Following the change from conventional cages to non-cage housing systems and furnished cages, which in Sweden was finalised by 2005, problems caused by Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae increased in laying hen flocks. This study aimed to investigate possible associations between housing systems for laying hens and outbreaks of erysipelas. Also, sera from 129 flocks in different housing systems, collected during 2005–2007, were analysed for the presence of antibodies to E rhusiopathiae using an indirect ELISA test. Antibodies were detected in all housing systems. The mean flock absorbance values from free-range flocks were significantly higher than corresponding values from other housing systems. Data on the Swedish laying hen population were compared with the recorded number of erysipelas outbreaks during 1998–2011. Outbreaks occurred on 15 farms with indoor litter-based systems (n=87 farms in 2011). No outbreak was diagnosed on farms with flocks in conventional or furnished cages. The results indicate that the risk for an outbreak was higher in free-range systems than in indoor litter-based systems, and lowest for flocks housed in cages. Absence of erysipelas in the majority of subsequent flocks on the affected farms suggested that proper measures, including vaccination, were undertaken.
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