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Hematological and Biochemical Profiles of Exotic and Nigerian Locally Adapted  Turkeys Reared in a Tropical Environment 

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Oguntade, David Oluwafemi  E-mail:; 
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Biochemical parameters 
Haematological parameters Nicholas white turkey  
Nigerian locally adapted turkeys
Variations in haematological and biochemical parameters of birds can be used to explain differences in the adaptability and response of different breeds to  the local environment. The study aimed at determining the haematological  and biochemical variation of Nigerian locally adapted (with different plumage  colours) and exotic turkeys reared in tropical environments. A total of 200  day-old poults comprising 150 local (50 Black, 50 Lavender and 50 White) and  50 exotic (Nicholas White) turkeys were used in this study. Blood samples  were collected from 180(45 from each genotype) turkeys for the estimation  of haematological and biochemical parameters. Genotypes were observed to  have a significant (p<0.05) effect on the haematological and biochemical  parameters. The local white turkey had the highest (p<0.05) white blood cell  (WBC) (53.22) and monocytes (MONO) while red blood cell (RBC) was highest  (p<0.05) in local black but similar (p>0.05) to the values in local white and  exotic turkeys. The mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH), mean corpuscular  volume (MCV) and lymphocyte (LYMP) were highest (p<0.05) in local lavender  but similar (p>0.05) to the values in local white and exotic turkeys. The local  white turkey had the highest (p<0.05) value of urea, Creatinine and Alanine  aminotransferase (ALT) while the Cholesterol level was highest (p<0.05) in the  local black turkey. The exotic turkey had the highest (p<0.05) levels of total  protein, globulin, glucose and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) while the albumin level was highest (p<0.05) in the local white. There are genotypic  variations in haematological and serum biochemical of turkeys examined in  this study. Therefore, the haematological performances observed in these  turkeys can be used as a reference in case of any deviation during disease  conditions and also in the development of an adapted turkey line for this  environment.


Turkeys are classed in the family of Phasianidae in the  taxonomic order of Galliformes (Crowe et al. 2006). The  origin is somewhat controversial, however, it was  reported that the archaeological specimen of wild turkey  was found in North America that date to the Pleistocene  and turkeys were symbolic of many indigenous groups in North America (Thornton and Emery, 2017) while another view affirmed that the turkey raised in central Mexico was ancestral of all the varieties of domestic  turkeys we have today (Dominguez-May et al. 2021).  Turkey has gained global recognition due to the high  demand for its product (meat) (Yakubu et al. 2013). 

The local turkeys found in Nigeria are hardy and often  show greater resistance to most tropical poultry diseases.  However, they are characterized by small body weight  and low production (Ngu et al. 2014). On the other hand,  the exotic turkeys had been selected over generations for  early maturity and high production of meat (Ilori et al.  2011) but they relatively have low immunity compared to  the tropically adapted breeds (Oguntade et al.2021). The  immune and health status of animals can greatly  influence their productivity and these can be assessed  through haematological and biochemical analyses (Abdi Hachesoo et al. 2013).

In addition, blood parameters such  as packed cell volume (PCV), red blood cell (RBC) and  white blood cell (WBC) will give the idea of feed  utilization, cellular respiration and immune condition in  animals (Kral and Suchy, 2000). 

Evaluation of the haemato-biochemical parameters in  birds can be used to determine a response to its internal  and external environment (Esonu et al. 2001). The health  and functional status of vital body organs (such as the  pancreas, heart, muscles, liver and kidney) of an animal  can be ascertained through the assessment of plasma or  sera components (Agina et al. 2015).

Hence,  haematological and biochemical analyses could be used  as diagnostic tools to monitor the effectiveness of  recommended and applied treatment including  determining the toxicity of drugs and chemical  substances and forming a prognosis (Alimi et al. 2020)  that will curb the future occurrence of ill health.  Although, the haematological and serum biochemical  parameters of animals are influenced by prevailing  environmental and physiological conditions of animals  (NseAbasi et al. 2014).

