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The effect of toe trimming on heavy turkey toms' productivity and welfare



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Toe trimming within the turkey industry has been used for over four decades as a method for controlling carcass scratching, and by doing so, achieving better grades and lower condemnation rates. The industry has changed greatly since the 1970’s, when the majority of the research on the procedure was completed. The technology used for toe trimming has switched from a hot-blade to the use of microwave energy, which will effect healing and toe length trimmed. The birds are larger now, which will impact mobility both before and after trimming, and in a consumer-driven trend, the industry is re-examining its codes of practice to ensure the highest level of welfare possible. As there is little pertinent research regarding these changes, the toe trimming procedure was re-examined under modern conditions and with focus on both production and welfare effects to determine if the practice can still be recommended. Hybrid Converter toms were raised to 140 d of age, with half (153) being toe trimmed at the hatchery using a Microwave Claw Processor (MCP) and the other half (153) left with their toes intact. The birds had feed consumption, body weight, mortality, toe length, stance, behaviour, and gait scores monitored throughout the trial with carcass damage assessed at processing. Means were considered significantly different when P≤0.05. Toe trimming caused a reduction in both feed consumption and body weight in the later stages of the experiment. Final weights for non-toe trimmed and toe trimmed toms were 21.70 kgs and 21.15 kgs, respectively. Feed efficiency with and without being corrected for mortality was unaffected by the procedure. Overall mortality and mortality by age group were also unaffected; however it was found that toe trimmed toms experienced higher levels of rotated tibia at 3.27% versus 0.65% for untrimmed birds. Toe length measurements found that trimmed toes were, on average, 91.9% the length of an intact toe, and that variability in length increased with trimming. The procedure was not found to impact stance or gait score, although behaviour at all ages measured demonstrated reduced mobility with trimming. In particular, reduced activity in poults for 5 d post-treatment indicates that the MCP treatment caused pain or discomfort. The percentage of carcasses which exhibited scratching was 15.6% for the non-trimmed treatment and 13.3% for the trimmed, which were not significantly different. Also, no significant effect of trimming was found for any other carcass damage category. Based on the negative impacts of toe trimming on both bird production and welfare found in this research, MCP treatment should not be recommended to turkey producers when raising heavy toms.



Toe clipping, Microwave Claw Processor, Carcass quality



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Animal and Poultry Science


Animal Science


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