Volume 10, Issue 3: 125-130; May 27, 2020  
ISSN 2228-7701  
Nchele KULEILE1 , Khotso NCHECHE2, Sehlabo KAMOHO2, Thato MACHELI2, Teboho JOBO2, Mamajone PHORORO2  
1Lesotho Agricultural College, Private Bag A4, Maseru 100, Lesotho  
2National University of Lesotho, Department of Animal Science, P.O. Roma 180, Lesotho  
Supporting Information  
ABSTRACT: A completely randomized study was conducted at the National University of Lesotho farm (altitude  
1650 meters) to address the high incidence of metabolic and skeletal disorders in broiler chickens. The  
incidence of ascites also increases significantly at altitudes greater than 1300 meters above sea level,  
presumably because of the low oxygen partial pressure. The ascites incidences are very high in Lesotho during  
the cold winter months, accounting for more than fifty percent of the total mortality. The main objective of the  
current study was to assess the effect of different feed forms on the occurrence and control of metabolic  
disorders in broilers. A total of 200 day-old Ross 308 chicks were randomly distributed into two dietary  
treatments made up of two broiler feed forms namely mash and pelleted diet replicated four times with twenty-  
five birds per replicate. The two dietary treatments had similar nutritive value across all feeding phases with  
exception of feed form. Chicks were housed in a well-ventilated house where treatment diets and water were  
offered on ad libitum basis. Data collection was done on weekly basis for production parameters such as feed  
intake, feed conversion ratio, live weight and growth rate while mortality, signs of ascites, lameness and Sudden  
Death Syndrome (SDS) data were collected daily. All dead birds were examined for the signs of ascites by  
presence or accumulation of fluids in the abdominal cavity. The findings of the current study indicated that  
dietary treatment had a significant (P<0.05) influence on all production parameters namely feed intake, live  
weight, growth rate, feed conversion ratio and mortality rate. The dietary treatment also had a significant effect  
on incidences of ascites and lameness in broiler chickens whereby birds offered diet in the form of pellets had  
better production performance and higher incidences of the ascites, lameness and mortality than birds fed diet  
in mash form. On the other hand the dietary treatments did not have a significant (P>0.05) effect on SDS.  
However, there were more incidences of SDS in birds offered pelleted diets than mash diet. Birds fed mash diet  
had fewer incidences because they were experiencing moderate growth rates compared to birds fed pelleted  
diet with fast growth rates. Birds offered mash spend more time consuming their feed compared to birds fed  
pellets and therefore, expend more energy in this process resulting in lower feed conversion efficiency. It was  
evident from the results that diet in mash form can be used to control the incidences of metabolic disorder by  
reducing growth rates of broilers.  
Keywords: Form, Ascites, Mash, Pellets, Growth Mortality  
Farmers in Lesotho suffer a huge financial loss during production phase of their broiler chickens as a result of high  
incidences of metabolic and skeletal disorders that leads to high mortality of chicks and condemnation of carcasses later  
(Amini et al., 2015). The incidence is common during the cold winter months as is influenced by cold temperatures and  
poor ventilation methods (Huchzermeyer et al., 1989) and this had led to the seasonality of broiler production in Lesotho  
as a result (Kuleile and Molapo, 2019). Most of the farmers especially those in the highlands of Lesotho do not produce  
any broiler during cold months fearing the high mortality rate. Broilers suffer from two forms of heart failure; ascites and  
sudden death syndrome (SDS) (Maxwell and Robertson, 1998). Ascites and SDS are relatively common and are likely to  
be due to the fact that the broilers’ fast growth requires high levels of oxygen to support metabolic demands (SCAHAW,  
2000). Ascites is a common rapid-growth-related problem in broiler chickens grown at high altitude where the partial  
pressure of oxygen is low and is marginally adequate to support the growth performance and ascites-related variables  
and it can be recognized by the fluid accumulation in abdominal cavity (Saffar and Khajali, 2010). SDS is an acute heart  
failure disease that affects mainly male fast-growing chickens which seem to be in good condition. It is characterized by  
the sudden death of well-nourished broiler chickens after abrupt and brief flapping of their wings (Saki and Hemati,  
2011). Death usually occurs within 1-2 minutes with the birds lying on their backs with outstretched wings (Afolayan et  
al., 2016). Leg problems seen in the absence of infectious agents are often the result of fast early growth and thus can be  
related to metabolic diseases (Kumari et al., 2016). Poultry metabolic diseases occur primarily in two body systems being  
cardiovascular disorders, which in broiler chickens are responsible for a major portion of the flock mortality; secondly  
musculoskeletal disorders, which account for less mortality, but slow down growth (thereby reducing profit), and cause  
Citation: Kuleile N, Ncheche Kh, Kamoho S, Macheli T, Jobo T, Phororo M (2020). The effects of broiler feed forms on metabolic and skeletal disorders. Online J. Anim.  