Nevertheless, great variability can  be adduced to genotypic differences. Hence, this study  would add to the previous knowledge (Ilori et al. 2011; Isidahomen et al. 2013; Ajaonuma et al. 2013; Oguntade  et al. 2021) on genetic variation in haematology and  biochemistry of tropically adapted and exotic turkeys,  which will provide information for the development of  tropically adapted broiler turkeys. Therefore, this study  assessed the hematological and biochemical profiles of  exotic and Nigerian locally adapted turkeys reared in a  tropical environment. 


Description of Experimental Site 

This research was done at the Turkey Breeding unit of the  Teaching and Research Farm of Ambrose Alli University,  Ekpoma Edo State, Nigeria. The study which lasted for  twenty weeks was carried out between January and June,  2020. 

Experimental Birds and Management 

A total of two hundred (200) turkeys made up of one  hundred and fifty (150) Nigerian locally adapted (50 each  of black, lavender and white genotypes) and fifty (50)  Nicholas white (exotic) day-old poults were used for this  study. The two breeds were sourced from a reputable  hatchery in Ibadan, Oyo state Nigeria. The birds were  raised in deep litter pens.

They were brooded for a period  of four weeks with strict adherence to brooding  management practices. The poults were vaccinated  against Marek’s disease, Newcastle disease and  infectious bronchitis at day old from the hatchery.  Subsequent vaccinations and medication were provided  routinely and as required. The birds were fed  commercially available diets ad libitum and provided  constant access to clean water.

All the experimental birds  were identified individually through a labelled tag  attached to their wings. All the experimental turkeys  were maintained under the same experimental  management conditions. 

Data Collection 

Blood samples (about 2.5 ml) were collected from the  superficial ulnar vein of 180 turkeys (45 from each  genotypic group) at the end of the experiment. About 1  ml of the blood collected was transferred into a tube  containing EDTA (ethylene diaminetetracetic acid) for  haematological analysis and the other part of the blood  was transferred into the plain bottle for biochemical  analysis. The routine haematological procedures for  avian16 were used to determine the packed cell volume  (PCV), red blood cell (RBC), white blood cell (WBC) and  differential leukocyte counts. An automated cell counter  was used to measure the RBC, haemoglobin (Hb) and  WBC within 24 hours after the collection of blood16.

The  cyanomethemoglobin method was used to measure the  Hb concentration while the PCV was measured by the  michrohematocrit method in capillary tubes, centrifuged  at 12,000g for 5 minutes (Samour et al. 2010). Other  haematological indices such as mean corpuscular volume  (MCV), mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH) and mean  corpuscular haemoglobin concentration (MCHC) were  calculated (Samour et al. 2010).

Total protein was  determined using the direct biuret method, while the  bromocresol green method was used for the  determination of serum albumin (Fafiolu and Alabi,  2020). Serum globulin was calculated by subtracting albumin from total protein. Creatinine and urea were  determined (Fafiolu and Alabi, 2020). The serum  cholesterol and alanine amino transferase (AST and ALT)  parameters as well, as alkaline phosphate (ALP) were  determined as described by Samour et al. (2010)  

Statistical analysis 

white turkey (53.22 103μl-1) which is not significantly The data collected were analyzed using the General  Linear Model (GLM) procedure of SAS (2014) using the  model below: 

Yijk = μ + Gi + εij 


Yijk = the dependent variable (haematological and  biochemical parameters). 

μ = Overall population mean 

Gi = Effect of the ith turkey genotypes  

εij = The residual random error. 

