When a farmer enters the barn, he or she hears first, then sees, then smells the environment. Nanotechnology sensors can detect all of these parameters, providing novel solutions to practical issues in poultry health.Suresh Neethirajan is an assistant Professor and the director of the BioNano laboratory at the University of Guelph. He calls this agricultural revolution towards using nanotechnology ‘precision livestock farming’, a progressive movement over the past decade where technological advances are being used to save time - the time to test results or make management decisions. The ultimate goal of precision livestock farming is to transmit real time data related to health parameters using a combination of mobile phones and Internet to enable the end user to monitor and track flock health to enhance the productivity and welfare of the birds. The data is then used to proactively predict and prevent disease. This strategy is made possible by using nanotechology, which, in turn, uses tiny biomarkers to detect subclinical signs of disease at the molecular level in a non-invasive manner. Neethirajan uses the example that preventing the spread of Avian Influenza (AI) might be the best way to keep the disease under control. Using nanotechnology, he is developing a hand-held AI virus detection tool that will be able to differentiate and classify different strains of the AI virus - information that is crucial to optimize management strategies to treat and help prevent the spread of the disease. The tool will be able to replace the current laboratory RT-PCR analysis that can take from six hours to three days. Two types of nanotechnology are being investigated for this AI detection tool. The first type uses an optical sensor device, where light is reflected off specific nanomaterials, which bind in specific ways to proteins on the surface of the virus, fluorescing differently to allow identification of the strain of the pathogen. This information can be gathered in real time and records can be transferred through an android app to the entire value chain or veterinarians as required. Another option is an electrochemical type of sensor, similar to a handheld glucose meter. Just a droplet of blood can be read immediately using nanomaterials that focus on the virus pathogen rather than the chemical biomarker. Both optical and electrochemical options are being investigated, mainly to ease the interfacing with the smart phone and Internet for real-time transmission of data. Each of these modules has unique advantages, while optical seems to be easier to adapt, mainly because of the presence of cameras in the phones. At this stage the research focus is on multiplexing - refining the biosensor to identify multiple strains of the AI virus from a single drop of blood. Following a similar predictive and preventative approach, Neethirajan is also developing an Internet of Things (IoT)-based poultry monitoring telemetry system that will monitor bird health in a non-invasive manner, looking for subtle signs of disease that can be addressed proactively. With this telemetry system, a loonie-sized sensor placed on the bird will detect movement, monitor skin temperature and other biomarkers such as relative humidity, temperature, carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia levels, in real time fashion that could then become predictors of disease. This technology would not be feasible to monitor thousands of birds individually, but the data from sample birds in a flock can be applied to mathematical models to generate holistic predictions of flock health. Nanotechnology can also supply micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) - based sensor probes that can monitor blood flow in a non-invasive manner. Even sound can become a predictor of disease because the sound of a healthy chicken differs from a bird under any kind of stress. Integrating this vocalization with movement gives a more holistic picture of the health of the bird.More work is needed regarding practical application before this technology can be valid for on-farm use. For example, wearable sensors need to be lightweight and made of biological materials where possible so that the birds don’t peck at the ‘foreign’ object. Where sound is measured, random barn noise needs to be excluded from detection. Wireless technology doesn’t work in all barns in all locations, and adaptations will need to be made to accommodate differences between caged and cage-free systems. Meanwhile thresholds of disease are being better established through mathematical prediction models and apps for reporting data are being refined.
