Minimizing Foot Pad Dermatitis & Maintaining Good Paw Quality

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Date: 
2011
Volume: 
23
Number: 
11
Tip Category: 
Bird heath
Litter quality

Paw sales are as lucrative as ever for the broiler industry.  Data from the USDA indicates that the US broiler industry exported $463 million in paws in 2010.  This is impressive, considering that about 20 years ago paws were part of offal and sent to rendering.  Now paw sales bring profits that no one back then could have imagined.  Not only is paw quality economically important to the poultry industry, but it is a point of inspection in animal welfare audits providing an indicator of how well the broiler house environment has been maintained and overall condition of litter quality.  While there are several issues during rearing and processing that can cause paws to be downgraded, the primary reason is the development of foot pad dermatitis (FPD).  This occurs when lesions form on the plantar surface of the foot pad.  Many times birds will walk and act normally even though they may have lesions, which make it a surprise to the grower and the company when paw recovery is less than expected due to downgrades related to FPD.  Controlling FPD is important not only because the result will be better house conditions, but higher yields of grade A paws that will result in increased revenue.  

What Causes Foot Pad Dermatitis?
Litter moisture content is a primary factor in the development of FPD.  Birds stand and rest on bedding material.  The purpose of the bedding material is to provide insulation from the cold earth floor and more importantly to absorb moisture.  As the moisture content of the bedding material increases, the birds will stand on it, rest on it and eventually the keratin layers will begin to soften.  As the birds walk on the floor, the friction between their feet and the floor will erode the keratin layers and eventually result in the formation of a FPD lesion.  The farms that have the best paw recovery are the ones that also do the best job in controlling moisture.  

How to Control Moisture in Broiler Facilities
There are several things that can be done to control moisture in broiler houses.  Sources of moisture in a broiler house include the heating system, drinker system, and the birds themselves.  Below are several aspects of broiler management that can influence the incidence and severity of FPD......