The mean separation was done using Tukey’s HSD of the  same software 


Effect of genotype on hematological parameters of  Nigerian local and exotic turkeys Table 1 showed the effect of genotype on turkey  haematological parameters of different plumage colours  of Nigerian local and exotic turkeys. Genotype had a  significant (p<0.05) effect on all the haematological  parameters except Packed Cell Volume (PCV),  Hemoglobin (Hb), Mean cell Haemoglobin concentration  (MCHC), Platelet (PLAT) and Neutrophil (NEU). Genotype  had a significant effect (p<0.05) on white blood cells (WBC) with the highest level of WBC recorded in local  

(p>0.05) different from that of local black turkey  (47.96103μl-1)and exotic turkey (50.12 103μl-1). The  lowest level of WBC was however recorded in local  lavender turkey (45.82 103μl-1) which was comparable  (p>0.05) with the values recorded in local black and exotic  turkey. The highest (p<0.05) level of RBC was recorded in  local white (3.40 106μl-1) and black (3.19 106μl-1)  including exotic turkey (3.18 106μl-1) while the least was obtained in the local lavender turkey (2.70 106μl-1). 

Conversely, the local lavender had the highest (p<0.05)  values of mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH) (54.07  pg/cell), mean corpuscular volume (MCV) (150fL) and  lymphocyte (LYMP) (85.62 %). Local black turkey had the  least level of MCH (51.6 pg/cell) and MCV (141.68 fL).The  highest level of lymphocyte observed in lavender local  turkey was not significantly (p>0.05) different from the  values observed in local black (84.16 %) and white turkey  (84.37 %) but significantly (p<0.05) different from the  level observed in exotic turkey (82.33 %). 

Further, the percentage of monocyte was highest  (p<0.05) in local white (8.78 %) turkey which was not  significantly (p>0.05) different from the level observed in  local black turkey (8.28 %) followed by 7.77 % observed  in exotic turkey. The local lavender turkey however had  the lowest percentage of monocyte (6.58 %). 

image 40
Hematological and Biochemical Profiles of Exotic and Nigerian Locally Adapted  Turkeys Reared in a Tropical Environment  7

Note: abc Means in the same column in the same group with the different superscripts are significantly different  (P<0.05) 

WBC: White blood cell; RBC: Red blood cell; PCV: Packed cell volume; MCH: Mean cell Haemoglobin; Hb = Haemoglobin  Concentration; MCHC: Mean cell Haemoglobin concentration; MCV: Mean cell volume; LYMP: Lymphocyte; PLAT:  Platelet; NEU: Neutrophi; MONO: Monocyte. 

Effect of genotype on Serum Biochemistry and lipid  profile of Nigerian local and exotic turkeys 

Table 2 showed the effect of genotype on turkey serum  biochemistry and lipid profile. Genotype had a significant  effect on all the serum biochemistry and lipid profile  except the level of alkaline phosphatase (ALP). Genotype  significantly (p<0.05) affect the level of urea discovered  in the turkey used for this study. The lowest level of urea  was discovered in black local turkey (4.33 mg/dl) while  the highest level was discovered in local white (6.80  mg/dl) but similar to the values obtained in lavender  (6.17 mg/dl) and exotic (6.16mg/dl) turkeys.

Creatinine level was highest (p<0.05) in local white (0.77mg/dl) but  comparable with the value in exotic turkey (0.77mg/dl)  while local lavender turkey had the least value (0.63  mg/dl) of creatinine. The level of cholesterol was also  significantly (p<0.05) affected by genotype.

The highest  level of this lipid was detected in local black  (96.83mmol/l) which was not different (p>0.05) from the  values in local white (95.00mmol/l)and exotic turkeys  (94.83mmol/l) while the lowest level of cholesterol was  discovered in local lavender turkey (83.67mmol/l).The  total protein value in these turkeys was significantly  (p<0.05) highest in exotic turkey (5.73g/l) followed by  that of local white turkey (4.87 g/l)and black (4.53 g/l)  while the least (4.28 g/l) was observed in the local  

lavender turkey. Albumin level was also significantly (p<0.05) affected by genotype. The local black turkey had  the least (2.30g/l) while the highest level of albumin was  observed in the exotic turkey (2.70 g/l) with similar  (p>0.05) values in local white (2.60 g/l) and lavender (2.55  g/l) turkeys. The level of globulin in the turkeys used in  this study followed similar trend as the values obtained in  total protein.

