Early warning of footpad dermatitis and hockburn in broiler chicken flocks using optical flow, bodyweight and water consumption

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Footpad dermatitis and hockburn are serious welfare and economic issues for the production of broiler (meat) chickens. The authors here describe the use of an inexpensive camera system that monitors the movements of broiler flocks throughout their lives and suggest that it is possible to predict, even in young birds, the cross-sectional prevalence at slaughter of footpad dermatitis and hockburn before external signs are visible. The skew and kurtosis calculated from the authors’ camera-based optical flow system had considerably more power to predict these outcomes in the 50 flocks reported here than water consumption, bodyweight or mortality and therefore have the potential to inform improved flock management through giving farmers early warning of welfare issues. Further trials are underway to establish the generality of the results.

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