Risk factors for poor health and performance in European broiler production systems

Tommy Van Limbergen*, Steven Sarrazin, Ilias Chantziaras, Jeroen Dewulf, Richard Ducatelle, Ilias Kyriazakis, Paul McMullin, Jesús Méndez, Jarkko K. Niemi, Sotiris Papasolomontos, Piotr Szeleszczuk, Johan Van Erum, Dominiek Maes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Conventional broilers are currently one of the most efficient protein converters. Although decades of progress in genetic selection and feed formulation have lead to high standards of efficient broiler production, still a lot of variability is found between farms and between successive flocks. The aim of this study was to investigate risk- and/or protective factors for poor health and performance in conventional broiler-farms in Europe by developing eight multivariable linear mixed models. Three different models were used to investigate mortality (overall, first week, after first week), three models for performance variables (growth, feed conversion, European production index) and two models were related to slaughterhouse data (i.e. dead on arrival and condemnation rate). 

Results: Several factors related to management and housing were significantly associated with health and performance of broilers. The following factors were associated with increased mortality: floor quality, neonatal septicemia, ventilation type and other professional activities of the farmer. The factors associated with performance were chick sex, coccidiosis infections, necrotic enteritis, dysbacteriosis, light intensity adaptations, ventilation type, comparing daily flock results with previous flock results by farmer, daily check of feed and water system and type of feed. For dead on arrival three risk factors were identified i.e. daily growth, type of light adaptation and type of drinkers system. For condemnation rate seven risk factors were found, i.e. type of drinking system, daily growth, feed withdrawal time, type of ventilation, house size, septicemia after seven days and type of feed. 

Conclusions: These results imply that a multifactorial approach is required with adaptations involving both improvements in management, housing, health programs and an increasing level of professionalism of the farmer in order to improve broiler performance and health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number287
JournalBMC Veterinary Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Broiler health
  • European broiler production
  • Housing
  • Risk-factors
  • Statistical modelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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