Egg shell quality is extremely important to table egg producers. Egg shell quality has a direct impact on profitability because any broken, cracked, or misshapen eggs will result in a loss to the producer. Some of the factors that influence egg shell quality include: nutrition, feed management, stress, the age of the hens, and mechanical equipment. Understanding these factors that affect shell quality will have a positive impact on your bottom line.NutritionNutrition plays a significant role in minimizing cracks within the flock. A properly balanced feed will give the laying hen the nutrients she requires to produce an egg a day, along with the shell needed to protect that egg. The three main nutrients that nutritionists typically take into consideration when shell quality problems arise are calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3. These three nutrients each play a crucial role in shell formation. The calcium status of a laying hen is very important because the hen must consume enough calcium to lay down an egg shell each day, as well as supporting her health and wellbeing. In addition to this, she must replenish the calcium stores within the body so calcium is available for use the next day. The calcium required to create the shell is obtained from two different forms, the medullary bone reserves and directly from the feed she consumes. Medullary bone reserves of calcium are located within the long bones of the body and the hen is able to mobilize these reserves to supply part of the calcium required to produce the egg shell every day. The remaining calcium required for the egg shell is obtained from dietary calcium comes from the digestive tract and is directly absorbed into the bloodstream. A deficiency in calcium will cause an immediate decrease in shell quality and if prolonged, the medullary bone reserves can become depleted. A hen in this state will begin to suffer a deterioration in egg shell quality, mobility problems, and soft bones. Phosphorus is also important as it plays a key role in the storage of calcium in the medullary bone reserves. Calcium is stored in these reserves as calcium phosphate, and for that reason phosphorus must be available in order for these reserves to be replenished. Finally, vitamin D3 plays an important role in egg shell quality because it promotes calcium absorption from the digestive tract into the blood stream of the bird. Once absorbed, the calcium is available to become part of medullary bone reserves to be laid down as part of the shell or for maintenance calcium requirements used to maintain the existing skeletal frame of the hen. Additional calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3. can be added to the diet when egg shell quality issues arise on farm, however this should be done in close consultation with your nutritionist as any imbalances in these nutrients can cause further deterioration to egg shell quality. While additional nutrients may help solve the problem, nutrition cannot be looked at in isolation as many factors contribute to these situations. For example, if the hen is not consuming enough feed, changes need to be made in the barn to encourage this consumption. Because shell quality issues are typically complex and have many contributing factors, nutritionists will focus on balancing the nutrition, while also considering environmental issues that may be contributing to the problem. It takes approximately twenty-one hours for the shell to be laid on the egg and a significant portion of this high calcium demand takes place when the lights are off. Consequently, feed management plays a key role in maintaining shell quality. It is important to make sure that the feeders are being run close to when the lights go off in the barn to ensure the hen is able to consume adequate calcium to support egg shell formation through the dark period. In addition to the importance of feed timing, the form of calcium being provided in that feed can impact the ability of the hen to create a high quality egg shell. Providing large particle calcium as a portion of the calcium in the feed will give the hen a source of calcium that is retained for a longer period of time. This is because large particle calcium is less soluble than fine particle and will remain in the gizzard longer, making it available during the dark period when the bird is not consuming feed. Research has proven that the hen also has a specific appetite for calcium and her appetite changes throughout the day. By providing a portion of calcium as large particle calcium, the hen is able to selectively regulate her calcium intake throughout the day as her appetite for calcium changes. In the late afternoon, when the demand for calcium is highest in the hen, having large particle calcium available allows her to choose to increase calcium consumption to meet her needs. StressStress is known to cause disruption to the egg formation process which can lead to misshapen eggs, wrinkled and thin shells, as well as discoloured shells in brown egg strains. Stresses in the barn can come in many forms, including disease, heat stress, excessive and sudden noises, mismanagement or failure of lighting programs, poor barn environment, and aggression from other birds. These types of stresses can cause a disruption to the egg formation process because they will cause the hen to either hold on to her egg or lay the egg too soon. Because stress influences the timing of the egg being laid, there can be an ongoing effect in the following days as the sequence of eggs has been disrupted and it takes time