chickens during meat inspection is cellulitis, which demonstrates the great economic issue concerning this topic. The aim of this epidemiological study was therefore to identify risk factors in order to draw conclusions on how to prevent the occurrence of cellulitis in broilers by implementing management changes. The data were collected between April and November 2018 on conventional broiler farms (n = 100) in the north of Germany with one to fourteen poultry houses per farm. In total, data were collected from 199 broiler flocks with a total of 5,332,767 broilers. Data on the type of management (feeding- and drinking management, housing, lighting management, litter type and animal health) were collected via a questionnaire, with additional data on condemnation rates being provided by the abattoirs. It was found that litter additives like fennel, eucalyptus and probiotics as well as a moist litter quality were associated with lower cellulitis condemnation rates. Flocks fattened in windowless barns, but with relatively higher lux-values as well as those broilers examined in a lower number of housing inspections had significantly lower cellulitis condemnation rates compared to other husbandry systems. In addition, lower cellulitis rates were seen when housing capacities were smaller, regardless of stocking density. The source of the breeders and hatchery also had a significant influence on the occurrence of cellulitis. No correlation was found between the condemnation rates due to cellulitis and the performance of thinning, the water source used, the use of drinking additives, observational skills and number of herd managers monitoring the broilers, participation in an animal welfare programme, the technique of heating and ventilation systems used, the feed supplier, litter material, the broiler breed, the length of darkness periods and chick losses during the first seven days. We concluded that management decisions that lead to stress reduction in the broiler flocks are beneficial in terms of chicken welfare and occurrence of cellulitis.