Influence of using perforated plastic flooring beneath the waterline on growth performance, litter quality, and footpad health of broiler chickens : a field study
The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of slatted flooring beneath waterlines in broiler barns on litter quality and, subsequently, footpad health. The hypothesis tested was that installing slatted flooring underneath waterlines helps to improve litter quality and thus reduces footpad diseases, enhancing animal welfare as a result. Five experimental runs with two groups were conducted. Each run was defined as one fattening period of 32 days and consisted of 15,000 broiler Ross 308 of both sexes. Every barn was divided into three areas (drinkers, feeders, and comfort area) for weekly sampling. No influence on growth performance was noted. The slatted flooring influenced the litter quality by preventing the litter in the experimental group (EG = 690 ± 167 g/kg DM) from becoming moisture until day 14 of the fattening period compared to the control group (CON = 636 ± 198 g/kg DM). The footpad health was also influenced by using slatted flooring, with lower camera-based footpad scores in the EG (8.80) compared to CON (22.0) at the slaughterhouse (p = 0.0258). Installing slatted flooring beneath the waterline reduced the moisture of the litter compared to the control barn in the first two weeks of age and showed a positive effect on the footpad health of the broilers at the end of fattening, which indicates an improvement in animal welfare.