Live Performance, Carcass Yield, and Welfare of Broilers of Different Genetic Strains Reared at Different Housing Densities

JNT Arruda AS Mendes ECBP Guirro M Schneider RR Sikorski L Sausen ER Dias DV Bonamigo About the authors

Abstract

This study evaluated the performance, carcass yield and quality, and physiological stress indicators of broilers of three genetic strains reared at three housing densities for 29 days. A total of 828 day-old male chicks, with average initial weight of 40.0± 2.0g were used. Three genetic strains (Cobb 500, Ross 808, and Ross 508, with 276 birds each) and three housing densities (17, 19, and 21 broilers/m²) were tested. A completely randomized experimental design in a 3 x 3 factorial arrangement, with four replicates of 23 birds each, was applied. The following responses were evaluated: performance parameters (average weekly body weight, average daily gain, feed intake, feed conversion ratio), physiological stress indicators (blood glucose levels, blood cell counts), and carcass yield and quality (dermatosis, bruising, dermatitis, and femoral degeneration scores). Average weekly body weight (BW) and daily weight gain (DWG) were not influenced by rearing density (p≥0.05), but Cobb 500 broilers were the heaviest during the analyzed period. In the second week, Ross 508 birds showed better feed conversion ratio (FCR) when housed at the density of 17 broilers/m² (p≤0.001), whereas the best FCR of Ross 808 and Cobb 500 broilers was obtained at 21 broilers/m² (p≤0.001). Carcass yield was not influenced by the treatments (p≥0.05). Physiological stress indicators were not affected by the treatments, and remained within normal ranges (p≥0.05). Dermatosis scores (scratches) increased (p≤0.05) when housing density increased from 17 to 19 broilers /m².

Keywords:
Blood count; poultry industry; live performance; stress

Introduction

Poultry production is the fastest growing sector of the animal production industry. Brazilian chicken meat production reached 13.058 million tons in 2011, which represents a 6.8% increase relative to 2010. These figures make of Brazil the third global chicken meat producer, coming after China, which produced 13.2 million tons in 2011, and the USA, with 16.757 million tons (UBA, 2012Relatório Anual da União Brasileira de Avicultura. 2012 [cited 2012 Dez]. Available from: www.abef.com.br/ubabef/publicacoes_relatoriosanuais.php.
www.abef.com.br/ubabef/publicacoes_relat...
).

This impressive growth is the result of developments in nutrition, genetics, health, and facilities. In addition, new management systems, aiming at obtaining the greatest productivity in the shortest possible time, such using high broiler housing density, have been proposed. High housing density may impair broiler performance as a result of worse air quality in the house, increased ammonia production and volatilization, and reduced feeder and drinker space. This results in reduced growth rate, worse feed efficiency, and often, carcass downgrade. Other consequences are increased mortality, high incidence of diseases associated with poor air quality, and poor immunity (Perdomo, 2001Perdomo CC. Controle do ambiente e produtividade de frangos de corte. Anais da Reunião da Sociedade Brasileira de Zootecnia; 2001; Piracicaba, São Paulo. Brasil: Sociedade Brasileira de Zootecnia; 2001. p.91-110.). In addition, new commercial broiler strains have been developed, and their response to high-density rearing conditions still needs to be evaluated.

The effect of housing density on broiler live performance has been extensively studied, as well as on the welfare of broilers (Estevez, 2007Estevez I. Density allowances for broilers: where to set the limits? Poultry Science 2007;86:1265-1272.), particularly on their physiological responses to the stress caused by high rearing density. Animals under stress may present both behavioral and physiological changes. The latter include increased serum levels of proteins and glucose, and changes in the number of immune cells, particularly in the heterophil: lymphocyte ratio.

High housing densities are sometimes associated with increased density of contact dermatitis, and consequent carcass downgrading. In the last few years, changes in consumers' preferences have been observed. Relative to chicken meat, there is a higher demand for deboned parts and products, as well as for ready-to-cook products, possibly due to a greater participation of women in the labor market (Castillo, 2001Castillo CJC. Qualidade de carcaça e carne de aves. Anais do Congresso Brasileiro de Ciência e Tecnologia de Carnes; 2001; São Pedro, São Paulo. Brasil: Ital; 2001. p.79-99.). Moreover, consumer markets are becoming more demanding in terms of chicken meat quality. Arab countries are the main exporting market of many Brazilian poultry companies, that sell mostly small whole chickens, the so-called "grillers". Such market demands high carcass quality.

Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of stress induced by high rearing density on the live performance, physiological stress indicators, and carcass yield and quality of griller chickens belonging to three different genetic strains.

Materials and Methods

The experiment was carried out at the experimental poultry house of the Poultry Innovation Lab (Laboratório de Inovações Avícolas - LINAV) of the Federal Technological University of Paraná, Dois Vizinhos, PR, Brazil. The lab is located at 250º 45' 00" South latitude, 53o 03' 25" West longitude, and 509 m altitude. The climate is subtropical Cfa. The study was carried out between August and September of 2012 for a total of 29 days. Birds were handled according to the norms of the Committee of Ethics and Animal Research of that university, established according to the determinations of the Brazilian College of Animal Experimentation (COBEA).