lameness, which remains a major welfare concern (Julian, 2005). Lameness is associated with heavy, fast-growing  
broilers and is of serious welfare concern due to an inability of lame birds to access resources, limited behavioral  
expression, and pain (Nicol et al. 2017). Lameness can take many forms. It can be infectious, arise due to developmental  
bone deformities or be degenerative (e.g. due to the consequence of trauma or load-bearing throughout life), and it can  
involve tendons, joints, ligaments, and bones (Bradshaw et al., 2002).  
The broiler growth rate has been found to have a direct relationship with susceptibility to ascites and skeletal  
disorders (Camacho et al., 2004). Nemati et al. (2017) reported that rapid growth of modern broilers in a relatively short  
period of time requires a parallel increase in the size or capacity of supply organs, such as those of the cardiovascular and  
respiratory systems. However, due to the slower development of these organs relative to body growth rate, the capacity to  
balance body energy is compromised, particularly under extreme environmental conditions, such as cold stress (Shahir et  
al., 2012; Shinder, 2002). Manipulation of the diet composition and or feed allocation system can have a major effect on  
the incidence of ascites and skeletal disorders.  
Generally, broiler diets could be offered in three forms, Mash, crumble and pellet. Most meat birds are fed crumbled  
or pelleted diets to achieve maximum growth and feed efficiency (Naderinejad et al., 2017). Feeding mash reduces  
growth rate (1 to 2 days to market) and reduces mortality and condemnations due to metabolic disease (Baghbanzadeh  
and Decuypere, 2008). However, this type of feeding programme may not be economically acceptable in all areas and  
has been demonstrated to increase the incidence of pendulous crops and higher production of inedible parts such as  
viscera (Kuleile and Molapo, 2019). Broilers that consume pellet feed have frequently been shown to have higher  
incidences of ascites and skeletal disorders than broilers that consume the same diet in mash form (Bölükbasi et al.,  
2005). On the same note Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) stated that their Working Group found leg problems of  
varying degrees of severity on nearly every farm visited (FAWC, 1992). The report stressed that in the worst cases birds  
were only able to move with great difficulty and such birds were obviously distressed and had problems in reaching food  
and water. A Danish study in 1999 assessed the prevalence of lameness in a large and representative sample of  
commercial flocks. This study found that 30.1% of the birds had gait scores of 3, 4 or 5, which indicate that they are  
suffering from chronic pain (Sanotra, 1999).  
Some of the feasible nutritional strategies such as early age feed or nutrient restriction (qualitative or quantitative)  
and use of appropriate feed form and light restriction lower the growth rate without compromising the final live weight  
(Baghbanzadeh and Decuypere, 2008). Optimization of the house temperature and ventilation in cold weather are also  
beneficial management practices to decrease incidences of ascites, SDS and lameness (Singh et al., 2013, 2018).  
The objective of the current study, therefore, was to use nutritional strategy in the form of different broiler feed  
forms to control the incidences of ascites, SDS and lameness.  
Ethical approval  
The scientific and ethics committee of the Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Lesotho approved the study  
Study site  
The study was conducted at the National University of Lesotho poultry farm located at 29°28’S latitude; 27°44’E  
Longitude (AfriGIS, 2020); at the altitude of 1650 m a. s. l.  
Experimental design  
The experimental design was Completely Randomized Design with two dietary treatments replicated four times.  
Dietary treatments were made up of two broiler feed forms namely mash and pellets. The two diets had similar nutritive  
value but differ in structural composition.  
Birds housing and management  
One day old mixed-sex Ross 308 chicks (n=200) were obtained from Letsatsi (local agro dealer) on the hatching  
day. The birds were reared in deep litter floor pens. The chicks were allocated into 8 pens and they were 25 birds per  
replicate. The room was lit 24 hours for the first 42 days. The experimental feeds and water were provided on ad libitum  
basis during the whole experimental period and all necessary prophylaxis and vaccination requirements for broilers were  
administered equally.  
