A wire-flooring model1 for inducing lameness in broilers: Evaluation of probiotics as a prophylactic treatment

R. F. Wideman, K. R. Hamal, J. M. Stark, J. Blankenship, H. Lester, K. N. Mitchell, G. Lorenzoni, I. Pevzner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis (BCO) is the most common cause of lameness in commercial broilers. Bacteria entering the blood via translocation from the respiratory system or gastrointestinal tract spread hematogenously to the proximal epiphyseal-physeal cartilage of rapidly growing femora and tibiae, causing BCO. We tested the hypothesis that rearing broilers on wire flooring should increase the incidence of BCO by persistently imposing additional torque and shear stress on susceptible leg joints. We also tested the hypothesis that probiotics might attenuate bacterial translocation and thereby reduce the incidence of BCO. In 5 independent experiments using 4 commercial lines, broilers grown on wire flooring developed lameness attributable predominately to BCO. The fastest-growing birds were not necessarily the most susceptible to lameness on wire flooring, nor did the genders differ in susceptibility in the 2 experiments that included both male and female broilers. The pathogenesis of BCO is not instantaneous, and accordingly, many broilers that did not exhibit lameness, nevertheless, did possess early pathognomonic lesions. These subclinical lesions were equally likely to develop in the right or left leg. The lesion status of the proximal femoral head did not determine the lesion status of the ipsilateral or contralateral proximal tibial head and vice versa. Broilers reared on wire flooring consistently had higher incidences of lameness than hatch-mates reared on wood-shavings litter. Adding probiotics to the diet beginning at 1 d of age consistently reduced the incidence of lameness for broilers reared on wire flooring. These experiments indicate that probiotics administered prophylactically may constitute an alternative to antibiotics for reducing lameness attributable to BCO. Rearing broilers on wire flooring provides an important new research model for investigating the etiology, pathogenesis, and treatment strategies for BCO.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)870-883
Number of pages14
JournalPoultry science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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