In addition, the glucose level was  significantly (p<0.05) highest in exotic turkey  (133.83mg/dl) but was not significantly (p>0.05) different  from the value obtained in local black (127.16 mg/dl)  while the least was discovered in local lavender turkey  (123.33 mg/dl) which was also similar (p>0.05) to that of  local white turkey (118.17 mg/dl). 

The highest (p<0.05) level of alanine aminotransferase  (ALT) level was detected in local white turkey (15.33IU/L)  while the least was observed in exotic turkey (6.00IU/L)  comparable with the values in local black (6.33 IU/L) and  local lavender (7.83 IU/L).Aspartate aminotransferase  (AST) level was significantly (p<0.05) affected by  genotype. The highest level of AST was detected in exotic  turkey (171.00 IU/L) while the least was observed in local  lavender (133.00 IU/L), local black turkey (143.83 IU/L)  and local white (144.50IU/L). 

image 41
Hematological and Biochemical Profiles of Exotic and Nigerian Locally Adapted  Turkeys Reared in a Tropical Environment  8

Note: abc Means in the same column in the same group with the different superscripts are significantly different  (P<0.05) 

Urea (mg/dl); CREAT: Creatinine (mg/dl); CHOL: Cholesterol (mmol/l); TP: Total protein (g/l); ALB: Albumin (g/l);  GLOUB: Globulin (g/l); GLUCO: Glucose (mg/dl); ALT: Alanine aminotransferase (IU/L); AST: Aspartate  aminotransferase (IU/L); ALP: Alkaline phosphatase (IU/L) 


The result of the haematological profile of local and  exotic turkey genotypes in the current study showed that  the haematological parameters of turkeys were  influenced by the genotypes and feather colour of  Nigerian indigenous turkeys. The highest level of WBC  

was recorded in local white turkey which is not  significantly different from that of local black turkey and  exotic turkey but lowest in lavender turkey. This could  suggest the better genetic potential of local white turkeys  to resist infectious diseases in the tropical climate of  Nigeria as they have been naturally selected for adaptation in this environment rather than production. 

The major functions of the WBC and its differentials are  to fight infections and protect the body against foreign  organisms by generating antibodies in immune response  (NseAbasi et al. 2014). In addition, animals with low WBCs  are exposed to a high risk of disease infection, while those  with high WBCs are capable of producing antibodies to  resist invasion by pathogens and thereby adapt better to  local and disease prevalent environments (NseAbasi et al.  2014). Thus, the local white turkey is superior in terms of  survival to the disease prevalent environment.

Generally,  the values of WBC obtained for all the turkey genotypes  in this study, are in the range of the values reported by  Isidahomen et al. (2013) but lower than the values  reported by Odunitan-Wayas et al. (2017) for male and  female turkeys. The highest level of RBC was recorded in  local black and white including exotic turkey while the  least was however recorded in the local lavender turkey. 

The values of RBC obtained for all the turkey genotypes  in the current study fell within the physiological range  (2.28—2.81) reported by Daniel-Igwe and Okwara (2018)  on turkey. Since RBC helps mainly to take oxygen  (through haemoglobin) from the lungs to tissues and  removes carbon dioxide out of the body tissues through  the lungs (NseAbasi et al. 2014). Therefore, the RBC  values in this study implies better chances of healthy  living and interaction with the environment in all the  turkey genotypes and also signifies that the exotic turkey  used in the study are locally adapted to the environment. 

