Turkey production in Norway under the current legislation, challenges the fulfilment of several physiological and behavioural needs in turkeys. Skin lesions are widespread in Norwegian turkey production, and caused by wet litter.
This is highlighted in a risk assessment performed by the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM), on request from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA).
Inspectors for NFSA report serious animal welfare challenges in today’s turkey production, despite the fact that producers largely comply with the existing legislation for turkeys. Inspections between 2009 and 2013 revealed that almost 40 % of the examined turkeys had severe foot pad lesions. In another project, such lesions were found in all the examined flocks, and in 13 % of the flocks, the lesions were classified as serious.
The NFSA will use the VKM report in assessing the need for amending the existing regulations, competence requirements, and guidelines for surveillance and control related to keeping turkeys.
The Scientific Committee concludes that wet bedding represents a high risk to turkey welfare, as it leads to skin lesions on foot pads and chest. Such lesions are widespread in Norwegian turkey production.
Furthermore, the assessment points at several moderate risks for animal welfare, including low temperatures for turkey poults, inappropriate diet or poor quality of drinking water, failure of the drinking system, too high or too low light intensities or inappropriate lighting regimes.
The Scientific Committee also points at high turkey density, lack of adequate stimuli, such as perches, as well as poor air quality, as welfare hazards. However, a risk assessment of these conditions is not feasible with today’s available data.
-To reduce the welfare risk that is represented by the litter in causing lesions on foot pads and chest, the bedding must be kept dry. This is done by preventing leakages from the drinking system, ensuring good gut health, removing wet litter and establishing optimal ventilation and heating, says Kristian Hoel in the VKM Panel on Animal Health and Welfare and chair of the working group.
-Lesions on foot pads and chests, as well as air sacculitis are valid animal welfare indicators, that are feasible and appropriate for recording at the slaughterhouse. Implementing systematic recording of these indicators would assist in generating an evidence-based document of the turkey welfare situation, says Hoel.
The Scientific Committee also points at other promising methods for systematic registration of turkey welfare on-farm.
The Scientific Committee has also assessed the welfare risk of artificial insemination of turkeys.
Damages or haemorrhages caused by the insemination procedure itself, as well as routine food deprivation prior to the procedure, are moderate welfare risks. Low risks are identified in connection to the procedure of semen collection, and to stress and injuries inflicted by herding, catching and handling associated with both procedures.
Relevant risk reducing measures suggested by VKM, are formal requirements to knowledge and skills in the responsible workers.