Commercial broiler production requires continuous health and welfare assessment as it is critical to assure good flock performance, profitability and meat quality. In addition, animal welfare plays an increasingly important role granting competitiveness and access to international markets as some countries or premium labeling programs require verification of optimal welfare. Commercial broilers are visually evaluated on daily basis, but up to the present no method was available to quantify in a simple, reliable and standardized manner the health and welfare status of the flocks. Due to the large number of birds, and the fast turnover of the production cycles in meat poultry, flock health and welfare assessment is particularly difficult.
The i-WatchBroiler App developed by scientists at Ikerbasque and Neiker-Tecnalia (Spain) is a tool specifically developed for broiler health and welfare assessment. The i-WatchBroiler allows assessing critical health and welfare indicators in broiler flocks in a simple and standardized manner. It does not require changes in the routine farm evaluation. The method of assessment is based on the transect methodology (Marchewka et al., 2013, 2014). The i-WatchBroiler App enables broiler producers to easily collect the incidence of the most relevant health and welfare indicators in a simple manner at the time of a regular health inspection. This app includes the possibility of recording the frequency of birds with relevant welfare and health deficiencies, such as the incidence of immobility, severe lameness, injuries, unwanted behaviors or other serious health issues in the flocks without catching or disturbing the birds. The App allows the user to customize the scoring to include additional parameters of interest or to score birds with multiple problems. Data collection is done in a comfortable touch –screen mode, while the evaluator is slowly walking along the house and observing birds, as is usually conducted in routine walks through the production house. The incidence of the health and welfare issues collected is automatically standardized by the number of birds in the flock at the time of assessment and the number of transects conducted.
i-WatchBroiler App allows entering relevant information, such as birds strain, age, housing and management conditions, expanding significantly the applications of the app and potential for further data analysis (for example to compare results in management changes, diets, lighting programs etc). Date, time, geographic location, and weather conditions at the time of inspection are automatically collected if working in the on-line mode. The app generates a report and warning message if mean incidences of the indicator for such inspection is significantly above of the historical mean (calculated from previous flock evaluations). These outputs are available immediately after finishing data collection. Full database consisting of all the collected over time information is saved in CSV format (.XLS compatible) and can be further analyzed. Continuous, easy access to reliable, historical and current information on the health and welfare status of birds in relation to management and environmental factors, , is an important asset for decision-making process of the companies, helping improving birds´ health and welfare based on a methodological and standardized data collection.