Footpad dermatitis or foot pad lesions, is a well-recognised multifactorial syndrome of welfare concern in broiler chicken production.
Authors: V.P. Lund, L.R. Nielsen, A.R.S. Oliveira and J.P. Christensen, Poultry Science
In conventional broilers lesions are reported as early as 7 d of age. Lesions are expected to be painful, although a correlation with pain and lameness has only been reported in turkeys. Consumers are increasingly interested in broiler welfare and in many countries surveillance of footpad dermatis at slaughter as an indicator of on-farm welfare has been incorporated in legislation.
The official Danish footpad dermatitis scoring system was originally developed for use in conventional broilers. The 3-point scale being used was originally developed in Sweden to score feet from conventional broilers, but the extent and causes of misclassifications have not been investigated, neither in conventional or organic broilers. As organic broiler production has gained market share in recent years the same scoring system is applied to assess on-farm welfare. Flock scores have direct economic consequences and enforcement implications, therefore it is highly relevant to evaluate the scoring system in terms of performance in both conventional and organic broiler flocks. Laboratory scoring, according to pre-defined criteria for visual and invasive investigations of the feet derived from the official system, was compared to the official scores assigned at slaughter.
Footpad lesions proved primarely chronic, representing a wide range of severity. Marked differences in colour, shape and degree in conventional and organic broiler feet were observed. The results indicate that a large proportion of severe footpad lesions go unnoticed in the official Danish scoring system, which is complex and not easy to apply in actual practice.