Influence of hot exposure on 12-week-old turkey hen physiology, welfare, and meat quality and 16-week-old turkey tom core body temperature when crated at transport density

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The influence of hot conditions on 12-week-old turkey hens and 16-week-old toms while crated at transport density was evaluated. Forty-eight hens and 48 toms (8 birds per flock × 3 flocks × 2 humidity levels) were used in neutral treatments (trt; 20°C), and 16 hens and 16 toms (8 birds per flock × 1 flock × 2 humidity levels) were used in the hot trt (35°C). Birds were placed in crates at a transport stocking density of approximately 83 kg/m2, then inside a pre-conditioned chamber for 8 hours. Live shrink, core body temperature (CBT), heterophil/lymphocyte (H/L) ratio, and breast and thigh pH and color were recorded. Differences were declared significant at P ≤ 0.05. Live shrink after exposure to the 35°C trt (4.92%) was greater (P < 0.0001) than when birds were exposed to 20°C (1.48%). The 35°C trt (P < 0.0001) had higher Δ CBT (final minus initial) compared to the 20°C trt. The 35°C trt also caused higher (P < 0.0001) H/L ratio, 4.07 vs. 1.57 for the 20°C trt. Breast (P = 0.0110) and thigh pH levels (P < 0.0001) measured 27 h postmortem were lower for the 35°C trt at 5.64 and 5.73 compared to the 20°C trt at 5.70 and 5.92, respectively. Breast meat from birds exposed to 35°C was darker (P < 0.0001), while the color of thigh meat was unaffected. Toms quickly became distressed in the hot conditions, forcing those tests to be aborted. Only CBT data were analyzed. The CBT increased at a mean rate of 0.09°C/min for hens at both RH levels, while the CBT of toms increased at 0.12 and 0.18°C/min when exposed to 35°C, 30%; and 35°C, 80%, respectively. Exposure to hot temperatures caused higher CBT, greater live shrink, and greater H/L ratio. Toms were more greatly affected than hens to the hot trt, with CBT increasing at a greater rate.

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