Poultry farmers reminded to manage pododermatitis

Poultry expert Stephen Graham has warned that the winter months will present additional management challenges for farmers, pointing in particular to a rise in pododermatitis.

Mr Graham, writing in a Northern Ireland department of agriculture note, highlights the importance of keeping litter dry and friable in the winter months. “Pododermatitis is mainly affected by litter moisture which is often very difficult to control in cold and wet weather,” he said.

“Ventilation management is critical at this time of year. Low air temperatures and high humidity means the air flowing into the house falls more rapidly to the floor which causes a drop in the floor temperature and increased moisture levels in the litter.”

He advised producers to increase their humidity monitoring, consider introducing extra heat sources and make sure cracks are sealed to prevent draughts. Mr Graham added that farmers brush up on detecting pododermatitis, particularly the scoring system (see below).

“Maintaining optimum litter conditions this winter will help reduce the incidence of feet problems in the flock, while upholding good welfare and a more favourable financial return,” he said.

Footpad top tips

  • Keep drinking levels at the correct height
  • Replace missing drinking cups
  • Watch for missing drinking cups
  • Ensure water pressure is adjusted correctly
  • Ensure the concrete is at the right temperature at the time of chick placement
  • Maintain litter quality

Footpad lesions scoring system

Score 0: None or very small lesions (1-2mm), slight discolouration and/or mild hyperkeratosis (toughening of the footpad).

Score 1: Superficial lesions, significant discolouration of the foot pad, dark papillae, no ulceration.

Score 2: Deep lesions, ulceration, severely swollen foot pad, large scab and sometimes haemorrhages.

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