Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Time to talk turkey

Just in time for Thanksgiving…
Image result for turkey snow wikimedia

Image of a wild turkey from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons

While wild turkeys are known to spend time in the snow, I read an interesting article about the effects of cold exposure on livestock during transport. According to the article, nearly all livestock animals are transported at some point in their life, which can be pretty stressful to the animals. In fact, some turkeys lose weight during transport and others do not even make it to the destination. With year-round transport, animals can be exposed to extreme temperatures that range from -40 to 40 degC. Tarps are sometimes used on trailers to help reduce cold exposure. However, these tarps result in increased humidity and warmer temperatures in the middle of the trailer, but only a mild warmth near the edges.
Researchers at The University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada were interested in how cold exposure in particular affected the physiology of male (tom) and female (hen) domestic turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo. The research team mimicked conditions of transport during cold seasons by exposing groups of birds to 20degC with 30 or 80% humidity or -18degC high high humidity for 8 hours. As expected, the birds spent more time huddled together, shivering and preening in the cold exposure. The researchers also found that hens lost more weight (2.8%) when exposed to cold as compared to 20degC (1.5%) although there were no changes in blood sugar, core body temperature or measures of stress in the birds. Toms fared better with no significant changes in weight, body temperature, or stress.
Henrikson ZA, Vermette CJ, Schwean-Lardner K, Crowe TG. Effects of cold exposure on physiology, meat quality, and behavior of turkey hens and toms crated at transport density. Poultry Science. 97(2): 347-357, 2018. doi: 10.3382/ps/pex227.

Categories: Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Livestock, Environment, Extreme Animals, Stress

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