Effect of catching broilers by hand or machine on rates of injuries and dead-on-arrivals
Catching of broilers is the first stage in the transfer of birds to the slaughterhouse. The catching process entails a high risk not only of stress but also of injury and death to the birds. Associated injury and mortality rates have important implications not only for animal welfare but also for the economics of the procedure. Catching machines are advantageous with regard to labour costs and standards, and they may also reduce damage to the birds. In the present investigation the use of a sweeper-type catching machine was compared with manual catching under commercial conditions, data being collected during 43 mechanical and 40 manual catching events evenly distributed over one year. Dead-on-arrival rates were recorded, and 108 068 mechanically caught and 87 916 manually caught birds were examined for injuries on the shackles at the processing plant. Injury rates of all types were significantly reduced after mechanical catching. This improvement was highest with respect to leg injuries. There was no significant difference in the number of dead-on-arrivals except during the spring period, when there were higher losses of birds caught mechanically; this was thought to be attributable to climatic conditions. The loading of the transport containers with equal numbers of birds and the initial familiarisation period of the catching team with the machine are potentially problematic factors with potential for improvement. The catching machine investigated here, with its lower risk of injury to broilers than commercial manual catching, has the potential to limit impairment of bird welfare during catching.
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