Don’t give up: ongoing, multi-pronged approaches may be needed to reduce the incidence in practice of complex problems such as feather pecking

Claire Weeks, Sarah Lambton, Henry J Buller, David Main, Christine Nicol

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

Abstract

SPOKEN PRESENTATION; SESSION: FROM AWSEL TO PRATICE - MAXIMISING IMPACT; (Research/ Review)
Don’t give up: ongoing, multi-pronged approaches may be needed to reduce the incidence in practice of complex problems such as feather pecking
Claire A. Weeks, Sarah L. Lambton, Henry J. Buller†, David C.J. Main and Christine J. Nicol
University of Bristol, School of Veterinary Sciences, Langford House, Langford, Bristol, BS40 5DU, UK.
†College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter Amory Building Rennes Drive, Exeter, United Kingdom, EX4 4RJ
Research funded by The Tubney Trust, Defra and EU Horizon 2020.
Feather pecking (FP) is the most recognised form of injurious pecking (IP) that also embraces vent pecking and cannibalism and is widespread in flocks of laying hens, particularly those kept in large, loose-housed flocks, where it can be a major cause of early death. Although widely regarded as developing from misdirected ground-pecking behaviour, IP has complex aetiology with genetic and numerous environmental risk factors associated with its occurrence (Nicol et al, 2014). Its high prevalence in practice has consequences not only for bird health and welfare but also reduces the efficiency, profitability, sustainability and consumer confidence in premium systems of production such as free range and organic, which have the potential to enable birds to express a full repertoire of behaviour. Moreover, the practice of beak-trimming, which is widely used to limit the damage resulting from IP, is regarded as an undesirable mutilation requiring derogation from EU legislation.
While research is ongoing to understand the complex aetiology on a fundamental level (Rodenburg et al, 2013), groups like ours are exploring a variety of methods to improve the uptake on farm of evidence-based practices which reduce the risk and prevalence of IP. Indeed we have amassed evidence that the greater the adoption of these on farm, the better are the outcome measures of hen welfare and production. Importantly, we have recognised that social science methodology can improve uptake on farm by utilising techniques that have been demonstrated to enhance change behaviour in other contexts such as preventive medicine. In our two projects that have used one-one approaches on farm, we recognised that a tailored approach is necessary on many levels. Further; providing knowledge on several platforms is effective, with our website www.featherwel.org providing an example of high impact.
Recognising that the issue is continuously evolving because the associated variables, including the genotype, change over time, the paper will discuss various initiatives to improve the adoption of best practice on farm. The overarching goal is to establish sustainable mechanisms whereby the industry can recognise and respond to emerging challenges and improve uptake of best practice to achieve year on year improvements.
Nicol, C.J. et al., 2014. World’s Poultry Science Journal, 69: 775-788.
Rodenburg, T.B. et al., 2013. World’s Poultry Science Journal, 69(2): 361-374.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAWSELVA-ECAWBM-ESVCE Congress Proceedings
Pages31
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2015
EventAWSELVA-ECAWBM-ESVCE Conference 2015 - SS Great Britain, Bristol, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Sep 20153 Oct 2015

Conference

ConferenceAWSELVA-ECAWBM-ESVCE Conference 2015
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityBristol
Period30/09/153/10/15

Keywords

  • Feather pecking
  • Changing practises
  • Knowledge exchange

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