Birds, facilities, and diets

In total, 828 day-old male chicks (276 Ross 808, 276 Ross 508, and 276 Cobb 500 chicks), with initial average weight of 40.0±2.0g, were used. At the hatchery, chicks were selected, weighed, and vaccinated against Marek's disease, fowl pox, and infectious bronchitis.

Birds were housed in an experimental poultry house (25m long x 6m wide) divided in 1.0m x 1.2m pens, each equipped with a trough feeder and four nipple drinkers. The house is equipped with an automatic-heating brooder, and the sides are closed with yellow curtains. The concrete floor was covered with wood shavings (Pinus taeda L.). During the experiment, house temperature was maintained within the thermal comfort range.

Water and feed were offered ad libitum. The diets were based on corn and soybean meal and formulated to supply the birds' nutritional requirements as recommended Rostagno et al. (2005Rostagno HS, Albino FLT, Donzele JL, Gomes PC, Oliveira RF, Lopes DC, et al. Tabelas brasileiras para aves e suínos. Composição de alimentos e exigências nutricionais. 2ª ed. Viçosa: UFV; 2005.) for the following phases: pre-starter (1-5 days of age), starter (6-14 days), grower (15-23 days), and finisher (24-29 days). The diets included coccidiostats and growth promoters (nicarbazin, narasin, and enramycin in the pre-starter and starter diets; salinomycin and enramycin in the grower diet), except for the finisher diet, which did not contain any coccidiostats or antibiotic growth promoters.

Experimental design

A completely randomized experimental design in a 3 x 3 factorial arrangement (three genetic strains and three rearing densities) was applied, with nine treatments of four replicates, totaling 36 experimental units (pens). The following treatments were evaluated: T1= Ross 808 broilers reared at 17 birds/m², T2= Ross 808 broilers reared at 19 birds/m², T3= Ross 808 broilers reared at 21 birds/m², T4=Cobb 500 broilers reared at 17 birds/m², T5= Cobb 500 broilers reared at 19 birds/m², T6= Cobb 500 broilers reared at 21 birds/m², T7= Ross 508 broilers reared at 17 birds/m², T8= Ross 508 broilers reared at 19 birds/m², and T9= Ross 508 broilers reared at 21 birds/m².

Live performance parameters

By the end of each experimental week, all birds and feed residues were weighed to determine the following live performance parameters: average feed intake (FI), average body weight (BW), daily weight gain (DWG), and feed conversion ratio (FCR). Birds of each of the three evaluated genetic strain were housed in an additional pen per strain for replacement purposes.

Physiological stress indicators

Blood glucose levels and total blood cell counts were used as measures of bird welfare.

- Blood glucose levels

Blood glucose levels were evaluated when birds were 21 and 28 days of age. Three birds per pen were randomly selected and duly identified for blood collection. Two mL of blood per bird were collected after one hour of fasting in the morning from the brachial vein, using 10-mL syringes and 0.8 x 25 hypodermic needles. Blood was collected in less than 30 seconds. Blood was then stored in tubes containing fluoride, which function is to inhibit clotting and glycolysis. Blood tubes were stored in a cooler at 4-8 ºC, and then submitted to the Clinical Pathology Lab of the Federal University of Paraná, Palotina campus, PR, Brazil. Blood glucose was measured using a commercial kit (Kit Glicose Pap Liquiform, Labtest(r), Brazil) in a semi-automatic biochemical analyzer (Quick Lab 2, Drake, Brazil).

- Total blood cell count

In the morning of days 21 and 28, after one hour of feed fasting, three birds per pen were randomly selected for blood collection. Two mL of blood were collected per bird from the brachial vein, using 10-mL syringes and 0.8 x 25 hypodermic needles. Blood was collected in less than 30 seconds. After collection, blood was stored in tubes containing an anti-clotting agent (EDTA). Blood tubes were stored in a cooler at 4-8 ºC, and then submitted to the laboratory mentioned above. Total blood red and white cells were manually counted in a Neubauer chamber according to Natt & Herrick (1952Natt MP, Herrick, CA. A new blood diluent for counting the erytrocytes and leucocites of chickens. Poultry Science 1952;31:182-8.) at 1/200 dilution. The correction factors for leukocytes and erythrocytes were the number of counted cells multiplied by 50 and 10,000, respectively. Packed cell volume was determined using the micro-hematocrit technique; total blood protein by the refractometry method; and hemoglobin levels by the cyano-metahemoglobin method. Wintrobe's indices, including mean cell volume (MCV), mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC), and mean corpuscular volume (MCV), were determined according to Jain (1993Jain NC. Essencials of veterinary hematology. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger; 1993.) and Pierson (2000Bounous DI, Stedman NL. Normal avian heamtology: chicken and turkey. In: Feldman BF, Zinkl JG, Jain NC. Schalm’s veterinary hematology. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000. p.417-432.) using standardized formulas.

