Pathogen Biology and Parasitology

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Pathogen Biology and Parasitology

MSc Project

This project work will provide additional analysis to accompany an industry funded trial that is currently being conducted.  This trial is evaluating the efficacy of a biocidal spray used on the drinkers provided to broiler chickens in reducing bacterial load in the environment, and in promoting animal health and welfare.

This MSc project will involve conducting analysis of broiler chicken behaviour from video recordings to determine some health and welfare effects of the solution.


General experimental protocol


Three treatments were applied:

  • Biocidal product applied to all drinkers (BP)
  • Water applied to all drinkers (W)
  • Control treatment with nothing applied to drinkers (C )

Pens of 500 Ross 308 birds were used, and six pens were assigned to each of the treatments above (using 18 out of a 36 pen house).

  • Treatments were imposed each week across the 6 week production cycle.
  • The BP and W were sprayed on to drinkers such that the bottom of the drinker was completely covered.
  • Birds entered the house on Tuesday of week 1, and treatments were applied on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
  • In remaining weeks of the study, treatments were applied on Mondays and on Wednesdays.
  • If possible, the farmer and Maeve showed a matched level of contact with birds in the C treatment by simply entering and walking through the pen but not applying anything to drinkers.

Behavioural protocol

Video recordings were taken each Wednesday across the production cycle.

Six camcorders will be used to record behaviour in two pens of each of three treatments for 15 minutes.  Videos were then moved and another two pens of each of three treatments recorded for 15 minutes.  The same four pens for each treatment were recorded each week of the trial but the order in which they are recorded was randomised.  Videos were attached to the pen barrier with Velcro and an area of the pen recorded which includes all eight feeders and the full drinker line. Pathogen Biology and Parasitology

The first 5 minutes of all recordings should be ignored in order to allow a settling period following set up of cameras.

Video analysis can include recording the following:

  • The distribution of birds in the pen
  • The general activity of the birds
  • Use of the drinkers
  • Using the drinkers and feeders as a guide, the pen will be divided into a number of virtual areas, and % occupancy determined using a standard scoring system. This scoring will take place at 30 second intervals across the 10 min period. This will be used to determine if treatment affects the likelihood of birds to occupy areas around the drinkers, or to occupy more central areas of the pen.

(b) Again, using feeders and drinkers as a guide, and area representing the space between the first four feeders and the drinker line will be selected for more detailed observations. The birds within this area will be scanned at 30 second intervals over 10 minutes, and the total number of birds, and the number of birds (1) standing, and (2) exploring will be recorded in each scan.  During this 10 minute timeframe, the total number of occurrences of different social behaviours will also be recorded.  In addition, a number of birds may be selected as focal animals and length of standing bouts recorded.


(c) If possible, the first eight drinkers towards the front of the pen will also be observed for a two minute continuous period at the start of the 10 minute period.  This will be used to record the number of times birds on the ‘centre’ side of the pen interact with any of the drinkers, and the length of each interaction.


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