to get this corrected within the hen’s body. Taking the time to observe what is happening in your barn will help you in the long run. This includes ensuring the inlets and fans are providing adequate air flow, double checking that the lights are going on and off at the times they are set for, and observing bird behavior to look for signs of disease or aggression. Solving these problems as soon as possible by changing fan settings, adjusting lighting schedules, dimming lights to control aggression, and contacting a vet if a disease is suspected will minimize stressors in your barn and have a positive impact on egg shell quality.Bird ageThe incidence of cracks is also affected by the age of the bird. When the hens are young and first coming into production, there can be some thin or shell-less eggs. This could be caused by the immaturity of the reproductive tract. Typically this only happens to one or two eggs before the reproductive tract begins to function correctly. The incidence of thin shells can increase as birds get older because the eggs become larger. As eggs get larger, the amount of shell material being contributed to each egg remains virtually the same. Consequently, the shell has more surface area to cover, which may lead to thinner shells that are more prone to cracks. Using management and nutrition tools to manage the egg size within the flock will help minimize the increase in cracks as the flock ages. This includes working with nutritionists to review the diets to ensure that the nutrients are being fed at the appropriate levels for the age of hen, stage of production, and egg size. This will help prolong eggs in the large category, rather than encouraging an increase in egg size.EquipmentEgg collecting equipment such as egg belts, transfer points, escalators, packers, and egg saver wires can also contribute to cracks in the barn. Any aspect of these systems that contributes to the rough handling of eggs as they move through the system can increase the incidence of cracks. Being diligent in inspecting and reviewing the equipment, as well as the frequency of egg collection, on a regular basis will help to minimize cracks being caused by mechanical damage. A regular routine can be established by ensuring maintenance logs are kept with details of problems found and how they were fixed, as well as posting a regular maintenance schedule that all employees have access to. While it is impossible to completely eliminate all egg shell quality issues within a laying hen flock, a reduction in the numbers of eggs lost over time is possible. Working closely with your nutritionist to use nutritional strategies is one option to maintaining optimum shell quality. Managing the many factors within your barn that can contribute to decreased shell quality, such as feed management, stress, and egg collection equipment, will also have a positive influence on shell quality. Combining good management practices with respect to barn environment, and management as well as building a strong relationship with a nutritionist will optimize your chances of decreasing the number of damaged eggs being produced, which means a healthier flock and more money in your pocket.
Canada and the U.S. are set to severely restrict and even eliminate the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in poultry and livestock production by the end of 2017, says Elanco Animal Health regulatory affairs director Randy Bogg.Both Health Canada’s Veterinary Drugs Directorate (VDD) and the U.S. Center for Veterinary Medicine are proposing to disallow the use of antibiotics to improve performance and require veterinary oversight will be required for therapeutic use, he told the B.C. Poultry Symposium in Abbotsford, May 26th.“All labels are to be changed by the end of 2016,” Bogg says, noting it will impact over 160 products with growth promotant claims.The Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) is committed to working with the VDD to develop new labels which define the terms and duration of use. Even though drugs are nationally regulated, usage may still vary among provinces as veterinarians are provincially regulated. The end of antibiotic use in hatcheries is taking its toll on hatchability and chick quality. To offset that, both hatcheries and hatching egg producers need to pay greater attention to detail, says Cobb-Vantress hatchery specialist Ben Green. It starts with the eggs.“If (producers) send us junk, how can we make good chicks?” he asks.Producers should stop sending or at least isolate dirty and floor eggs so hatcheries can handle them separately since “they’re not going to do as well.” Green says using a low-volatility electrostatic sprayer to spray eggs with chlorine dioxide increased hatchability 4.39 per cent. Cobb is also trying to identify hairline cracks in eggs. While they get an 89.6 per cent hatch from good eggs, cracked eggs only have a 66.4 per cent hatch and chicks are generally weaker.“Chicks from good eggs have a one per cent mortality rate in the first seven days while those from cracked eggs have a five per cent rate.”He also stresses the need for eggs to be right side up when they go into the incubator, claiming 75 per cent of chicks die if they start upside down. Once hatched, chicks have to be fed right. DSM Nutritional Products technical support manager April Levy says growers should no longer rely on the 1994 National Research Council recommendations as they are based on 1970s and early 80s genetics.