Differential leukocyte counts were performed on blood smear slides stained with hematoxylin-eosin hematological stain (rapid panoptic LB). Heterophils, lymphocytes, eosinophils, monocytes, and basophils were counted, and the heterophil to lymphocyte ratio (H:L) was calculated.

Carcass yield and quality

On day 29, after eight hours of fasting, five birds per pen were randomly selected, identified, weighed to determine final body weight, and transported to a commercial processing plant to be slaughtered. Carcass yield was calculated as carcass weight relative to final body weight. Carcass quality was determined as a function of the presence or absence of dermatitis (breast blisters), dermatoses (scratches), arthritis, and bruising. Femoral degeneration was scored (0-2 scale) by the visual evaluation of the proximal epiphysis of the femur of both legs, according to the method described by Almeida Paz (2008Almeida Paz ICL. Problemas locomotores e técnicas de mensuração. Anais da Conferência Apinco de Ciência e Tecnologia Avícolas; 2008; Santos, São Paulo. Brasil: FACTA; 2008. p.128-137.).

Statistical analysis

The obtained data were submitted to analysis of variance (ANOVA) using Assistat (2000)Assistat. Statical assistance software. Campina Grande: UFCG; 2000. Available from: http://www.assistat.com.
http://www.assistat.com...
statistical package and means were compared by the test of Tukey at 5% and 1% probability level.

Results and Discussion

Live performance

Table 1 shows the average live weight of the broilers submitted to the different treatments. There was no interaction between genetic strains and densities (p≥0.05). Strain differences were observed during all evaluated experimental phases (p≤0.001), with Cobb 500 broilers presenting heavier weight during the entire experimental period. Despite the lack of statistical significance, there was a slight numerical reduction in live weight as density increased.

Table 1
Mean and standard deviation (SD) of the body weight (g), measured at 7, 14, 21 and 28 days of age of broilers, of different strains reared at different densities.

Daily weight gain (DWG) results are shown in Table 2. There was no interaction between the evaluated factors (p≥0.05). However, there were significant differences among the genetic strains in weeks 1 (≤0.001), 2 (≤0.001), and 4 (≤0.05). In week 1 and 2, Cobb 500 broilers presented significantly higher DWG than both Ross 808 and 508, whereas in week 4, Cobb 500 and Ross 808 had higher DWG than Ross 508. Rearing density had no effect on weight gain. Moreira et al. (2004Moreira J, Mendes AA, Roça RO, Garcia EA, Naas IA, Garcia RG, et al. Efeito da densidade populacional sobre desempenho, rendimento de carcaça e qualidade da carne em frangos de corte de diferentes linhagens comerciais. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 2004;33:1506-1519.) obtained higher DWG in broilers housed at higher densities, but other studies reported no effect (Ravindran et al., 2006Ravindran V, Thomas DV, Morel PCH. Performance and welfare of broilers as affected by stocking density and zinc bacitracin supplementation. Animal Science Journal 2006;77:110-116.) or negative effects (Dozier et al., 2005aDozier WA, Thaxton JP, Purswell JL, Olanrewaju HA, Branton SL, Roush WB. Stocking density effects on male broilers grown to 1.8 kilograms of body weight. Poultry Science 2005a;85:344-351.) on increasing rearing densities.

Table 2
Mean and standard deviation (SD) of the daily weight gain (g/d), measured at 7, 14, 21 and 28 days of age, of broilers of different strains reared at different densities.

The final body weight results of the present experiment are consistent with those obtained by Dozier et al. (2005bDozier WA, Thaxton JP, Branton SL, Morgan GW, Miles DM, Roush WB. Stocking density effects on growth performance and processing yields of heavy broilers. Poultry Science 2005b;84:1332-1338.), who did not find live weight differences in 32-d-old broilers reared in environmentally-controlled houses at densities of 9, 11, 12, or 13 birds/m2. In addition, Oliveira et al. (2005Oliveira MC, Bento EA, Carvalho FI, Rodrigues SM. Características da cama e desempenho de frangos de corte criados em diferentes densidades populacionais e tipos de cama. Ars Veterinária 2005;21(3):303-310.) and Buijs et al. (2009Buijs SL, Keeling S, Rettenbacher S, Van Poucke E, Tuyttens FA. Stocking density effects on broiler welfare: Identifying sensitive ranges for different indicators. Poultry Science 2009;88:1536-1543.) did not observe any effect of rearing density on that parameter either. On the other hand, Moreira et al. (2004Moreira J, Mendes AA, Roça RO, Garcia EA, Naas IA, Garcia RG, et al. Efeito da densidade populacional sobre desempenho, rendimento de carcaça e qualidade da carne em frangos de corte de diferentes linhagens comerciais. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 2004;33:1506-1519.), evaluating three housing densities (10, 13, or 16 broilers/m2), observed significant reduction in weight gain in birds housed at 10 and 16 birds/m2. Mortari et al. (2002Mortari AC, Rosa AP, Zanella I, Beretta Neto C, Visentini PR, Brites LPB. Desempenho de frangos de corte criados em diferentes densidades populacionais, no inverno, no sul do Brasil. Ciência Rural 2002;32(3):493-497.) also reported reduced body weight as rearing density increased, and Thomas et al. (2004Thomas DG, Ravindran V, Thomas DV, Camden BJ, Cottam YH, Morel PCH, et al. Influence of stocking density on performance, carcass characteristics and selected welfare indicators of broiler chickens. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 2004;52:76-81.), Dozier et al. (2005a)Dozier WA, Thaxton JP, Purswell JL, Olanrewaju HA, Branton SL, Roush WB. Stocking density effects on male broilers grown to 1.8 kilograms of body weight. Poultry Science 2005a;85:344-351., and Zuowei et al. (2011Zuowei S, Yan L, Yuan L, Jiao H, Song Z, Guo Y, et al. Stocking density affects the growth performance of broilers in a sex-dependent fashion. Poultry Science 2011;90:1406-1415.) observed that weight gain was reduced when broilers were reared at high densities.

