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NUTRITIONAL BALANCE: key for a long-term solution

A foot pad dermatitis and hock burn lesion is a common problem associated with poor litter management. Broilers suffering from pain by contact dermatitis will have a negative impact on animal performance. This condition indicates a serious problem in animal welfare and can lead to food safety concerns. Damaged feet and legs, carcass condemnation and downgrades, will finally
cause a loss of business opportunities and a huge impact on profits.

The Trigger: wet litter, a multifactorial problem

There are many factors contributing to wet litter, ranging from drinking water spillage, excessive humidity, inadequate ventilation, liquid faeces caused by excess water intake, nutritional imbalance or disease… and more.

Nutritional balance is key. Dietary imbalance of proteins, fibers, minerals, and compromised gut integrity can have huge impact on the water intake, which contributes to liquid faeces.

What are the consequences of wet litter?

Wet litter can have severe consequences for animal health and welfare, food safety and broiler performance. It is an ideal environment for the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria, fungi and parasites. Coccidiosis and infections due to Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens or Campylobacter are commonly seen in flocks with a wet litter problem.

Due to pain and reduced mobility, the animals will spend more time lying down, which will lead to lesions of the hocks and breasts. Animal overcrowding, rapid growth, heavy weights and massive breast size – common in highly productive farms – make things worse.

The lesions caused by wet litter can also serve as a point of entrance of infections, leading to diarrhea in broilers, further adding to the wet litter problem, and to serious food safety concerns for consumers.

Broilers suffering from pain caused by foot pad dermatitis will pay less visits to the feeders and drinkers, leading to a reduced feed intake. This has a huge impact on animal performance: less weight gain, higher feed conversion rates, lower carcass weight, lower processing yields and more carcass downgrades and condemnations.

Animal welfare

Wet litter is also a great concern for animal welfare. Animal welfare audits in Europe often use foot, hock, and breast lesions as an indicator of housing conditions and the general welfare of birds.

Signs and scoring of foot pad dermatitis

Foot pad dermatitis (FPD) most visible skin lesion is a marked inflammation of the dermis.

Many lesion scoring systems exist, which measure the severity of lesions. They were created for the assessment of birds and the correction farm management practices. In 2010, the EU used such a scoring system for the implementation of standards to reduce stocking density related to chicken mortality and foot pad dermatitis.

Other commonly used scoring systems include the so-called gait scoring, used to determine the quality of locomotion of the birds. This too, is related to FPD.

Macro economics

Chicken feet and legs are a market estimated at 11m tons with an estimated value of around 1 bio US$. They are considered as a delicacy in many Asian, but also in certain African and South American countries. The world’s biggest importers are China and Hong Kong.

Multifactor approach of the dry litter

Ventilation and proper drinker management have been used with some success as preventive approach. Other variables include the environment, hygiene and stable climate, and potentially high investments need to be made to optimize these (cleaning is not enough to get rid of coccidiosis). Disease control, balanced diet and management are essential tools to address these variables and limitations.

The Belgian Broiler Company SPOORMANS has been a leader in tackling FPD for many years. In close collaboration with AVEVE Biochem and the Antwerp Province Research Centre, it has helped to develop a multimodal approach with a proven efficacy of five years of field tests. Together they produced adequate and adapted management guidelines. Poultry producers applying this successful approach were able to reduce cost and improve their business turnover, leading to a positive return on investment.

“Over the past years, litter quality has become an increasingly important aspect of broiler management,” stresses Filip Van den Bossche, poultry nutritionist at Arvesta. Reasons include a reduced use of antibiotics (leading to a higher risk of wet feces),
genetic evolution (heavier birds) and a growing concern for poultry welfare (foot pad and breast lesions).

“Together with Spoormans, we’ve developed AveMix®DRI. Its composition  contributes to good litter quality while maintaining high broiler performance and ensuring return on investment. Field tests have shown that adding AveMix®DRI to the feed helps to reduce wet litter and significantly reduces foot pad lesions.”

Filip Van den Bossche

Poultry Nutritionist at Arvesta

Evaluation impact wet litter in your business

Wet litter has a direct impact on business due to poor broiler performance related to footpad lesion, with high costs in terms of litter management, antibiotics, carcass condemnation and downgrades, higher percentage of rejections of whole birds. This has a huge impact on profit.
Apart from the animal health and welfare issues, there is also a huge loss of business opportunities… There is a great demand of products such as chicken feet for the Asian market, whether for food, traditional medicine or for industrial transformation.


is a multi-functional solution made of Inert fibers, clays and phytogenics. The solution has a direct role in reducing liquid faeces responsible for causing wet litter.

Mode of action:

  • Increases nutrient digestibility and absorption; reduced protein fermentation in the hindgut;
  • Reduces development of pathogenic bacteria, helping to significantly reduce diarrhoea;
  • Traps ammonia production, reducing emissions and lesions on feet, legs and breasts.


  • Improved economics with higher return on investment
    • Healthier animals: less lesions, lesser impact on animal performance and mortality;
    • Reduction condemnations and downgrades;
    • Savings on other litter management parameters.
  • Improved animal welfare
    • Reduced lesions of the foot, hock and breast, which serve as an indicator of housing conditions and the general welfare of the birds in the EU;
    • Less discomfort and improved locomotion.
  • Reduced impact on the environment
    • Reduced ammonia emission;
    • Less litter waste.
  • Meets Food Safety Standards
    • Fewer lesions reduce risk of infection with parasites, bacteria and viruses;
    • Fewer dirty animals to the slaughter houses.

Data analysis from Spoormans

in 2018, with 3,5% AveMix®DRI. Using reformulated feed.

NC 3,5% AveMix DRI
Weight d40 (g)  2649 2662
FCR net 1,557 1,55

Author: Francisco Valle Ramirez, AVEVE Biochem, Belgium