Haematological characteristics predicting susceptibility for ascites. 2. High haematocrit values in juvenile chickens.

C.W. Scheele, J.D. van der Klis, C. Kwakernaak, N. Buys, E. Decuypere

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1. Male broilers of two different genetic stocks, a pure broiler sire line (A) and commercially available Ross broilers (B), were used to study the effect of differences in haematocrit values in 12-d-old chickens on the development of ascitic symptoms. Body weight gain (BWG), feed intake (FI) and feed conversion ratio (FRC) were measured from 2 to 5 weeks of age. Mortality was recorded from 2 to 6 weeks. The birds were kept at a low ambient temperature to stimulate the incidence of ascites. 2. From each stock 32 birds with the highest (High Ht) and 32 birds with the lowest (Low Ht) haematocrit values in venous blood were selected at 12 d of age for an examination on susceptibility for the ascites syndrome at 5 weeks. 3. At 2 weeks 448 birds per stock (including High Ht and Low Ht birds) were allotted to 32 floor pens (1 High Ht and 1 Low Ht in each pen). Venous blood samples were taken weekly in High Ht and Low Ht birds for haematocrit measurements and at week 5 also thyroid hormone (T3, T4) concentrations in plasma were measured. At 5 weeks all High Ht and Low Ht birds were examined post-mortem and arterial pressure index, heart weight, lung weight and liver weight (all relative to body weight) were recorded. High values for arterial pressure index, relative heart and liver weights and low values for relative lung weights and plasma thyroid hormone were considered to be indicators for ascites susceptibility. 4. Stock A, with the highest ascites mortality, had lower values for BWG and FCR than stock B. Throughout, a clear difference in Ht values between High Ht and Low Ht birds was maintained. No significant effects of 12-d haematocrit values were found on the incidence of ascitic symptoms until week 5. High Ht values tended to correlate with low relative lung weights and low plasma T3 concentrations in High Ht birds. 5. Within the groups of selected birds, there was an effect of stock on ascitic symptoms (arterial pressure index, relative heart weight and T3 values) at week 5. This is consistent with a higher ascites mortality in flock A than in flock B, over the whole period up to 6 weeks. Until 4 weeks both A and B were similar with respect to mean Ht values of High Ht and Low Ht groups. After 4 weeks Ht values were very high in the High Ht birds of stock A, possibly as a result of the susceptibility for ascites of stock A. There was a significant interaction between stock and Ht values on the ascites-related variable arterial pressure index. Only in stock A was high arterial pressure at 5 weeks related to high Ht values at d 12. 6. Overall it was concluded that a high Ht in blood of juvenile chickens has limited practical value in predicting incidence of ascites at 5 weeks of age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-489
JournalBritish Poultry Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • growing broiler-chickens
  • heart-failure
  • pulmonary-hypertension
  • growth-rate
  • mortality
  • parents
  • blood


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