Relative to genetic strains, the live weight results of the present study are consistent with those reported by Moreira et al. (2004Moreira J, Mendes AA, Roça RO, Garcia EA, Naas IA, Garcia RG, et al. Efeito da densidade populacional sobre desempenho, rendimento de carcaça e qualidade da carne em frangos de corte de diferentes linhagens comerciais. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 2004;33:1506-1519.), who found differences among the three genetic strains (Ross 308, Cobb 500, and Hybro PG) evaluated.

Some of the above-mentioned authors reported other factors that may negatively affect broiler weight gain as rearing density increases, such as environmental temperature, air quality, and feeder and drinker space, were well controlled in the present study, and therefore, did not influence the results.

A significant effect of the interaction (p≤0.001) between housing density and genetic strain was also observed on feed conversion ratio (FCR) in week 2, as shown in Table 3. When housed at 19 birds/m2, Ross 508 broilers presented better FCR than the other two strains, whereas at 21 birds/m2, Cobb 500 and Ross 808 presented the best results (p≤0.001).

Table 3
Mean and standard deviation (SD) of the feed conversion ratio (g/g), measured at 7, 14, 21 and 28 days of age, of broilers of different strains reared at different densities.

Similar results were reported by Dozier et al. (2005aDozier WA, Thaxton JP, Purswell JL, Olanrewaju HA, Branton SL, Roush WB. Stocking density effects on male broilers grown to 1.8 kilograms of body weight. Poultry Science 2005a;85:344-351.) and Onbasilar (2008Onbasilar EE, Poyraz O, Erdem E, Ozturk H. Influence of lighting periods and stocking densities on performance, carcass characteristics and some stress parameters in broilers. Archiv für Geflügelkunde 2008;72:193-201.), who observed FCR improvement as housing density increased in young broilers. It should be noted that, despite of the lack of statistical significance (p≥0.05), the best FCR and the lowest FI at the lowest density were obtained only during the period of 21-28 days of age. The evaluated strains presented similar FCR and FI values (p≥0.05) in weeks 1, 3, and 4, although Cobb 500 broilers were 30g more efficient in the last week than Ross 808, and at 21 birds/m2, Ross 808 presented the best FCR.

Broilers reared at high densities may present reduced FI, and consequently, worse FCR, due to lack of access to the feeders (Febrer et al., 2006Febrer K, Jones TA, Donnelly CA, Dawkins MS. Forced to crowd or choosing to cluster? Spatial distribution indicates social attraction in broiler chickens. Animal Behaviour 2006;72:1291-1300.). However, the results of the present study indicate that the number of birds per feeder was not a limiting factor, in agreement with Collins & Sumpter (2007Collins LM, Sumpter DJT. The feeding dynamics of broiler chickens. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 2007;4:65-72.), who reported that broilers group at feeders independently of housing density.

Overall, the performance results were not dramatically affected by the rearing densities evaluated. This is agreement with Jones et al. (2005Jones TA, Donnelly CA, Dawkins MS. Environmental and management factors affecting the welfare of chickens on commercial farms in the United Kingdom and Denmark stocked at five densities. Poultry Science 2005;84:1155-1165.), who found few effects of housing density on the health and welfare of commercial broilers, and no effect on their performance. The results show that the health and well-being are largely determined in the quality of the rearing environment provided by the producer (Febrer et al., 2006Febrer K, Jones TA, Donnelly CA, Dawkins MS. Forced to crowd or choosing to cluster? Spatial distribution indicates social attraction in broiler chickens. Animal Behaviour 2006;72:1291-1300.). Therefore, the obtained results should not be interpreted as the lack of effect of housing density on broiler welfare; rather, they suggest that merely reducing density without taking into account the environment, is not sufficient to provide good broiler welfare (Oliveira et al., 2004Oliveira MC, Mendonça Filho PR, Carvalho ID. Rendimento e lesões de carcaça de frangos de corte sexados criados em diferentes densidades populacionais. Ars Veterinária 2004;20(1):16-21.).

