Scoring and Preventing Turkey Footpad Dermatitis

Footpad dermatitis (FPD) is a condition that causes necrotic lesions on the plantar surface of the footpads. In more familiar terms, it is the inflamed and damaged skin on a bird’s footpad. This can present with thickened scales and dark lesions or ulcers on poultry footpads and toes. FPD affects turkey production worldwide. When lesions are severe, turkey performance can be reduced due to increased feed intake and decreased feed conversion ratio and body weight.

Causes of FPD

• Litter over 30 percent moisture can cause lesions within 24-48 hours. After moving birds to dry litter, severe lesions can heal in about two weeks.

• Inadequate nutrition and disease can cause FPD.

Scoring footpad dermatitis

Monitoring animal welfare and performing good flock management includes scoring footpad dermatitis. The National Turkey Federation and most organizations and processing plants use a 1 to 5 scale to score the lesions from healthy with no present issues to severe ulcers. Knowing the footpad scores of your turkey flocks is an essential part of management. The goal is to score 300 birds, with at most 30 scoring a 3 or higher.

Preventing footpad dermatitis

• Monitor litter moisture by performing checks on the floor every day. Grab a handful of litter and squeeze it in your fist. If it easily crumbles, the moisture content is probably low. The moisture content is likely too high if the litter compacts when you squeeze it together. Keep in mind that wet litter may appear darker.

• Keep litter moisture low.
o Remove excess moisture from the poultry environment through heat and ventilation.
o Select bedding materials such as pine or shavings, as those have a higher water-holding capacity than straw or rice hulls.
o Inspect drinkers for leaks or other problems.
o Examine the roof, floors, and sidewalls for water entering the structure.
o Whenever possible, remove wet spots to limit the need to add bedding.