Understanding a common disease in poultry reared under intensive housing system that farmers ignore
Foot Pad Dermatitis is a common problem of chicken reared under intensive housing systems but farmers ignore it due to lack of knowledge. Foot Pad Dermatitis (FPD) also known as foot burn is a common condition amongst commercially reared turkey poults (young turkeys) and broilers.
It is also known to affect layers and indigenous birds depending on the housing system. In indigenous chickens, cocks are the most affected due to their heavy weight. It causes the skin of the footpad to become hard and scaly, often developing horn-like pegs with an abnormal look. The footpad can become swollen, frequently splitting. In the centre of the lesion (wound) the epidermis (skin) separates, and is often totally necrotic (the wound becomes infected). The affected birds usually limp due to the painful effect of the lesions.
FPD affects farmers’ income
If not treated, sick birds bring loss to farmers and decrease their income. FPD leads to reduced bird activity and movement. The birds do not eat normally, grow slower and are more susceptible to other disease infections. FPD dermatitis also leads to loss of business income due to reduced birds’ meat quality – for example, wounds in the breast and legs result in throwing away of the affected parts.
What causes FPD?
Several factors contribute to FPD. These include drinker design, diet composition, temperature and humidity in poultry house, litter type, litter quality and quantity; and health of the chicken’s digestive system. In the absence of wet surrounding, FPD may not develop even though other factors may be present. However, it is known that wet litter (chicken beddings that have more than 30 percent moisture) is associated with increased incidence and severity of FPD in broiler and turkey houses.
Design of water drinkers
The design of your drinkers and how they are used affects the moisture content of the litter and the level of FPD incidence in the flock. Waterline height and water pressure must be managed correctly to prevent spillage that makes the floor wet. Water line height that is too low or pressure set too high will lead to wet floors. Line height that is too high or pressure set and thus feed intake and lower growth rate. Water quality is also important because water that contains lots of particles or has a film will cause nipples to leak, resulting in wet floors.
Diet and nutrition
In addition to wet litter, nutrition and diet may also contribute to FPD. Research findings have revealed that the incidence of FPD in young turkeys is directly caused by the high levels of soybean meal in the feed.
Temperature and humidity
Temperature, humidity and ventilation play an important role in keeping litter dry and reducing the incidence of FPD. While FPD can occur on relatively dry litter, it is usually associated with damp, wet and caked litter. Ventilation helps keep the litter dry. However, ventilation during cold season is especially challenging because it is expensive to heat the house while ventilating with cold air from the outside.
Poultry litter (beddings) act like a big sponge that absorbs moisture in the chicken house. Proper ventilation removes excess moisture and prevents this “sponge” from becoming saturated and forming cakes. Litter that is at least 4 inches deep has a large absorption capacity, which helps to minimize the occurrence of FPD. The litter must always be kept dry.
Stocking density is basically the weight of livestock that is present on a given area at any time. High stocking density in broiler house is associated with high incidences of FPD.
How to control FPD
Good litter management is very important in the control and prevention of FPD. Proper ventilation to maintain the right temperature and humidity in the poultry house helps keep the litter dry. It is important to remove and replace caked up litter from the poultry house. The litter quantity in the poultry house floor should be 4-6 inches thick. Practice good poultry feeding by providing the right amounts of proteins such as soya beans for good litter quality. The use of synthetic enzymes and amino acids is good for keeping the litter dry.
Overstocking of broilers in a house is not good – always ensure the right number of poultry is kept – floor space of 4-5 square feet per bird. Drinkers should be placed at the right height and a reasonable distance and distribution to avoid overcrowding of birds at the time of drinking – do not put the drinkers at one corner in a poultry house. Use the right type of drinkers to avoid water splashing on the litter and wetting the floor.