Data collection  
Production parameters  
Data on production parameters, such as live weight, growth rate, feed intake and feed conversion ratio were  
collected on weekly basis, while mortality rate, signs of ascites and lameness were recorded on daily basis. Live weight  
was measured using a platform weighing scale, Feed conversion ratio (FCR) was calculated as feed intake (g) over live  
weight (g). Feed intake was determined by the difference between feed supplied and leftovers. Growth rate was  
measured as the final weight minus initial weight divided by number of days. Mortality rate was recorded from 0 weeks  
Citation: Kuleile N, Ncheche Kh, Kamoho S, Macheli T, Jobo T, Phororo M (2020). The effects of broiler feed forms on metabolic and skeletal disorders. Online J. Anim.  
until the 6 weeks by the following formula: Mortality % = No. of death birds in a replication/No. of initial birds in a  
replication × 100.  
Disorders parameters  
Data collection started at the beginning of the growing phase up to the end of finishing phase (17 to 42 days)  
because pellets were too big for consumption by the day-old chicks. Birds were observed on daily basis for the signs of  
lameness, abnormal gait and those sitting down all the time not able to reach waterers and feeders. United State gait-  
scoring system was used to measure the prevalence of leg weakness by assessing the walking ability of broilers. Walking  
ability was scored according to three category as follows; 0(no obvious signs of problems), 1(obvious signs) and 2(severe  
signs). Sudden death syndrome was recorded as birds that die without any symptoms of illness and they usually lie on  
their back with the feet raised. Dead birds were collected daily, weighed, and necropsied for the presence of water  
accumulation in the abdomen, which was considered as ascites. Any skeletal abnormalities were noted as they were  
Statistical Analyses  
Data collected was analyzed using IBM SPSS (version 20.0) and when the existence of difference between  
treatment means was declared, Least Significant Difference (LSD) test was employed to detect differences between  
treatments. The model used was; Yijk= μ+ Ti + eij, where: Yij = observation or over all response; μ = the overall mean;  
Ti = the effect of treatments (i.e. forms of feed); eij = random error.  
Production Parameters  
The broiler feed forms had significant (P<0.05) effect on all production parameters (Table 1). Birds that had access  
to diet in pellet form had significantly (P<0.05) higher feed intake, growth rate, feed conversion ratio , live weight and  
mortality rate than birds offered diet in a mash form. Feed intake and feed conversion ratio and growth rates results are  
during growing and finishing phases increased broiler feed efficiency. On the contrary, Fasuyi and Odunayo (2015)  
reported that mash diet resulted in higher feed intake and feed conversion ratio than birds fed pelleted diet. The  
discrepancy may be due to the size of the pellets which was not suitable for chicks during this growth stage. Broiler  
mortality rate results are in accordance with the findings of Bricket et al. (2007) and Van Biljon (2006) who reported  
higher (P<0.05) mortality in chickens fed the crumble-pellet regimen (6.57% at 42 days), compared to chickens on the  
ground crumbles and pellets (4.03% at 42 days) and all-mash regimen (2.85% at 42 days). They also noted that feeding  
mash reduced the overall mortality as well as the mortality in every time period, starting at 14 d of age, in comparison  
(2008), Scott (2002), Engberg et al. (2002), Nir et al. (1995) stated that different broiler feed forms did not have a  
significant influence on mortality rate. Ommati et al. (2013) also reported no differences in mortality rate. However, they  
observed that mortality was highest in pellets fed broilers with 12.7% while mash fed birds group had 9%. The  
inconsistency of reports on the effect of feed forms on mortality may be due to the difference in the duration of feeding.  
The observed results on production parameters clearly revealed the superiority of pelleted diets to optimize broiler  
production during growing and finishing phase items of feed intake, growth and high feed efficiency. Pelleted diet offers a  
complete nutrient package for broilers because it reduces nutrient segregation and feed wastage as compared to mash  
diet (Ghazi et al., 2012). Broilers fed pelleted diet had high feed intake than birds fed mash diet because pelleted diet has  
a bigger particle size than mash and therefore it is consumed relatively faster than diet in mash form. Birds consuming  
diet in mash form spent a lot of time and energy in the act of eating and hence why low feed conversion efficiency.  
Moran, (1987), Flemming et al. (2002) and Skinner-Noble et al. (2005) indicated that pellet rations increased available  
dietary energy for live weight gain, which improved feed efficiency by reducing the time spent eating and increasing the  
time spent resting. The benefits of pellet feeding on broiler performance have been extensively reported and the current  
work confirms the benefits in terms of higher feed intake, weight gain and feed efficiency but prone to high incidences of  
metabolic disorders.  