Physiological stress indicators

The physiological stress indicators of the different strains of broilers reared at different densities are presented in Tables 4, 5 and 6. Blood glucose levels at 21 days of age were significantly reduced as housing density increased (p≤0.05), but were not affected by rearing density in the other evaluated periods (p≥0.05). According to Bonamigo et al. (2011Bonamigo A, Silva GBS, Molento CFM. Grau de bem-estar relativo de frangos em diferentes densidades de lotação. Arquivo Brasileira de Medicina Veteterinária e Zootecnia 2011;63(6):1421-1428.), high blood glucose levels indicate acute stress, as glucose needs to be readily available to the sympathetic nervous system to be utilized when animals are submitted to adverse situations. Lin et al. (2004)Lin H, Decuypere E, Buyse J. Oxidative stress induced by corticosterone administration in broiler chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) 1. Chronic exposure. Comparative Biochemestry Physiology. Part B, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 2004a;139:737-744. also claim that blood glucose level is an excellent indicator of stress in poultry. Thaxton et al. (2006Thaxton JP, Dozier WA, Branton SL, Morgan GM, Miles DW, Roush WB, et al. Stocking density and physiological adaptive responses of broilers. Poultry Science 2006;85:819-824.) did not find any effect of rearing density on blood glucose, corticosterone, or cholesterol levels in broilers reared at 20 kg/m² and 55 kg/m². Zuowei et al. (2011Zuowei S, Yan L, Yuan L, Jiao H, Song Z, Guo Y, et al. Stocking density affects the growth performance of broilers in a sex-dependent fashion. Poultry Science 2011;90:1406-1415.), did not observe any statistical effect, despite a slight increasing trend of increasing blood glucose levels as rearing density increased.

Table 4
Average blood glucose, hematocrit, and total blood protein values, measured at 21 and 28 days of age, of broilers of different strains reared at different densities.
Table 5
Mean hemoglobin values and leukocyte and lymphocyte counts, measured at 21 and 28 days of age, of broilers of different strains reared at different densities.
Table 6
Mean heterophil counts and heterophil to lymphocyte ratios, measured at 21 and 28 days of age, of broilers of different strains reared at different densities.

The results of the present study, therefore, show that increasing the rearing density from 17 to 21 birds/m2 did not affect the broilers' welfare, as the evaluated physiological stress indicators did not increase as density increased.

Packed cell volume and total blood protein levels were not influenced (p≥0.05) by the treatments. These results are consistent with the findings of Bonamigo et al. (2011Bonamigo A, Silva GBS, Molento CFM. Grau de bem-estar relativo de frangos em diferentes densidades de lotação. Arquivo Brasileira de Medicina Veteterinária e Zootecnia 2011;63(6):1421-1428.), who did not find any effect of rearing density on these parameters.

According to Bounous & Stedman (2000Bounous DI, Stedman NL. Normal avian heamtology: chicken and turkey. In: Feldman BF, Zinkl JG, Jain NC. Schalm's veterinary hematology. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000. p.417-432.), leukocyte and lymphocyte counts normally range between 12,000-30,000 cells/µL and 7,000-17,500 cells/µL, respectively, and a 50% or higher ratio of lymphocytes relative to total leukocytes is considered physiologically normal (Tabeli et al., 2005Tabeli A, Asri-Rezaei S, Rozeh-Chai R. Comparative studies on haematological values of broiler strains (Ross, Cobb, Arbor-acres and Arian). International Journal of Poultry Science 2005;4:573-579.). Therefore, there was no influence of the treatments on the broilers' immune system because the number of leukocytes is within the normal range for broilers, and the percentage of lymphocytes relative to total leukocytes was higher than 60% (Table 5). Other leukocyte counts were not influenced by the treatments (p≥0.05).

Table 6 shows the obtained heterophil percentages and heterophil to lymphocyte ratios (H:L). There was no effect of rearing density on these parameters in none of the evaluated ages (p≥0.05). However, H:L ratio was affected by genetic strain on day 21, when Ross 808 broilers presented significantly lower H:L ratio compared with the two other genetic strains. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the calculated H:L ratios were within the range considered normal for all treatments, which is 1:2. Higher blood H:L ratios are considered indicators of stress in poultry, as a result of ACTH release, reducing the number of circulating lymphocytes (Macari, 2002Macari M, Furlan, RL, Gonzáles E. Fisiologia aviária aplicadas a frangos de corte. Campinas: Facta; 2002.).

