2010 - 2013

Implications of toe clipping on the welfare of commercial turkeys

Principal Investigator: Hank Classen, University of Saskatchewan
Status: Completed


To determine the impact of toe trimming hen and tom turkeys on bird welfare, performance and carcass grades at processing.


Toe trimming commercial turkeys is commonly performed to reduce scratches and other injuries in a flock. Fewer scratches and injuries generally also results in fewer condemnations and/or less downgrading at the processing plant. While techniques and equipment used for trimming toes have improved, the impact of toe trimming on the welfare of turkeys has not been adequately studied. Dr. Classen’s team performed two trials (one with females, one with males) comparing trimmed to non-trimmed birds.


Results from the hen trials showed no differences between the trimmed and untrimmed groups with respect to growth rate, feed consumption or feed efficiency. Overall mortality did not differ, nor did cause of mortality. Carcass scratches observed at the processing plant were considerably higher for the untrimmed birds than for the trimmed birds. Toe-trimmed poults were less active at 3 days of age, which is perhaps an indication of pain or discomfort. A similar, although not statistically significant, effect was seen at 5 days of age, but later behavioural observation (7 and 13 weeks of age) did not show treatment effects. Toe trimming of tom turkeys caused a reduction in feed consumption from 126 to 140 days of age and a negative effect on body weight late in the production period. The reasons for these effects are not known, but examination of other response criteria that have not yet been collected, verified or statistically analyzed may provide some explanation. Data related to toe trimming have been collected on one commercial farm and other farms have been identified for future data collection


An objective assessment of the benefits and potential welfare implications of toe trimming will help the turkey industry evaluate the practice.


$128,032 AAFC


*This research was part of the 2010-2013 Poultry Science Cluster which was supported by AAFC as part of Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

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