Investigating the high incidence of bone disorders in a broiler farm : a case study

Mkhize, Felicity Nomfuzo (2006-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Animal Sciences))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


Rickets is described as a disease that affects young growing poultry. Poorly mineralized bones with thickened and irregular growth plates characterize it. The onset of rickets is characterized by a failure of mineralization of cartilage and bone. Other symptoms of rickets include reluctance to movement in affected birds. These birds will sit on their hocks and if startled they use their wings for balance. On necropsy, bones are soft and fragile and they have thickened growth plates. In this study 30% of the chicks aged between 7 and 8 days from a broiler flock, started showing splay leg problems. Affected chicks were unable to support their weight on their legs, some showing paralysis. The bones were soft and rubbery. To try and identify the possible cause, bones from the affected chicks were analyzed for calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) to determine the Ca:P ratio. Blood serum was also analyzed for the mineral content. Ca and P were the main focus of the tests as the problem was suspected to be rickets. The feed was analyzed for protein, Ca and P. The bone analysis showed a Ca:P ratio of less than 2:1, while results of the blood serum showed an inverse Ca: P ratio. The analysis results of the feed as well as the bones showed an imbalance in the Ca:P ratio which according to literature and research done is a possible cause for rickets. These findings combined with the symptoms displayed by the affected birds, lead to the suggestion that the problem in this study was rickets.

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