The purpose of the present cross-sectional study was to evaluate the health status of organic broiler chickens and the contamination rate with Salmonella and Campylobacter in organic broiler production in Belgium. The broilers were screened for antibodies against routinely monitored poultry diseases at 1 day old and at slaughter. Fecal examination for the presence of worm eggs was done at slaughter. Bacteriological examination for the detection of Salmonella and Campylobacter was performed at day 1, week 2, week 4, week 7, week 10, and slaughter. Conventional broilers of the same poultry integration and reared in the same geographic area were also screened and served as reference. Serologic data indicated lower antibody titers against infectious bronchitis and Newcastle disease in organic flocks. No significant differences could be found in prevalence of Salmonella between organic and conventional broilers at slaughter. In contrast, Campylobacter infections at slaughter were significantly higher in organic flocks. Organic flocks most probably become infected with Campylobacter between week 7 and week 10. Worm eggs were found in neither the organic flocks nor the conventional flocks. In conclusion, there are indications that the respiratory health status is better in organic broilers but that organic flocks are more often infected with Campylobacter than are conventional flocks.
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Vol. 50 • No. 2