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Prevention of Footpad Lesions in Broilers

Published on: 10/11/2017
Author/s : Olivier Desrues

Efficacy of using Silvafeed® Nutri P plant extract to improve poultry feet quality and welfare

Footpad dermatitis (FPD) has become a major issue for broiler industry in recent years. The development of necrotic lesions on the feet can strongly impair the welfare of poultry. Moreover, it can affect animal productivity and the quality of chicken feet, causing important economic losses (Mayne et al, 2007). 

Litter moisture is considered as the main cause of FPD development in broiler chickens. This disease is also associated with multiple risk factors (diet composition, bird age, litter type, etc.), which complicates the task to propose efficient control strategies. For example, high amount of indigestible carbohydrates (non-starch polysaccharides, or NSP) in the diet is one predisposing factor for FPD. They can be found in soybean meal and grains (e.g. barley), and increase the viscosity of digesta by trapping the water. Poultry droppings become more wet and can stick to poultry feet for longer time and therefore causing damage. Several measures have been tested to alleviate or prevent footpad lesions (i.e. enzymes, biotin, zinc and methionine). However, their inability to be fully effective has led feed industry to look for other alternatives.

Silvafeed® tannins are plant polyphenols characterised by a plethora of biological activities (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, etc.) which can modulate gut microbiota. Recent findings have demonstrated that these natural compounds can have multiple benefits for the nutrition and health of poultry, such as preventing necrotic enteric diseases and improving litter quality.

Cengiz et al. (2017) investigated the prevention efficacy of Silvafeed® tannins on the development and severity of FPD in broilers. 

One-day-old male Ross 308 broiler chickens were randomly assigned to four dietary treatments: corn-based and barley-based diets with and without Silvafeed® Nutri P (Figure 1). Each treatment consisted of 8 replicated pens with 17 broilers per pen. Feed and water were provided ad libitum. The temperature was set to 33°C for the first week and reduced gradually until 24°C. The trial lasted 42 days.

Figure 1: Composition of the finisher diets (24-42 days).

As expected, the inclusion of 30% of barley in the diet of broiler chickens had a negative impact on animal performance (-4% of weight gain and -3% of feed intake) compared with the diet without barley. Moreover, the intestinal viscosity of barley-fed chickens was significantly increased in the anterior part of the gut until 28 days of age, and in the posterior part at the end of the study. Litter quality was deteriorated in this group, with increased litter pH, moisture (corn group=19% vs barley group=32%) and NH3 volatilization (corn group=2.7% vs barley group=3.5%).

Consequently, the development of footpad disorders for chickens fed with barley was much more prevalent (+22% of chickens with lesions) and severe (+16% of severe lesions) compared with chickens fed without barley after 42 days of trial.

Figure 2: Footpad dermatitis lesions of broilers at 42 days of age fed with or without Silvafeed® Nutri P

As highlighted above, the supplementation of Silvafeed® Nutri P was able to reduce substantially the incidence (-17%) and the severity (-13%) of FPD of broiler chickens (Figure 2). The beneficial effect of added tannin was significant regardless of the diet (corn- or barley-based). Indeed, it was initially thought that Silvafeed® tannins would reduce FPD only for chickens fed with barley, which was included purposely to worsen litter quality due to higher level of indigestible carbohydrates.

In conclusion, dietary supplementation with Silvafeed® Nutri P prevents efficiently the development of footpad dermatitis and reduces the severity of the lesions in broilers at 42 days of age, improving the animal wellbeing and therefore its productivity and feet quality.


Cengiz Ö., Köksal B.H., Onur Tatli O., Sevim Ö., Ahsan U., Bilgili S.F., Önola A.G., 2017. Effect of dietary tannic acid supplementation in corn- or barley-based diets on growth performance, intestinal viscosity, litter quality, and incidence and severity of footpad dermatitis in broiler chickens, Livestock Science 202 (2017):52-57.

Mayne, R.K., Else, R.W., Hocking, P.M., 2007. High litter moisture alone is sufficient to cause footpad dermatitis in growing turkeys. British Poultry Science 48:538-545.

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