Moreover, there observed no significant difference in the  level of PCV in the study populations. However, the value  of PCV obtained for both local and exotic turkeys were  within the range of values (39.77±0.46) for matured  turkey as reported by Priya and Gomathy (2008) and  (30.66±0.91) reported by Pandian et al. (2012) on Indian  turkey. Furthermore, since the PCV is associated with  nutritional status (Isidahomen et al. 2013), it is therefore  suggested that the values of PCV obtained in the current  study for all the turkey genotypes indicate that they were  healthy; showed better feed utilization and hence better  adaptation to the rearing environment.

In addition, the  Hb and MCHC were not significantly influenced by  genotype and their values are within the normal range  reported by several authors (Bounous and Stedman,  2000). The level of MCH, MCV, LYMP and Mono were  significantly influenced by genotype and plumage colour. 

The MCV shows the average erythrocyte size while the  MCH indicates the haemoglobin amount per blood cell  (Bounous and Stedman, 2000). The higher level of the  two indices in both local and exotic turkeys except in  some feather colour in the Nigerian local turkey  suggested that there is no reduction in cellular oxygen  requirements in order to adjust to environmental stressors such as anemic disease condition (NseAbasi et  al. 2014). 

Further, the percentage LYMP was influenced by  genotypes with the highest values observed in local  turkeys. LYMP changes in concentration in an individual  may suggest an interaction between the pathogen and  the host. The B lymphocytes are responsible for the rapid  generation of antibodies specific to a particular pathogen  while T lymphocytes regulate lymphocyte functions and  acute viral infection (Pei et al. 2003).In addition, natural  variability (Fair et al. 2008) and immune-competence  (Berndt and Methner, 2001;Juul-Madsen et al. 2006)  were reported in studies of subpopulations of  lymphocytes in avian blood.

The values of LYMP in this  study reveals immune variability among the four turkey  populations while the high level of LYMP in local turkey  especially in lavender local turkey suggests that local  turkey are much more immune-competent in response to  viral infection in the tropical climate when compared to  their exotic counterpart. Moreover, monocytes (MONO)  are the biggest type of white blood cell and function in  the fight against bacteria, viruses and fungi in the body.  Their function primarily is to ward off diseases and  infections.

These monocytes migrate from the peripheral  blood to the tissues and differentiate into macrophages  whose morphology and function are dependent on the  organ and tissue in which they are present (Geissmann et  al. 2010). The level of MONO reported in our work is  higher than the level reported by Schmidt et al. (2009) in  Bronze turkey which suggests that the turkey used in this  study is well adapted to the tropical environment and is  able to mount enough immune response against  infections that could be brought about by any class of  pathogen. 

The variation in the levels of urea in the blood of the  turkeys with the least value in the black local turkey  suggests differences in renal functions associated with  metabolic activities in different genotypes of the turkey  breeds. Interestingly, creatinine was high in exotic and  local white turkey which was not significantly different  from those of local black turkey but low in lavender local  turkey. Creatinine is the final metabolite of creatine  conversion and a major marker of kidney function.

Our  results may indicate the better conversion of  phosphocreatine to creatinine in the muscle, which  suggest reduction in the use of phosphocreatine for  muscle contraction. It should be noted that normal  functioning of the kidney will result in rapid excretion of  Creatinine (Mathuria and Verma, 2008). Increased urea  and creatinine as indices of impaired kidney function in  aflatoxicosis were reported in chickens and rats (Hassan  et al. 2012). However, the levels observed in this study are within the range reported in poultry (Naseem et al.  2018). 

Cholesterol was significantly influenced by the genotype  of the turkey. The higher level of cholesterol was  observed in exotic, local black and local white turkeys  while the lavender had the least level of cholesterol. The  highly similar pattern of the measured serum cholesterol  may be attributed to the possibility of increased  metabolism which often influences cholesterol  concentration in avian blood serum.

