African Journal of
Agricultural Research

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Agric. Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1991-637X
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJAR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 6576

Review

Turkey farming: Welfare and husbandry issues

Phil Glatz* and Belinda Rodda
SARDI Pig and Poultry Production Institute, J. S. Davies Building, Roseworthy Campus, Roseworthy, South Australia 5371, Australia.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 21 November 2013
  •  Published: 12 December 2013

Abstract

A review was undertaken to obtain information on the major welfare issues associated with turkey farming. In the hatchery there are some negative effects of long term storage of turkey fertile eggs on post-hatch growth and quality of chicks. There is a view that free range turkeys housed on deep litter in naturally ventilated sheds with natural light and access to forage and shelter belts is beneficial to bird welfare. However, an increase in mortality in the last few weeks of growth can be caused by very hot or cold environmental temperatures. Turkey welfare can be compromised at high stocking density. The selection of fast growing strains of turkeys has resulted in leg and locomotory problems.  Mortality rates in turkeys caused by gait problems range from 2 to 4%. However, intermittent lighting improves bird activity and a decrease in locomotory problems. Under commercial conditions, domestic turkeys are often aggressive towards other birds. Beak treatment is used to prevent injuries caused by cannibalism, bullying, and feather and vent pecking with infrared beak treatment the most common trimming method used. However birds that have been severely beak treated can develop chronic pain. The barren environment of turkey houses has been identified as a major cause of poor animal welfare and responsible for cannibalism. Use of straw bales in the shed and elevated platforms gives the bird the chance to explore the environment and reduce pecking. Foot pad dermatitis (FPD) is a common condition in turkeys and is largely caused by wet litter. Apart from bird flu, Blackhead is one of the most serious poultry diseases in turkeys. Mortality can reach 70% in some flocks. Good management is essential to maintain turkey health and welfare including taking action to minimise contact of turkeys with wild birds and other animals. Pick-up of turkeys from sheds for transport to processing plant can result in welfare concerns. Mortality has long been a concern in relation to turkey transport. During this procedure the heads or wings of the birds can be injured against the solid sides of the crates, birds are exposed to temperature extremes, sudden acceleration and braking of the vehicle, vibration, fasting, injuries, social disruption and noise. 

 

Key words: Turkey, welfare, cannibalism, beak treatment, stocking density, cannibalism, transport.