The absence of changes in H:L ratios in the present study indicates that birds did not suffer any physiological stress as a result of the rearing densities applied, and therefore, that their physiological welfare was maintained. These results are consistent with those of Heckert et al. (2002Heckert RA, Estevez I, Russek-Cohen E, Pettit-Riley R. Effects of density and perch availability on the immune status of broilers. Poultry Science 2002:81:451-457.), who did not detect any differences in H:L ratios or in the humoral immune response of broilers reared at different densities. Thaxton et al. (2006Thaxton JP, Dozier WA, Branton SL, Morgan GM, Miles DW, Roush WB, et al. Stocking density and physiological adaptive responses of broilers. Poultry Science 2006;85:819-824.) did not find any H:L ratio differences between broilers reared at densities of 20 kg/m2 or at 55 kg/m2 either. On the other hand, Bonamigo et al. (2011Bonamigo A, Silva GBS, Molento CFM. Grau de bem-estar relativo de frangos em diferentes densidades de lotação. Arquivo Brasileira de Medicina Veteterinária e Zootecnia 2011;63(6):1421-1428.), despite not detecting any significant influence of housing density on the H:L ratio of broilers, obtained H:L ratios higher than 1.0 in birds housed at 10 and 15 birds/m2, and concluded that these birds were under stress.

Carcass yield

Table 7 shows the carcass yield results of 29-d-old broilers of different genetic strains reared at different densities. The results in Table 7 show that there was no effect of rearing density or genetic strain on the carcass yield (p≥0.05). These results are consistent with those of Oliveira et al. (2004Oliveira MC, Mendonça Filho PR, Carvalho ID. Rendimento e lesões de carcaça de frangos de corte sexados criados em diferentes densidades populacionais. Ars Veterinária 2004;20(1):16-21.), who did not find any effect of rearing density on carcass and parts yield, and with Fernandes et al. (2001Fernandes LM, Viera SL, Kindlein G, et al. Avaliação do crescimento e rendimento de carcaça de linhagens comerciais e dois tipos de bebedouro. Revista Brasileira de Ciência Avícola 2001;3(Suppl):1.), who obtained similar carcass yield in broilers of different genetic strains. The results suggest that increasing housing density from 17 to 21 birds/m2 was not sufficient to cause carcass yield reduction in none of the three evaluated strains as a consequence of competition or stress caused by overcrowding.

Table 7
Mean and standard deviation (SD) of the carcass yield (%) of 29-d-old broilers of different strains reared at different densities.

Carcass quality

Dermatosis, bruising, dermatitis, arthritis, and femoral degeneration scores are shown in Table 8. Out of the evaluated carcass quality parameters, only dermatosis scores were influenced by rearing density (p≤0.05). In addition, those scores were affected by the interaction between genetic strain and rearing density (p≤0.05).

Table 8
Dermatosis, bruising, dermatitis, arthritis, and femoral degeneration scores of 29-d-old broilers of different strains reared at different densities.

Dermatosis scores increased as rearing density increased (p≤0.05) from 17 to 19 birds/m2, but only a numerical difference was observed between the densities of 17 and 21 birds/m2. Except for Ross 508, the dermatosis scores of the other two genetic strains increased with increasing rearing density.

These results are in agreement with the findings of Hall (2001Hall AL. The effect of stocking density on the welfare and behaviour of broiler chickens reared commercially. Animal Welfare, 2001;10:23-40.), who observed the incidence of scratches (dermatosis) in broiler carcasses increased from 0.250 to 0.517% when the rearing density increased from 34 to 40 kg/m2. Arnould & Faure (2003Arnould U, Faure JM. Use of pen space and activity of broiler chickens reared at two different densities. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2003;84:281-296.) also reported that high rearing densities not only has negative effects on live performance, but also increases the incidences of lesions such as bruising, scratches, and footpad dermatitis. The observed increase in dermatosis score may be attributed to the reduction of space to allow the birds reaching the feeders and drinkers.

The dermatitis (breast blisters) results obtained in the present study are different from those of Zhao et al. (2009Zhao FR, Geng AL, Li BM, Shi ZX, Zhao YJ. Effects of environmental factors on breast blister incidence, growth performance, and some biochemical indexes in broilers. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 2009;18:699-706.), who reported the incidence of breast blisters increased as rearing density increased. It should be noted, however, that skin lesions are closely related with litter and environmental quality, and not only with rearing density.

Conclusions

1. Cobb 500 broilers presented the highest body weight and daily weight gain throughout the study. However, these parameters were not affected by rearing density and there was no interaction between rearing density and genetic strain (p≥0.05).

2. Feed conversion ratio and carcass yield were not affected by strain or rearing density (p≥0.05).

3. The evaluated housing densities did not affect the physiological stress indicators (p≥0.05).

4. Dermatosis score increased (p≤0.05) as housing density increased from 17 to 19 broilers/m².

5. It is concluded that the housing density of 17 broilers /m² presented the best cost-benefit, because it did not compromise performance parameters, carcass yield or quality, or physiological stress indicators.

