Influence of gait on bone strength in turkeys with leg defects

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Leg problems have become more frequent in fast-growing turkeys. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of common leg defects on kinetic parameters of gait and biomechanical properties of bone. Nine hundred, day-old, male, Large White turkeys were raised in 48 floor pens. At 42 d of age, turkeys were divided into four categories of leg condition as determined by visual evaluation: Normal, Crooked toes, Shaky legs, and Valgus. Fifteen toms were selected from each group and trained to walk on a pressure sensitive walkway. Gait kinetic data were collected at 92, 115 and 144 d of age. At 145 d of age, turkeys were sacrificed and bones were collected and frozen until analysis. Morphological measurements of femur, tibia and tarsus-metatarsus were recorded. Bone mineral density (BMD) and content (BMC) were obtained using DEXA. Bone strength of tibias was evaluated using a four-point bending test and femurs with a torsion test. ANOVA was used to detect differences among groups, and Tukey's test used for mean separation. There were no differences in BW among different leg conditions. Gait parameters changed as turkeys aged, and age-group interactions were observed on peak vertical force (PVF), contact time, step length (SL) and bipedal cycle. No differences (P > 0.05) were detected in morphological measurements of femur or tibia. Relative asymmetry of femur length was lower (P < 0.05) in Normal and Valgus turkeys than in toms with Crooked toes. There were no differences (P > 0.05) among groups for femur BMD, BMC or strength. Tibia BMD and the area moment of inertia of turkeys with Crooked toes were lower (P < 0.05) than in toms with Valgus. With all four leg conditions, femur strength was positively correlated with PVF and negatively correlated with SL; BMD and BMC were correlated with tibia strength and gait kinetic parameters. In conclusion, only crooked toes caused consistent differences in gait patterns, bone properties and bone strength, but in general, gait kinetics was correlated with bone biomechanics in turkeys.

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