The aim of the study was to analyse water consumption data of commercially grown broiler chicken in order to ascertain whether:
- i)the results obtained correlated with those reported in other studies;
- ii)water consumption can be objectively used as a measure of bird health and welfare; and
- iii)there is a correlation between total water consumed, reject levels and the incidence of contact dermatitis.
Water consumption has been analysed in terms of litres/bird/cycle, and litres/bird/day. In order to determine the impact of water consumption on the moisture content of the litter the water usage was also analysed in terms of litres/m2
of floor area/cycle and litres/m2
of floor area/day which take into account the stocking density of the birds. The results indicated that whilst water consumption in l/m2
of floor area per crop cycle is potentially a beneficial lag indicator, l/bird/day or l/m2
/day could be lead indicators which relate to bird health and the impact of water consumption on litter quality. More research should be undertaken to determine whether there is a direct relationship between changes in observed versus expected daily water consumption and health issues such as enteritis and contact dermatitis. This research should define the threshold level of water usage at which there is a resultant impact on litter quality in terms of daily use per unit of floor area. This may be influenced by the stocking density, ventilation profile and the degree of absorbency of the litter material but the value would provide managers with a “trigger-point” at which they need to take action to minimise the resultant impact on air quality in terms of ammonia levels and the potential for contact dermatitis.