References

  • Almeida Paz ICL. Problemas locomotores e técnicas de mensuração. Anais da Conferência Apinco de Ciência e Tecnologia Avícolas; 2008; Santos, São Paulo. Brasil: FACTA; 2008. p.128-137.
  • Arnould U, Faure JM. Use of pen space and activity of broiler chickens reared at two different densities. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2003;84:281-296.
  • Assistat. Statical assistance software. Campina Grande: UFCG; 2000. Available from: http://www.assistat.com
    » http://www.assistat.com
  • Bonamigo A, Silva GBS, Molento CFM. Grau de bem-estar relativo de frangos em diferentes densidades de lotação. Arquivo Brasileira de Medicina Veteterinária e Zootecnia 2011;63(6):1421-1428.
  • Bounous DI, Stedman NL. Normal avian heamtology: chicken and turkey. In: Feldman BF, Zinkl JG, Jain NC. Schalm's veterinary hematology. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000. p.417-432.
  • Buijs SL, Keeling S, Rettenbacher S, Van Poucke E, Tuyttens FA. Stocking density effects on broiler welfare: Identifying sensitive ranges for different indicators. Poultry Science 2009;88:1536-1543.
  • Castillo CJC. Qualidade de carcaça e carne de aves. Anais do Congresso Brasileiro de Ciência e Tecnologia de Carnes; 2001; São Pedro, São Paulo. Brasil: Ital; 2001. p.79-99.
  • Collins LM, Sumpter DJT. The feeding dynamics of broiler chickens. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 2007;4:65-72.
  • Dawkins MS, Donnelly CA, Jones TA. Chicken welfare is influenced more by housing conditions than by stocking density. Nature 2004;427:342-344.
  • Dozier WA, Thaxton JP, Purswell JL, Olanrewaju HA, Branton SL, Roush WB. Stocking density effects on male broilers grown to 1.8 kilograms of body weight. Poultry Science 2005a;85:344-351.
  • Dozier WA, Thaxton JP, Branton SL, Morgan GW, Miles DM, Roush WB. Stocking density effects on growth performance and processing yields of heavy broilers. Poultry Science 2005b;84:1332-1338.
  • Estevez I. Density allowances for broilers: where to set the limits? Poultry Science 2007;86:1265-1272.
  • Farran MT, Khalil RF, Uwayjan MG, Ashkarian VM. Performance and carcass quality of commercial broiler strain. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 2000;9(2): 252-257.
  • Febrer K, Jones TA, Donnelly CA, Dawkins MS. Forced to crowd or choosing to cluster? Spatial distribution indicates social attraction in broiler chickens. Animal Behaviour 2006;72:1291-1300.
  • Fernandes LM, Viera SL, Kindlein G, et al. Avaliação do crescimento e rendimento de carcaça de linhagens comerciais e dois tipos de bebedouro. Revista Brasileira de Ciência Avícola 2001;3(Suppl):1.
  • Garcia RG, Mendes AA, Naas, IA, Moreira J, Almeida ICL, Takita TS. Efeito da densidade de criação e do sexo sobre o empenamento, incidência de lesões na carcaça e qualidade da carne de peito de frangos de corte. Revista Brasileira de Ciência Avícola 2002;4(1):1-9.
  • Hall AL. The effect of stocking density on the welfare and behaviour of broiler chickens reared commercially. Animal Welfare, 2001;10:23-40.
  • Heckert RA, Estevez I, Russek-Cohen E, Pettit-Riley R. Effects of density and perch availability on the immune status of broilers. Poultry Science 2002:81:451-457.
  • Jain NC. Essencials of veterinary hematology. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger; 1993.
  • Jones TA, Donnelly CA, Dawkins MS. Environmental and management factors affecting the welfare of chickens on commercial farms in the United Kingdom and Denmark stocked at five densities. Poultry Science 2005;84:1155-1165.
  • Lana GRQ, Silva RGC, Valerio SR, et al. Estudo técnico-econômico da criação de frangos de corte alojados sob diferentes densidades e programas de alimentação. Anais da Reunião Anual da Sociedade Brasileira de Zootecnia; 2001; Piracicaba, São Paulo. Brasil: Sociedade Brasileira de Zootecnia; 2001. p.712-714.
  • Lin H, Decuypere E, Buyse J. Oxidative stress induced by corticosterone administration in broiler chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) 1. Chronic exposure. Comparative Biochemestry Physiology. Part B, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 2004a;139:737-744.
  • Lin H, Decuypere e, Buyse J. Oxidative stress induced by corticosterone administration in broiler chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) 2. Short-term effect. Comparative Biochemestry Physiology Part B. Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 2004b;139:745-751.
  • Macari M, Furlan, RL, Gonzáles E. Fisiologia aviária aplicadas a frangos de corte. Campinas: Facta; 2002.
  • Malley PO, Snowden JM. Emu products: ncreasing production and profitability [publication 99/143]. Kingston: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation; 1999. 216 p.