The significantly  high level of total protein in the exotic turkey compared  to the different indigenous turkeys of different feather  colours may be due to improved growth rate coupled  with more muscle to the bone ratio in the turkey  compared to the indigenous turkey, which is having  better ability to convert the feed to muscle than the  indigenous turkey. Sera total proteins are currently being  used as a diagnostic parameter to ascertain the health  condition in birds and together with albumin can give the  protein synthesis (Piotrowska et al. 2011). Albumin is high  in the turkeys used except in local black turkeys with a  lower level.

The values of albumin concentration  obtained in this study followed the TP concentration. This  suggests the ability of both turkey genotypes to utilize the  total available protein from the diets. The level of serum  globulin observed with the exotic turkey having the  highest level followed by the local black, local white with  the least observed in the local lavender turkey may be  indicative of an enhanced immune system especially in the exotic turkey as the concentration of serum albumin  proteins antioxidant status are regarded as the direct  reference to the body immune function (Zhang et al.  2013). 

Glucose forms the major source of energy for cellular  metabolism. In the current study, the exotic and local  black turkeys had higher blood glucose. This slight  increase indirectly suggests that these groups possess  better absorption of nutrients and enhanced liver  glycogenesis (Kokore et al. 2021). 

In this study, the serum AST, ALT and ALP differ  significantly with turkey genotypes. Higher level of ALP  was detected in exotic and local black turkeys. An  increase in serum ALP has been attributed to rapid  growth and bone activity as reported by Lowe et al.  (2022). This is not surprising as the exotic turkey has the  highest rate of growth because of its selection for  optimum growth when compared with the local  counterpart (Ilori et al. 2011).The mean values of ALT and  AST are in accordance with the other researchers  (Bounous et al. 2000; Ibrahim et al. 2012).  

Generally, analysis of blood parameters would provide a  reliable indicator of health status of an animal. The values  of some blood biochemical parameters namely the  glucose, total protein, aspartate aminotransferase (AST),  alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and urea; could form a  diagnostic tool to confirm various disease conditions and  unravel the abnormal function of vital body organs such  as liver disorder, kidney disease, diarrhoea and  dehydration (Akporhuarho, 2011).

Therefore,  information on the blood profiles of various breeds of  turkeys could form useful diagnostic tools which would  further enhance the development of improved tropical  turkey breeds. Although several authors have reported  values for the various haematological and serum  biochemical parameters of turkey (Patra et al. 2008; Ibrahim et al. 2012), however, there is a need for  adequate information on the variability of these values in  the different plumage colours as we have in the tropical  region such as Nigeria. 


The current study established genetic variability in  haematological and biochemical parameters of Nigerian  locally adapted and exotic turkeys. The Nigerian locally  adapted turkeys also displayed variations along the three  plumage colours. Generally, through haematological and  biochemical analysis, it can be deduced from the current  study that, the local turkey has a better chance to adapt  and survive while the exotic turkey as well is locally  adapted to the harsh and disease-prevalent environment  of the tropical climate in the study area. 

Significance statement 

The study discovered that the turkey genotype had a  significant effect on all the haematological parameters  except Packed Cell Volume (PCV), Hemoglobin (Hb),  Mean cell Haemoglobin concentration (MCHC), Platelet  (PLAT) and Neutrophil (NEU). 

Also, the serum biochemical and lipid parameters  examined were significantly affected by genotype, except  for the level of alkaline phosphatase (ALP). 

Most of the information available on turkey haematology  and serum biochemistry was not considered a variation  of the values based on plumage colour. Therefore, the  variability in haematological and serum biochemical  parameters observed among different plumage colours  of Nigerian locally adapted turkeys and exotic turkeys  would form the basis for screening of Nigerian locally  adapted turkeys into different immune-competent  groups based on the values of their haematological and biochemical parameters and thus help in the  development of tropical broiler-type turkey. 


Ethical clearance was given by the Federal University of  Agriculture Abeokuta Ogun State (FUNAAB), Nigeria  ethical review board in accordance with international  standards on the care and use of experimental animals. 

Conflict of interest 

The authors declared no conflict of interest. 


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