Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Animal Science

First Advisor

Maja M Makagon

Committee Member 1

Donald C Lay, Jr.

Committee Member 2

Patricia Y Hester


Reduced walking ability is one of the most important welfare concerns facing the commercial duck industry. This is due to the likelihood that impaired walking is associated with pain, and may inhibit a duck’s ability to reach needed resources, such as food and water. Additionally, ducks with severe walking impairments are culled from the flock, which poses an economic challenge for the producer. Therefore, strategies for evaluating reduced walking ability are important for monitoring the prevalence of affected ducks within a flock. Currently, gait scoring is the most popular method for assessing walking ability on-farm. Gait scoring requires an observer to rank walking ability by assigning a categorical description of walking behavior to a duck as it walks on a flat surface (severity of reduced walking ability increases with category number). These systems are criticized for being subjective and their validity is often questioned. Further, observed differences in gait, alone, do not indicate whether a duck’s welfare is impacted.