Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

liver damage from lupins? Graphic pictures


The following article needs to be seen in the light of more recent discoveries as I continue trying new feed formulas.

While I talk a little below about the dangers of lupins, I've since seen far worse liver damage (fatty liver) in birds fed commercial meat bird finisher for a couple of months. Indeed the results from commercial meat bird finisher were so dramatic that I now consider it a kind of poison, far worse than lupins.

Isn't that interesting? Toxins in lupins seem to have been responsible for a few slow growing birds and some liver blemishes, but commercial meat bird grower (high in artificial methionine) appears to have turned livers into yellow mush in a far shorter time. Fatty liver syndrome often results in liver rupture and the bird bleeding to death, so it's a terrible condition.

Meat bird finisher is meant to be fed to meat birds only for the last week or so. No doubt it's formulated to ensure the greatest weight gain with no regard for bird health (after all, the birds are considered terminal). But if the feed causes such liver harm in the birds, what does it do to humans when the meat of those birds is eaten?

My question turns upon whether D methionine (an artificial substance) remains in the carcass and goes on to cause health problems in people? As with my earlier post on methionine the questions relate to cardiovascular disease, liver triglycerides and perhaps even dementia.

I just wanted to add these notes because the following story otherwise appears to suggest that lupins should be avoided at all costs. I now see the whole situation a little differently, because if bird health matters, and if human health matters, I don't believe we should be feeding commercial meat bird finisher at all.

Many and indeed probably all feedstuffs are a balancing act between toxic effects and nutritional benefits. For instance even sunflower seeds contain mild toxins that limit their inclusion levels; so do many green feeds, peas and other useful feeds.

But it seems to me only natural feeds attract cautions about toxins and inclusion levels. Looking at what I've seen I'd say meat bird finisher should come with warning labels.


I'm sorry to post these, but some people may be curious as to what I meant by 'liver streakiness' in birds on the lupin diet.

Mind you the streakiness may also have to do with toxins from the grains, which can easily be infected with mould without showing signs of damage.

Below are a series of photos with some discussion. I post it partly to show what I mean for anyone curious about my former posts, and partly because it's useful for me to keep an online record of what I've been seeing in my birds.

However before I post the pics, a caution: they may be upsetting to anyone not used to seeing organs.

Also before I post, a word of explanation: these came from the lame pullet, whom I dispatched this morning. She seemed worse despite a day on soft matting, and was unable to shift from the spot. I couldn't find much swelling but it seems most likely she had ruptured crucial ligaments that control the leg. She was in obvious pain and with her heavy weight I didn't feel a bad leg injury could be managed.

Now for the pics. First, the positives. One: the liver comes to a nice fine sharp edge. Liver enlargement is best observed at the edge of the liver according to Cornell University's diagnostic site. I'll go with that — no liver enlargement. (Ignore the white patch, it's just something that was adhering to the bag.)

The spleen looks about normal. Any 'discolouration' is just reflected from nearby surfaces; the spleen was a nice granular dark purple.

The heart looks perfectly healthy to me (for a deceased heart, that is). There was no liquid surrounding the heart and no signs of ascites or problems in the lung tissue.

Now for the negatives. Firstly there was a predominance of fat, which was unexpected given that I couldn't find much fat when feeling the bird's body. But of course chickens like to hide the fat in their cavity. (Ignore the word 'like', I mean 'are forced'.) I've never seen this much fat around a gizzard before. The organ is completely submerged on one side:

Flipped over it looks like this:

It is a little gross, but remember these birds are engineered to overeat and put on weight. One of the issues with a diet devoid of artificial vitamins and mineral premixes is that birds may overeat just to obtain sufficient micronutrients. However remember too, this bird is 15 weeks of age, 3 times the lifespan of a normal broiler. This may mean that the diet is a little low in some essential nutrients, or it could merely mean that I've been supplying them with a little too much food to keep them in good health. I'll back off the food a little and see how the remaining birds go.

Now for the liver, which is the area I'm concerned about. You can see the faint streaking (or marbling) in the organ, with some patches faintly paler and more tan-coloured than the rest. Livers should be a uniform colour:

This, I feel, is a sign of probably toxins rather than a syndrome like fatty liver (despite the prevalence of fat elsewhere). Below is a shot of the gall bladder; you can also see the liver discolouration in the background. As far as gall bladders go, this one is about normal, if a tiny bit large (but then the bird was enormous). Again, it's the discolouration that's a concern, because I've seen it before.

It's a shame I don't have a whole lifetime over again — I would become a nutritionist. But it's hard to know what your adult passions will be when you're leaving school! Ho hum. In the absence of a good grounding in animal physiology and nutrition science, I'll just have to keep reading whatever I can find, hopefully avoiding anything that's not well researched and well grounded, and learning as I go.

The streakiness may indeed be from mould toxins in either the lupins or the wheat. Or it may be that the early diet of uncooked lupins was too much for the chicks and their livers were damaged (although I would have thought they'd improve once the lupins began to be cooked).

More thinking, more reading, more research required...

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