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The Welfare of Domestic Turkeys

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Front. Vet. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00319

Validity of micro-data loggers to determine walking activity of turkeys and effects on turkey gait

  • 1Purdue University, United States
  • 2Newcastle University, United Kingdom

Accelerometers have the potential to provide objective, non-invasive methods for detecting changes in animal behavior and health. Our objectives were to: 1) determine the effects of micro-acceleration data loggers (accelerometers) and habituation to accelerometers on turkey gait and health status, 2) determine age-related changes in gait and health status, and 3) assess the validity and reliability of the accelerometers. Thirty-six male commercial turkeys were randomly assigned to one of five groups: accelerometer and habituation period (AH), accelerometer and no habituation period (AN), VetRap bandage (no accelerometer) and habituation period (VH), bandage (no accelerometer) and no habituation period (VN), and nothing on either leg (C). Health status and body condition were assessed prior to video-recording birds as they walked across a Tekscan® pressure pad at 8, 12 and 16 wk to determine effects of treatment on number of steps, cadence, gait time, gait distance, gait velocity, impulse, gait cycle time, maximum force, peak vertical pressure, single support time, contact time, step length, step time, step velocity, stride length, total double support time, and duty factor. Accelerometer validity and reliability were determined by comparing the number of steps detected by the accelerometer to the number of steps determined from video recordings. Several age-related changes in turkey gait were found regardless of habituation including a slower cadence at 16 wk, shorter gait distance at 8 wk, and slower gait velocity at 16wk. When comparing bandaged vs. unbandaged limbs, both treatment and age-treatment interactions were reported depending on the gait parameter. Accelerometer validity and reliability were affected by both age and treatment. False discovery rate increased, while accuracy and specificity decreased with age. Validity and reliability were lowest for non-habituated birds (AN and VN). Results demonstrated that micro-data loggers do not adversely affect turkey health status, but habituation to wearing accelerometers greatly affects accelerometer reliability and validity. Accelerometer validity and turkey gait are also greatly affected by the age of the turkeys.

Keywords: Turkey, accelerometer, habituation, age effects, heath status, Step count

Received: 22 Jun 2018; Accepted: 29 Nov 2018.

Edited by:

Jeremy N. Marchant-Forde, Livestock Behavior Research Unit (USDA-ARS), United States

Reviewed by:

Guiomar Liste, Royal Veterinary College (RVC), United Kingdom
Kristin Stover, University of California, Irvine, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Stevenson, Dalton and Erasmus. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Marisa Erasmus, Purdue University, West Lafayette, United States,