Preslaughter mortality of broilers in relation to lairage and season in a subtropical climate.
The preslaughter handling and transport of broilers are stressful operations that might affect welfare and meat quality and could increase numbers of deaths before slaughter. However, the influence of thermal factors during transportation and lairage at slaughterhouses is complex in subtropical regions, where increasing temperature and high RH are the major concerns regarding animal survival before slaughter. In this study we assessed the influence of a controlled lairage environment on preslaughter mortality rates of broiler chickens that were transported during different seasons of the year and had varying lairage times in the subtropical climate. Preslaughter data from 13,937 broiler flocks were recorded daily during 2006 in a commercial slaughterhouse in southeastern Brazil. The main factors that influenced daily mortality rate were mean dry bulb temperature and RH, lairage time, daily periods, density of broilers per crate, season of the year, stocking density per lorry, transport time, and distance between farms and slaughterhouse. A holding area at the slaughterhouse with environmental control was assessed. Using a double GLM for mean and dispersion modeling, the seasons were found to have significant effects (P < 0.05) on average mortality rates. The highest incidence was observed in summer (0.42%), followed by spring (0.39%), winter (0.28%), and autumn (0.23%). A decrease of preslaughter mortality of broilers during summer (P < 0.05) was observed when the lairage time was increased, mainly after 1 h of exposure to a controlled environment. Thus, lairage for 3 to 4 h in a controlled lairage environment during the summer and spring is necessary to reduce the thermal load of broiler chickens.