Rising demand for animal products, an increasing global population as well as global competition have increased level and intensification of animal production. This trend comes at a price: production diseases compromise health and welfare, generating inefficiencies which negatively impact on profitability, environmental footprint, and product quality. They may also increase the need to treat the affected animals with antibiotics. Production diseases can be defined as 'Diseases which tend to persist in animal production systems and, typically, become more prevalent or severe, in proportion to the potential productivity of the system'. These disease conditions have a great impact both in the EU and worldwide: compromised health and welfare for the animals themselves, and consequently tremendous financial losses. The PROHEALTH project aims to develop an understanding of the multi-factorial dimension of animal pathologies linked to the intensification of production and to use this new knowledge to develop, evaluate and disseminate effective management and control strategies. Our Group is responsible for most of the poultry aspects of the project, including:

  • Investigations of the vertical transmission pattern of E. coli and Enteroccocus faecalis, two major causes of first week mortality within the poultry industry and to determine the optimal egg disinfection strategy to minimize this post hatch mortality an ability to cope with environmental challenges in chickens
  • Susceptibility to leg disorders in poultry and pigs will be evaluated, respectively. High-productive broiler breeders selected for different productive traits will be exposed to experimental infections (Gr+ bacteria) using spiked footbaths to investigate whether foot pads serve as entry sites for infections. In addition, observational studies of broiler breeder flocks will investigate the correlation between the prevalence of foot pad dermatitis and egg production, hatchability, first week mortality and broiler performance.
  • Physical activity and associated strategies for preserving bone quality. In collaboration with IPH, the nature and validity of the relationship between leg health, automatic measurements of activity of the flock and foot pad dermatitis in broiler chickens will be assessed. The optimal age and level of activity in broiler chickens has recently been determined; the novelty of the project involves determining the optimal strategy for reaching this activity level in a commercial setting, via changes in the lighting environment, and assessing the consequences for the overall leg health and production output. To determine the interactive effects of activity, age and housing conditions on bone quality and resulting welfare issues, bone quality will be compared between different common housing systems for laying hens in the EU (Enriched cages vs non-cage systems), highlighting the link between production, health and welfare in laying hens, and providing an animal based measure to support this link.

 For further information please contact Jens Peter Christensen (jpch@sund.ku.dk) and on the webpage http://www.fp7-prohealth.eu