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Extensive human presence and regular gentle handling improve growth, survival and immune competence in ostrich chicks

By Pfunzo T. Muvhali, Maud Bonato, Anel Engelbrecht, Irek A. Malecki, Schalk W. P. Cloete

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

A total of 416 day-old ostrich chicks were randomly allocated to one of the three different husbandry practices for 3 months after hatch; HP1 (extensive human presence with gentle human voice, visual and gentle physical stimuli), HP2 (similar to HP1 but without physical stimuli) and S (human presence limited to supply of feed and water). Chick weight (kg) was measured at 6 and 12 weeks of age, while mortalities were recorded daily to calculate the survival rate. Finally, chicks’ antibody responses to vaccination against Newcastle disease (NCD) was measured using the Hemagglutination-Inhibition (HI) test at 20 weeks of age. While HP1 chicks were heavier and survived better to 6 weeks of age than HP2 and S chicks (p < .05), no difference was observed thereafter (p > .05). Furthermore, HP1 chicks had an improved immune competence, as illustrated by their lower percentage of positive HI titers, compared to HP2 and S chicks (p < .05). Hence, integrating extensive human presence with positive human-chick interactions may assist in alleviating challenges related to chick rearing in the ostrich industry.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 23
Issue 1
Pages 95-107
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2019.1640696
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Tags
  1. Animal welfare
  2. Human-animal interactions
  3. Immunity
  4. performance