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An experimental investigation of the costs and benefits of beak trimming in turkeys
  1. PN Grigor,
  2. BO Hughes and
  3. MJ Gentle
  1. Roslin Institute (Edinburgh), Midlothian.


An investigation was carried out on 504 BUT 8 female poults to identify the optimum technique and age for beak trimming breeding turkeys, which have to be kept at relatively high light intensities and are thus at serious risk of cannibalism. Different groups of birds were subjected to electronic trimming (Bio-beaking) at one day old, cold cutting (with secateurs) at six days or at 21 days, or hot cutting (with a cautery iron) at six days or 21 days old. The behaviour, production traits, feather damage, injuries and mortality of the birds were measured up to 12 weeks old. None of the methods had much effect on the behaviour or production traits, other than relatively minor reductions in beak-related activities such as pecking other birds and preening, and short term depressions of food intake and bodyweight gain, and improvements in food conversion ratio. All the beak-trimming techniques resulted in marked reductions in mortality (controls 8.7 per cent, trimmed 1.6 per cent), in injuries due to cannibalism (controls 68.1/100 birds, trimmed 9.8/100 birds) and in the scores of feather damage caused by pecking (controls 1.05, trimmed 0.29). The adverse effects of beak trimming were minor and short-lived, and were clearly outweighed by the benefits in reducing cannibalism. Of the different methods, trimming with a hot blade is not recommended. Electronic trimming appeared to offer the most benefits and caused little apparent distress, but can be hazardous in unskilled hands.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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