Comparing various euthanasia devices and methods on 8 and 12-week-old turkey hens.
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On-farm euthanasia of poultry is a necessity for minimizing disease spread and removing sick or injured birds to maintain optimum animal welfare. There are numerous methods that are approved for euthanasia of poultry by organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association; however, all approved methods are not easily carried out on-farm or as effective as one another. Therefore, the objective of this study was to compare several captive bolt devices (Turkey Euthanasia Device, Zephyr-EXL, Jarvis Stunner, Experimental Crossbow), mechanical cervical dislocation (Broomstick method [BRM] and Koechner Euthanasia Device [KED]), and manual cervical dislocation (MAN) methods on 8 and 12-week-old turkey hens. Each method was assessed for impact on loss of brain stem reflexes, euthanasia success, and torn skin. The cervical dislocation techniques were also analyzed via radiograph for proper dislocation. Furthermore, each device was assessed for physical parameters. Turkeys (n = 1,400) were euthanized on 20 sampling days, 10 sampling days for each age period. All methods resulted in euthanasia of all turkeys in this study. The captive bolt devices all resulted in immediate loss of nictitating membrane and pupillary reflex at both the ages tested. The cervical dislocation methods differed in both nictitating membrane and pupillary reflex cessation at both ages (P<0.05). The pattern was the same at both ages with the KED device have longer latencies to cessation of both reflexes when compared to the BRM and MAN methods (P<0.05). Cessation of movement was also generally longer in dislocation methods compared to captive bolt at both ages. However, captive bolt devices resulted in more lacerations of the skin in general. MAN was also found to result in less damage to the vertebrae and proper location of separation than the mechanical methods of dislocation. All methods resulted in effective euthanasia; however, captive bolt methods resulted in immediate loss of brain stem reflexes indicating that they maybe more humane than cervical dislocation methods.