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Investigation of cellular immune changes during the occurrence of aggressive behaviors in commercial male turkeys related to changes in animal welfare parameters
László Laura - year 6
University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, Department of Animal Hygiene, Herdhealth and Veterinary Ethology
Supervisor: Dr. László Kovács

Abstract:

Environmental factors potentially involved in the development of aggressive behaviours in male turkeys were investigated. A long-standing problem in large-scale turkey farming is injurious pecking (which can even result in death), causing both welfare problems and financial losses in large-scale poultry production. The cellular immune changes induced by stress factors related to aggressive behaviours were analyzed using flow cytometry and animal welfare indicators based on the AWIN Welfare assessment protocol for Turkeys (2015). The study aimed to better define the environmental factors involved in the development of aggressive behavioural patterns in intensively reared turkeys.

A control group (4.), a group with increased stocking density (3.5 birds/m2), a group with an increased room temperature (10% higher than the recommended housing temperature), and an experimental group with increased light intensity (100 lux) were established. Blood samples were taken five times from each experimental group and animal welfare indicators were also monitored weekly. During the 3rd and 4th sampling, the mean lymphocyte counts in the groups with modified parameters were found to be lower compared to the control group, presumably due to corticosterone produced under stress. The mean lymphocyte counts of the group with increased light intensity (1.) and room temperature (2.) showed a significant difference compared to the control group (4.).

Regarding the MHCII measurements, the mean of the group with increased light intensity (1.) was significantly different from the mean of the control group (4.). In the 4th sampling, the mean of the control group (4.) was significantly different from the means of all three other groups, while there was no significant difference between them. The differences in MHCII values between groups may indicate changes in humoral immunity in response to stress. Based on the animal welfare monitoring data, in terms of injury-related indicators, the increased stocking density group (3.) shows significantly worse scores for the factor summarising animal behavior and aggression-related injuries compared to both the control and the other two groups, which do not differ significantly. In room 3, the stress caused by aggression is also reflected in the animal welfare indicators and the reduction of lymphocyte count. The immunological test results also show a decrease in lymphocyte counts due to stress and aggression in both rooms 1 and 2.

Finally, significant differences were found in all experimental groups, indicating that all three parameters tested – higher temperature, light intensity, and density - can increase aggression.



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