Leg Problems in Broilers
With the advancements in the genetics of broilers combined with improvement in the diet, enhanced feed conversion efficiency and growth rate have been observed in broiler chickens. The result is a bigger bird with a larger breast muscle than their ancestors. Scientists have associated this increased growth rate to the increasing skeletal and leg problems that are currently observed in growing broiler. Of course, rapid growth rate is not the only cause of leg problems in broiler chickens. Nutritional imbalances, mechanical trauma and environmental factors can also play a role. These skeletal disorders observed in broiler birds are associated with lameness due to pain and or biomechanical dysfunction which results in poor growth, culled birds, increased mortality from starvation and dehydration and also increased carcass condemnation and downgrading at slaughter. Birds are also at greater risk of being trampled and killed during loading and transportation for slaughter. All broiler flocks contain birds with skeletal abnormalities. In the United States up to 6% of broilers may have obvious skeletal abnormalities and losses of up to 2% their flocks due to lameness can be seen.