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The Path to Stronger Footpads

Broilers are grown in a highly controlled environment that has been developed over many years to promote optimal and efficient growth while ensuring animal well-being.

One of the most prevalent issues in broiler production is the development of footpad dermatitis. This condition is characterized by the appearance of lesions on the footpads of broilers and can be seen early in the brooding phase and are exacerbated as the bird grows.

While broiler house management conditions are often considered to be the primary cause, nutritional interventions have shown promise in managing the condition. Often, footpad issues are due to disruptions in tissue integrity. Key trace minerals zinc, copper and manganese play a significant role in establishing this fundamental tissue structure (Richards et al., 2010). These three trace minerals, if provided at the optimal level using a highly bioavailable source, contribute to the formation of collagen, the structural protein that serves as the foundation for ideal tissue development and integrity.

The economic loss to the producers and processors experiencing elevated levels of footpad dermatitis can be significant, particularly during times of elevated paw sales prices, primarily for export.

Additionally, the evaluation of footpad quality has been accepted as one of the key factors when broiler flocks in the field have their well-being assessed in welfare audit situations. Elevated levels of foot pad dermatitis can have a significant negative impact on these assessments.

Since its initial development, the inclusion of MINTREX® bis-chelated trace minerals have been shown to improve footpad lesion scores, the typical measurement for this condition (Manangi, JAPR 2012). MINTREX® has a defined and consistent bis-chelated structure, which gives a high degree of protection to the mineral and provides stability in the digestive tract while minimizing reactions with antagonists. MINTREX® bis-chelated trace minerals provide both increased mineral availability and a source of methionine activity in one product.

In the first trial shown below (Manangi, JAPR 2012), the birds were fed diets containing either MINTREX® using the REDUCE AND REPLACE™ program or inorganic trace minerals at typical industry levels. At two ages, 46 and 54 days, the footpads on the birds were graded using a 1-5 point scale (with a grade of 1 being the highest quality foot pads and 5 the poorest).

This figure shows that feeding MINTREX® at reduced levels significantly increased the percentage of footpad grading 1-2 (highest quality) compared to feeding much higher levels of inorganic trace minerals.

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In another trial (Customer Field Trial-Brazil, 2010), birds were fed one of three diets: the control diet of inorganic trace minerals, diet with additional MINTREX® Zn (40 ppm) or a blend of MINTREX® Zn, Cu and Mn (40-10-20 ppm). In this case, the footpads were graded at 32 days of age using a 0-2 scale (with a grade of 0 being the highest quality footpads and 2 the poorest). In both cases, the MINTREX® diets showed significant improvements in footpad quality when supplemented to the inorganic trace mineral diets.

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In summary, these improvements in footpad quality, attributed to the inclusion of MINTREX® bis-chelated trace minerals in broiler diets, has shown to be significant and consistent. Not only does this positively impact the welfare of the broilers, but will also provide a positive return on investment for those producers harvesting paws for sale and export.

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