  • Moreira J, Mendes AA, Garcia EA, Oliveira RP, Garcia R, Almeida Paz ICL. Avaliação de Desempenho, rendimento de carcaça e qualidade da carne do peito em frangos de linhagens de conformação versus convencionais. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 2003;32(6):1663-1673.
  • Moreira J, Mendes AA, Roça RO, Garcia EA, Naas IA, Garcia RG, et al. Efeito da densidade populacional sobre desempenho, rendimento de carcaça e qualidade da carne em frangos de corte de diferentes linhagens comerciais. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 2004;33:1506-1519.
  • Mortari AC, Rosa AP, Zanella I, Beretta Neto C, Visentini PR, Brites LPB. Desempenho de frangos de corte criados em diferentes densidades populacionais, no inverno, no sul do Brasil. Ciência Rural 2002;32(3):493-497.
  • Natt MP, Herrick, CA. A new blood diluent for counting the erytrocytes and leucocites of chickens. Poultry Science 1952;31:182-8.
  • Oliveira MC, Bento EA, Carvalho FI, Rodrigues SM. Características da cama e desempenho de frangos de corte criados em diferentes densidades populacionais e tipos de cama. Ars Veterinária 2005;21(3):303-310.
  • Oliveira MC, Carvalho ID. Rendimento e lesões em carcaça de frangos de corte criados em diferentes camas e densidades populacionais. Revista Ciência e Agrotecnologia 2002;26(5):1076-1081.
  • Oliveira MC, Mendonça Filho PR, Carvalho ID. Rendimento e lesões de carcaça de frangos de corte sexados criados em diferentes densidades populacionais. Ars Veterinária 2004;20(1):16-21.
  • Onbasilar EE, Poyraz O, Erdem E, Ozturk H. Influence of lighting periods and stocking densities on performance, carcass characteristics and some stress parameters in broilers. Archiv für Geflügelkunde 2008;72:193-201.
  • Perdomo CC. Controle do ambiente e produtividade de frangos de corte. Anais da Reunião da Sociedade Brasileira de Zootecnia; 2001; Piracicaba, São Paulo. Brasil: Sociedade Brasileira de Zootecnia; 2001. p.91-110.
  • Bounous DI, Stedman NL. Normal avian heamtology: chicken and turkey. In: Feldman BF, Zinkl JG, Jain NC. Schalm’s veterinary hematology. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000. p.417-432.
  • Ravindran V, Thomas DV, Morel PCH. Performance and welfare of broilers as affected by stocking density and zinc bacitracin supplementation. Animal Science Journal 2006;77:110-116.
  • Relatório Anual da União Brasileira de Avicultura. 2012 [cited 2012 Dez]. Available from: www.abef.com.br/ubabef/publicacoes_relatoriosanuais.php
    » www.abef.com.br/ubabef/publicacoes_relatoriosanuais.php
  • Rosario MF, Silva MAN, Coelho AAD, Savino VJM. Síndrome ascítica em frangos de corte: uma revisão sobre a fisiologia, avaliação e perspectivas. Ciência Rural 2004;34:1987-1986.
  • Rostagno HS, Albino FLT, Donzele JL, Gomes PC, Oliveira RF, Lopes DC, et al. Tabelas brasileiras para aves e suínos. Composição de alimentos e exigências nutricionais. 2ª ed. Viçosa: UFV; 2005.
  • Sanotra GS, Lawson LG, Vestergaard KS. Influence of stocking density on tonic immobility, lameness, and tibial dyschondroplasia in broilers. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 2001a;4:71-87.
  • Sanotra GS, Lund JD, Ersboll AK, Petersen JS, Vestergaard KS. Monitoring leg problems in broilers: A survey of commercial broiler production in Denmark. World's Poultry Science Journal 2001b; 57:55-69.
  • Tabeli A, Asri-Rezaei S, Rozeh-Chai R. Comparative studies on haematological values of broiler strains (Ross, Cobb, Arbor-acres and Arian). International Journal of Poultry Science 2005;4:573-579.
  • Thaxton JP, Dozier WA, Branton SL, Morgan GM, Miles DW, Roush WB, et al. Stocking density and physiological adaptive responses of broilers. Poultry Science 2006;85:819-824.
  • Thomas DG, Ravindran V, Thomas DV, Camden BJ, Cottam YH, Morel PCH, et al. Influence of stocking density on performance, carcass characteristics and selected welfare indicators of broiler chickens. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 2004;52:76-81.
  • Zhao FR, Geng AL, Li BM, Shi ZX, Zhao YJ. Effects of environmental factors on breast blister incidence, growth performance, and some biochemical indexes in broilers. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 2009;18:699-706.
  • Zuowei S, Yan L, Yuan L, Jiao H, Song Z, Guo Y, et al. Stocking density affects the growth performance of broilers in a sex-dependent fashion. Poultry Science 2011;90:1406-1415.

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    Jan-Mar 2016

History

  • Received
    July 2015
  • Accepted
    Nov 2015
Fundação APINCO de Ciência e Tecnologia Avícolas Av. Andrade Neves, 2501 - Castelo, 13070-001 Campinas SP - Brazil, Tel.: (55 19) 3243-6555 / Fax.: (55 19) 3243-8542 - Campinas - SP - Brazil
E-mail: rvfacta@terra.com.br