Light intensity of 5 or 20 lux on broiler behavior, welfare and productivity

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Abstract

Light intensity can influence broiler behavior, but discrepancies in the scientific literature remain. Furthermore, few studies have investigated the welfare implications induced by varying light intensity. We investigated the effects of providing 5 or 20 lux light intensity on broiler behavior, welfare and productivity. A total of 1,872 Ross 308 broilers of mixed sex were studied across 2 replicates. Treatments began on d 8 with one of 2 light intensity levels: 5 lux or 20 lux, using LED lights on a 16L:8D photoperiod with 30 min sunrise and sunset periods. Production data, behavioral activity, and plasma samples for corticosterone concentration analysis were collected weekly from 8 to 46 d of age. Eye weight was collected at 42 d of age. Leg strength was assessed at 35, 42 and 45 d of age using the latency to lie test and leg and foot conditions (foot pad dermatitis, hock burn, leg straightness) were assessed at 46 d. Live weight differed between light treatments, with broilers kept at 20 lux being lighter than broilers kept at 5 lux at 46 d of age (males: -5.1%, females: -2.8%, P < 0.0001), despite no significant differences in feed intake. However, broilers kept at 20 lux were more active during the photophase than broilers kept at 5 lux throughout the rearing period (P < 0.0001). Eye weight was also on average 5% lighter for broilers kept at 20 lux compared to 5 lux (P = 0.001). Nonetheless, there was no significant effect of light intensity on other measures of broiler welfare: mortality and culls, plasma corticosterone concentrations, or latency to lie reflective of leg strength. Hence, broilers kept at 20 lux compared to 5 lux were found to be more active, had slower growth, and had lighter eye weight, but other welfare measures reflective of biological functioning or leg health did not show significant changes.

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