“Today’s broilers are twice as efficient and turkeys three times as efficient,” she points out.DSM updated its guidelines this year and put out an app to help growers optimize the usage of vitamins D and E. Vitamin D helps prevent rickets and TD (tibial dyschondroplasia) and reduces egg shell problems while Vitamin E helps the immune response under heat stress and also improves infectious bronchitis titers. She also advocates biotin and added zinc to reduce footpad lesions in turkeys but admits it won’t help if litter is too damp.LITTERJones-Hamilton business development manager Blake Gibson calls litter a critical component, saying it should be below 4.3 pH.“Most litter is 6.5 to 7.5 pH,” he states, saying the higher the pH the more quickly bacteria will replicate.He notes all litter has benefits and drawbacks. Wood shavings increase pathogen loads while straw and grass are less absorptive. Sand is good but too much ends up in the crop. While Gibson recommends a moisture content of 10-20 per cent, CEVA Sante Animale poultry range manager Kobus Van Heerden wants to see it at 25-35 per cent if growers are vaccinating birds against coccidiosis. To be effective, the vaccine needs to be applied at the hatchery, then sporulated on-farm and reingested 2-4 more times.“Each time it cycles, the immunity gets better and better,” Van Heerden says, saying the damper litter (and a temperature of 26 to 36°C) is necessary to facilitate sporulation.While many growers start their birds at one end of the barn, then open up the rest of the barn when the birds have grown, Van Heerden encourages them to start the birds in a narrow lane along the full length of the barn, then widen the lane as birds age. That way, vaccine is spread through the whole barn, resulting in more uniform recycling. The experts not only disagree on the right moisture content for litter, but the right amount. Gibson wants litter to be at least 10-15 cm deep (higher in barns with concrete floors and on second floors and lower in barns with a soil base), saying birds use it to regulate their temperature. However, Martin Roshoj Jensen of Skov A/S suggests starting with only 1-5 cm of litter on a concrete floor, saying a shallow litter allows excess moisture to evaporate.“We tried it by accident and it worked,” he says, adding a shallow litter also got rid of darkling beetles “because birds can dig them out and eat them.”Jensen suggests peat moss as a litter, saying many Northern European poultry farms now use it. Before the litter is spread, the floor should be heated to 30-32°C. Birds should be started at a room temperature of 34°C until they reach 175 grams. He believes temperature is absolutely critical, saying birds eat less when they are too hot. Despite that, he told growers not to skimp on heat, saying it is easier to cool birds when they are too hot than to warm them up when they are too cold.RWA ProductionPhibro Animal Health nutritionist Mike Blair suggests growers consider using Nicarb as a feed additive instead of vaccinating, calling it “most efficient” at controlling coccidiosis. Nicarb should be added to starter feed at 125 ppm and to grower feed at 100 ppm and used until birds are 28-29 days of age.Blair claims some American ABF and organic farms use Nicarb year-round but one B.C. producer says he is not allowed to use it in his RWA (raised without antibiotics) chicken.While some antibiotics may still be used therapeutically, many products have been completely withdrawn. As a result, says retired B.C. Ministry of Agriculture poultry veterinarian Dr. Bill Cox, there is no longer any drug to treat blackhead in turkeys.To avoid blackhead, growers need to keep the birds as healthy as possible. Barns should be completely cleaned and disinfected between flocks to eliminate histamonids and sealed to prevent entry of earthworms, a primary vector for parasites. Just having a concrete floor is not a solution, the floor needs to be higher than the ground around it.Cox also discourages running turkey on pasture particularly if chicken have previously used it.“Birds on pasture are the greatest risk,” Cox says.To achieve good C&D, growers should do more than just blow down or air out their barns, says Merial Canada technical services veterinarian Louis Colulombe. He notes a dirty barn has up to 3,000,000 CFU (colony-forming units) of bacteria/square inch. Even after airing out the barn, 2,000,000 CFU’s remain. He advocates washing the barn with detergent and following that with a disinfectant to reduce the bacteria load to less than 1,000 CFU’s/sq. in. He encourages the use of a foaming detergent, as it sticks to walls longer and clearly shows the extent of the coverage. Concerns over the use of antimicrobials in food animals is driven by fears this will lead to resistance in humans but it is not just humans which could suffer the consequences of unbridled antibiotic use.“Using antibiotics is a selection process for E.coli,” says Zoetis veterinary services manager Babak Sanei. While E.coli can’t be eliminated in poultry, only a few are pathogenic. The most common result is cellulitis, now the number one reason for condemns in Canada.Another issue of concern is salmonella enteritidis (SE).“SE doesn’t make birds sick but it will make people sick,” says B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) public health veterinarian Melissa McLaws, claiming B.C. has the highest incidence of SE in the country. The BCCDC is working with the B.C. Ministries of Agriculture and Health and the poultry industry to develop a strategy to remove poor quality eggs from the marketplace. It is also adding SE-training to its FoodSafe program for food preparers and handlers.
