Press release Broiler platform shows promising results

Prototype chicken platform

Wide platforms for broilers to sit on or shelter under when in the house have a positive effect on some animal welfare indicators without an adverse effect on growth, feed intake, feed conversion or certain aspects of meat quality. This emerges from research by ILVO and UGent in the framework of the imec-ICON project WISH. At ILVO's Agritechdag on June 18 in Melle, the tested prototype will be demonstrated to the broad livestock farming public.

Chickens like to be at a height to rest. For laying hens, perches are provided but broilers have difficulty keeping their balance on these. Wider platforms could provide an alternative for them. Additionally, these could also function as cooling, shelter and manure collection. During the imec-ICON project WISH, the effect of these multifunctional platforms on production results and animal welfare was tested during four broiler rounds in the ILVO poultry facilities, whether or not in combination with induced heat stress.

Project partner Roxell developed the prototypes, which include a dark and screened area at the bottom where young chicks can shelter and rest, water-cooled tubes that allow chickens on the platform to cool off through the soles of their feet during periods of heat, and collection and removal of manure directly under the platform for improved litter quality.

Results at ILVO

The trial at ILVO showed that the presence of the platforms had no effect on growth, feed intake and feed conversion. In terms of meat quality, there was less risk of the abnormalities 'white striping' and 'wooden breast'. There was also clearly better litter in the platform groups during the growth phase (day 12 to day 24 in the trial), although it must be said that litter quality was remarkably good in all trial groups. This is possibly due to the low stocking density. Foot sole and heel lesions also appeared better in the platform groups, especially in association with heat stress. But again, generally very few lesions were found in all experimental groups, again possibly due to the low stocking density. Finally, chickens with access to a platform also appeared to have cleaner plumage.

Results on working farms

Meanwhile, the platforms were also tested during two trials on a commercial field farm where the findings of the ILVO trial were confirmed. Again, litter quality and related animal welfare indicators (foot pad and heel lesions and feather bedding soiling) were favorably affected by the presence of the platforms without reducing production efficiency. The use of the platforms was found to increase with age and a significant amount of manure could be collected by the platform (7.5 - 8.5 kg per platform per round) preventing it from soaking the litter.

Agritechdag 2024

At ILVO's Agritechdag, which this year is dedicated to technological innovations in animal husbandry, the platform will be demonstrated by animal welfare specialist Frank Tuyttens (ILVO). In total, participants in this free event can visit 17 demos in the afternoon, including on fogging as a measure against heat stress and sustainable energy solutions for livestock farming. In the morning they can participate in the Cool Energy Event and in the afternoon in the free networking lunch with visits to an innovation market.

This research is funded by the imec ICON project WISH (Agentschap Innoveren en Ondernemen project nr. HBC.2021.0664).

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