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Stratmann A.,University of Bern | Frohlich E.K.F.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Gebhardt-Henrich S.G.,University of Bern | Harlander-Matauschek A.,University of Guelph | And 2 more authors.
Poultry Science | Year: 2016

The prevalence of keel bone damage as well as external egg parameters of 2 pure lines divergently selected for high (H) and low (L) bone strength were investigated in 2 aviary systems under commercial conditions. A standard LSL hybrid was used as a reference group. Birds were kept mixed per genetic line (77 hens of the H and L line and 201 or 206 hens of the LSL line, respectively, per pen) in 8 pens of 2 aviary systems differing in design. Keel bone status and body mass of 20 focal hens per line and pen were assessed at 17, 18, 23, 30, 36, 43, 52, and 63 wk of age. External egg parameters (i.e., egg mass, eggshell breaking strength, thickness, and mass) were measured using 10 eggs per line at both 38 and 57 wk of age. Body parameters (i.e. tarsus and third primary wing feather length to calculate index of wing loading) were recorded at 38 wk of age and mortality per genetic line throughout the laying cycle. Bone mineral density (BMD) of 15 keel bones per genetic line was measured after slaughter to confirm assignment of the experimental lines. We found a greater BMD in the H compared with the L and LSL lines. Fewer keel bone fractures and deviations, a poorer external egg quality, as well as a lower index of wing loading were found in the H compared with the L line. Mortality was lower and production parameters (e.g., laying performance) were higher in the LSL line compared with the 2 experimental lines. Aviary design affected prevalence of keel bone damage, body mass, and mortality. We conclude that selection of specific bone traits associated with bone strength as well as the related differences in body morphology (i.e., lower index of wing loading) have potential to reduce keel bone damage in commercial settings. Also, the housing environment (i.e., aviary design) may have additive effects. © 2016 Poultry Science Association Inc. Source

Gebhardt-Henrich S.G.,University of Bern | Frohlich E.K.F.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits
Animals | Year: 2015

Numerous studies have demonstrated influences of hybrid, feed, and housing on prevalence of keel bone fractures, but influences of behavior and production on an individual level are less known. In this longitudinal study, 80 white and brown laying hens were regularly checked for keel bone deviations and fractures while egg production was individually monitored using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) from production until depopulation at 65 weeks of age. These focal birds were kept in eight pens with 20 hens per pen in total. About 62% of the hens had broken keel bones at depopulation. The occurrence of new fractures was temporally linked to egg laying: more new fractures occurred during the time when laying rates were highest. Hens with fractured keel bones at depopulation had laid their first egg earlier than hens with intact keel bones. However, the total number of eggs was neither correlated with the onset of egg laying nor with keel bone fractures. All birds with bumblefoot on both feet had a fracture at depopulation. Hens stayed in the nest for a longer time during egg laying during the ten days after the fracture than during the ten days before the fracture. In conclusion, a relationship between laying rates and keel bone fractures seems likely. © 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Source

Andrist C.A.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | van den Borne B.H.P.,University of Bern | Bigler L.M.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Buchwalder T.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Roth B.A.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits
Preventive Veterinary Medicine | Year: 2013

In Switzerland, group-housing for breeding rabbit does is not explicitly required by law, but label programmes, as well as the general public and animal welfare groups, are advocating it. Although group-housing is of great benefit to the gregariously living rabbits, the establishment of a social hierarchy within the group might lead to stress and lesions. In the present epidemiological study, lesions were scored twice on 30% of the breeding does on all 28 commercial Swiss farms with group-housed breeding does. Additionally, a detailed questionnaire was filled out with all producers to determine risk factors potentially associated with lesions. Data were analysed using hierarchical proportional odds models. About 33% of the does examined had lesions, including wounds that were almost healed and small scratches. Severe lesions were counted on 9% of the animals. Differences between seasons in lesions score were identified, with the extent of lesions being higher in summer than in spring. Fewer lesions occurred on farms on which mastitis was more common. More lesions were found on farms where the does were isolated between littering and artificial insemination than on farms without isolation. According to the producers, most of the aggression occurred directly after the isolation phase when the does were regrouped again. We conclude that lesions in group-housed breeding does might be reduced by appropriate reproductive management. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. Source

Graf S.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Bigler L.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Failing K.,Justus Liebig University | Wurbel H.,University of Bern | Buchwalder T.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2011

Regrouping female rabbits in group-housing systems is common management practice in rabbit breeding, which may, however, induce agonistic interactions resulting in social stress and severe injuries. Here we compared two methods of regrouping female rabbits with respect to their effects on behaviour, stress and injuries. Thus, we introduced two unfamiliar rabbits into a group of rabbits either in the group's familiar pen (HOME) or in a novel disinfected pen (NOVEL), and assessed the effects of these treatments on general activity, number and duration of agonistic interactions, number and severity of injuries and body temperature as a measure of stress. General activities were not affected by the method of regrouping. Also, treatment had no effect on the number and duration of agonistic interactions. However, the numbers of injuries (p= 0.030) as well as body temperature on the first day after regrouping (p= 0.0036) were increased in rabbits regrouped in a novel clean pen. These findings question the recommendation to introduce unfamiliar does into established groups in a neutral environment and indicate that regrouping in the group's home pen may decrease the risk of severe injuries and social stress. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. Source

Lentfer T.L.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Gebhardt-Henrich S.G.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Frohlich E.K.F.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | von Borell E.,Martin Luther University of Halle Wittenberg
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2011

Low rates of nest acceptance by laying hens are a major problem in commercial poultry farming operations with aviary systems, leading to costly manual collection and cleaning of mislaid eggs. To gain knowledge about factors affecting nest use, laying hens' preferences for different nest locations were tested. Nests are normally installed at one of two sites: against a wall of the hen house or integrated into one tier of the aviary rack. The preferences of laying hens for different nest sites have never been examined under commercial conditions. The aim of this study is to investigate whether behavioural differences can be detected between the different nest sites. The study consists of two consecutive trials involving 5027 Lohmann Selected Leghorn hens (LSL) and 601 layer hybrids selected for extensive housing conditions (EXT). The hens were randomly assigned to eight compartments per trial in groups of 355-360 LSL or 300 EXT in a laying hen house. Four compartments were equipped with a Volito Voletage® aviary system (VV), and four were equipped with a Rihs Bolegg®II aviary system (RB), both of which contained either integrated or wall-placed nests when the experiments started. A strongly balanced crossover design with four periods was used. At 36, 44 and 52 weeks of age, the nest site in four out of the eight compartments was switched. Before each change, the fronts of half of the nests were videotaped during the light period, and the behaviour throughout the main laying period was analysed. Furthermore, the numbers of nest eggs and mislaid eggs in each compartment were recorded every day. No differences in the number of mislaid eggs between the two nest sites could be detected, except at the age of 20/21 weeks when hens in VV aviaries mislaid more eggs when nests were integrated (P =0.0012). More hens stood simultaneously in front of the integrated nests than in front of wall-placed nests (P=0.015). Activity of the laying hens increased (P=0.0073), and stationary behavioural patterns declined (P=0.0093), when the nests were placed by the wall. Hens inspected integrated nests for a longer duration than wall-placed nests, but wall-placed nests were visited more frequently. In addition to the nest site, the width of the platform in front of the nest influenced laying hen behaviour. Compared with narrower platforms, balance movements decreased on wider ones. Additionally, the platform design had to be taken into account as well, given that hens could not stand or walk as securely on wooden slats as on a grid floor. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. Source

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