What to do with the males of a species when the females are all that are needed is an issue various agricultural sectors grapple with.In poultry, the question of what happens to male chicks when only females lay eggs continues to beg a satisfactory answer. Although cull is the current widespread solution, research is underway into alternatives, such as work by Dr. Michael Ngadi at McGill University (see page 24 this issue) Egg sexing research is also underway in Germany, supported by a national animal welfare initiative that aims to ultimately phase out culling of male chicks altogether. In the German state of Lower Saxony, a trailblazer in animal welfare regulation in that country, the practice is slated to be banned by the end of 2017. Some farmers in Germany have built an alternative market for their male chicks, under the banner of the “Bruderhahn Initiative” – which literally translates into English as “the brother rooster initiative”.The concept, explained Christine Bremer of Bauck-Hof Klein Suestedt, located in the Lunenburg Heath about 100 kilometres south of the city of Hamburg, involves raising the male chicks 18 to 22 weeks of age and selling them for meat the way broilers are. Because their genetics are focused on egg and not meat production, raising the males for consumption is an expensive venture. “The males are very active and we need 5.5 kilograms of feed for one kilogram of gain, which is not a good conversion,” Bremer told international agricultural journalists touring her farm this past summer, adding this means her farm needs a subsidy of 7.50 to 10 Euros per “brother” to make the economics work.Unlike most farms, though, Bauck-Hof Klein Suestedt was able to get that money from the market place – but through egg sales instead of a premium on the meat, which is dark and has a taste similar to pheasant. Every egg sold from Bremer’s hens sells for four cents more than other eggs, and those funds, collected through the “Bruderhahn Initiative”, go back to the participating farmers to pay for the costs of raising and marketing the males for meat. “If a hen lays 250 eggs and we get four cents more per egg, we can pay for the “brother”,” she said. “Our trader who buys our eggs communicated this to the organic shops where our eggs are sold. In 2013, all eggs were increased by four cents and a label was added to explain why – and we had no loss of customers.” Unsure of whether consumers would be interested in the darker, more flavourful meat, Bremer’s first customer was actually a baby food processor. “We weren’t sure people would buy this meat but gradually people start asking for it,” she said, adding that due to her farm’s rural location and resulting unreliable internet infrastructure, their marketing is done at point of sale as opposed to through social media. “As farmers, we need the help of traders and retailers to sell our products, and if our trader had said no, we couldn’t have done this,” Bremer said. “What customers are paying for is to not kill the bird at birth and that this animal is worth keeping alive longer.” The male layer for meat program is part of Bauck-Hof Klein Suestedt’s overall approach to agriculture. The operation is the second oldest organic farm in Germany, having farmed in this manner since 1932. More specifically, it’s one of Germany’s 2,000 certified Demeter farms. Demeter is the brand for products stemming from biodynamic agriculture and is well recognized by German consumers, which Bremer says has been helpful in supporting the marketing efforts around meat from the male layers. Bremer installed her first mobile poultry housing 13 years ago, and now has six mobile layer barns and four mobile broiler barns on her farm that are regularly moved to new locations on the fields and permit birds to roam and express natural behaviours. “We use genetics that grow slower and the birds can choose whether they want to be inside or out,” she says, adding that farmers who build mobile poultry housing can have 40 per cent of their costs covered by the European Union.Under the leadership of state Minister of Agriculture Christian Meyer, Lower Saxony has doubled state support for organic production from 137 Euros per hectare in 2013 to 273 Euros by the end of 2016. Subsidies for converting conventional farms into organic production have also increased, from 262 Euros