Table 1 - The effects of feed form on broiler production  
Feed intake (grams/week)  
Growth rate (grams/day)  
Feed conversion ratio (g/g)  
Citation: Kuleile N, Ncheche Kh, Kamoho S, Macheli T, Jobo T, Phororo M (2020). The effects of broiler feed forms on metabolic and skeletal disorders. Online J. Anim.  
Live weight  
Mortality rate  
P<0.05 = Means differed significantly, P1= Probability at 5% , CV2= Coefficient of variation  
Metabolic Disorders Parameters  
The broiler feed forms had significant (P<0.05) difference on ascites and skeletal disorders however, there was no  
differences (P>0.05) between feed forms on sudden death incidences. The incidence of ascites and skeletal disorders  
were significantly higher in broilers fed pelleted diet than birds fed mash diet. Similar trend in results were observed for  
sudden death syndrome where more incidence were observed in birds offered diet in form of pellets. Van Biljon (2006)  
results concurred with the findings of the current study on incidences of ascites and skeletal disorders who reported  
significantly higher mortality mainly caused by ascites (2.11%) and SDS (1.39%) in crumble-pellet treatment than in all  
mash diets. Skeletal disorders incidences were higher in ground crumble-pellet treatment than in group fed all mash diet.  
A number of researchers also confirmed the findings of the present study that feeding pellets to broilers lead to fast  
growth rates that in turn resulted in high incidences of ascites and SDS (Hasani et al., 2018; Meshram and Bijoy 2017;  
(1985) observed 15% incidence of ascites in pellets compared to 4% in mash diets. In the current study broilers fed  
pellets diet grew significantly faster than birds fed mash and hence the high incidence of ascites and skeletal disorders in  
these group of birds. Variation in observed results amongst researchers could be as a result of combination of feed form  
treatment with cold induced treatment, different altitudes, lighting programme, stocking density in rearing house as well  
as the use of bioenzymes. Researchers also reiterated that skeletal disorders, ascites and SDS are the common cause of  
economic losses due to mortality and downgrades in fast-growing broiler strains.  
Table 2 - The effects of feed form on incidences of ascites, sudden death and skeletal disorders  
Ascites (%)  
Sudden death syndrome (SDS)  
Skeletal disorders  
P<0.05 = Means differed significantly, P1= Probability at 5% , CV2= Coefficient of variation  
The findings of the current study revealed that broiler feed forms had a profound influence on the occurrences of ascites,  
sudden death syndrome and skeletal disorders whereby feed in the form of mash significantly reduced metabolic  
disorders in broilers compared to feed in the form of pellets which resulted in significantly high incidences. However,  
broiler mash diet gave significantly poor growth rates, feed conversion ratio and final live weight. It was concluded that  
pelleted feeds improved growth rate and feed conversion ratio, albeit by inducing metabolic disorders in broilers. It is  
recommended that farmers in Lesotho especially those in the highlands should consider feeding their broilers diet in the  
form of mash during the period of high susceptibility such as winter time. Farmers in the highlands should feed their  
broilers diet in the form of mash coupled with improved management practices that are known to influence metabolic  
disorders such as temperature control, oxygen, dust percentage in air, microorganism toxins, nitric oxide metabolism,  
vitamin E and selenium supplementation. Future research should evaluate the economic advantage of feeding mash  
versus pelleted feed through partial budget analysis.  
The authors wish to thank the National University of Lesotho for providing financial support to undertake this study.  
We also thank Mr Mahlaha for assisting with animal housing and structures needed to house the experimental animals.  
Competing interests  
The authors declared that they did not have a conflict of interest with respect to the research.  
Author’s contribution  
Nchele Kuleile designed the experiment, supervised data collection, analyzed data and compiled the manuscript.  
Ncheche, Kamoho, Macheli, Jobo and Phororo collected data, conducted post mortem for dead chickens and inserted  
data in statistical analysis tool. All authors have proof read the final manuscript.  
Citation: Kuleile N, Ncheche Kh, Kamoho S, Macheli T, Jobo T, Phororo M (2020). The effects of broiler feed forms on metabolic and skeletal disorders. Online J. Anim.  
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Citation: Kuleile N, Ncheche Kh, Kamoho S, Macheli T, Jobo T, Phororo M (2020). The effects of broiler feed forms on metabolic and skeletal disorders. Online J. Anim.