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PWB018

2007 - 2010

Improving welfare for beak trimmed hens through reducing variability and technology transfer

Principal Investigator: Hank Classen, University of Saskatchewan
Co-investigator: Karen Schwean-Lardner, University of Saskatchewan
Status: Completed

Objective

The objectives of this project are:
  1. To establish the degree of variability in beak trimming in commercial flocks
  2. To determine the causes of this variability and develop methods to minimize it (perhaps by sorting eggs, and therefore chicks, by size and calibrating trimming equipment according to a specified size range)
  3. To develop Standard Operating Procedures and training programs to be used by personnel performing beak trimming

Background

Beak trimming is commonly performed on layers, breeders and turkeys to minimize feather pecking and cannibalism in commercial flocks. The practice has come under scrutiny, however, because of associated pain, both immediate and chronic. While there remains some question as to the amount, or even presence of, chronic pain resulting from beak trimming, it is clear that acute pain can be minimized by trimming beaks less aggressively and doing so when the chicks are young. Achieving this end in the commercial setting, however, is difficult as chicks vary in size for which semi- or fully automatic equipment cannot properly adjust. Several strains of layer chicks will be monitored immediately after various trimming techniques to assess acute pain, as well as long-term (to approximately 40 weeks of age) to determine if any experience chronic pain or inferior performance due to beak trimming. The economic impact of any long-term effects will also be considered.

Research Progress

Visits to commercial farms are planned for February and March 2008. Chicks from commercial hatcheries trimmed using infrared light or a hot blade are being raised at the University of Saskatchewan and observations are being collected (expected completion in July). Laser-trimmed chicks are no longer available Western Canada so provisions have been made to obtain some from the U.S. Results are expected from these chicks in June 2009.

Funding

$162,375 (CPRC $60,253, NSERC/AAFC $102,122)

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