Forced locomotor activity improves walking ability of male turkeys and modifies carcass characteristics
1. This trial investigated the effect of forced locomotor activity (training) on walking ability, leg posture, and growth performance, as well as carcass composition and meat quality in male fattening turkeys. 2. A flock of 744 commercial turkeys was divided into three experimental groups, either without any training period (control), training from weeks 2 to 8 (short-term), or training from weeks 2 to 21 (long-term). All birds were slaughtered at an age of 21 weeks. To study the effect of short vs. long time lapse between shackling and stunning (suspension time), each training group was split into two halves that were hooked on the shackle for either 15 s or 3 min prior to stunning. 3. Long-term physical training, compared to short-term or no training, resulted in better walking ability and in a lower percentage of leg malposition, as assessed at the end of fattening. No effect on final body weight was detected. 4. In a subsample, the composition of 80 carcasses was determined by dissection. Long-term training favoured the percentage of the drumstick over that of the breast cut in comparison to the group without any training. 5. Meat quality parameters were determined for breast muscle. The pH values 20 min post mortem were reduced by long-term training, and the highest value was observed for a combination of no training with short suspension. After 24 h, pH values did not differ between experimental groups. The breast muscles were characterised as fast-glycolysing. Prolonged suspension time resulted in higher electrical conductivity after 24 h, and in higher a* values (redness). 6. In conclusion, the study revealed that a long-term training period improved walking ability and leg posture of heavy male turkeys. Thus, training can contribute to the improvement of animal welfare in turkey husbandry. Meat quality variables of breast muscles were partially influenced by locomotor activity and suspension time.