to 403 Euros per hectare during that same time. Meyer, who represents the Green Party, is a proponent of organic agriculture and has also introduced some of the strictest animal welfare regulations in the country since he took office in 2013, including banning beak trimming of laying hens by the end of 2016, and phasing out caged egg production completely by 2025. “The supermarkets dictate and they are very strong. For example, although Lower Saxony is ending beak trimming, we can’t stop imports unless the retailers are supportive,” Meyer said, adding that retailers are supporting cage-free egg production by not selling eggs from hens in cages in countries like Poland and the Ukraine. The state has also committed to reducing antibiotic use in agriculture by 50 per cent in five years, resulting in farmers having to notify the government each time they purchase antibiotics for livestock use. Lower Saxony is one of Germany’s livestock powerhouses, home to 18 million laying hens that produce about half of the country’s eggs.
The objective in vaccinating chickens against Campylobacter is to reduce intestinal colonization and contamination of chicken meat products. Existing experimental vaccines are not able to induce a sufficiently strong immune response, and provide no or little of protection against Campylobacter colonization. There is no commercially available vaccine against Campylobacter for chickens despite many attempts to develop one. A collaborative project between the laboratories of Prof. Shayan Sharif and Prof. Mario Monterio from the University of Guelph was initiated to try to develop an effective vaccine against Campylobacter in chickens. A prototype vaccine consisting of capsular carbohydrates of C. jejuni conjugated with a carrier (CPSconj) developed by Prof. Monterio, formed the basis of the vaccine development in the current study. Prof. Mopnterios’ CPSconj carrier has previously shown efficacy in a primate model. The efficacy of vaccination for reducing C. jejuni colonization of chicken intestinal tissues was assessed. Three administered doses of the prepared CPSconj vaccine resulted in a detectable antibody response in 75 per cent of specific pathogen free birds. Whereas vaccination of commercial broiler chicks resulted in a detectable antibody response in 33 per cent of orally challenged birds. Overall, the in vivo findings show CPSconj vaccinated birds had significantly lower numbers of C. jejuni in intestinal tissue when compared to non-vaccinated birds. The study went on to identify an immune response enhancer which is termed an “adjuvant”, with the specific capacity to induce immune responses in cells of the chicken intestine for inclusion in the prototype vaccine or as a stand-alone prophylactic compound. In vitro studies demonstrated that adjuvant CpG-ODN elicited the highest activation of cell signaling molecules prevalent in immune responses and was therefore selected as the optimum mucosal vaccine adjuvant. To target the selected adjuvant to the intestine of chickens and ensure slow release of the adjuvant at the site of infection, a delivery system based on encapsulating the adjuvant into specific nanoparticles was employed. Results demonstrated that CpG-ODN administration reduced bacterial burden in the intestine and encapsulation of the CpG-ODN resulted in a greater decrease of bacterial burden in the chicken intestine. Overall, Dr. Sharif and his research team have demonstrated that it is possible to employ a subunit vaccine for reducing Campylobacter jejuni in chickens. Additionally, the research team has provided evidence for CpG-ODN as a stand-alone anti-bacterial prophylactic strategy. Dr. Sharif and his research team will continue to explore better ways for control of Campylobacter jejuni through the use of vaccines, immune stimulants and probiotics.
Did you know that only 30 per cent of Canadians believe that the Canadian food system is heading in the right direction? And that 93 per cent of Canadians know little or nothing about Canadian farming practices? These findings, from recent research done by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, are alarming and should be of concern to everyone involved in the food system in Canada – from farmers, to processors, to retailers.What can we do about it and how can we get our message out? The good news is that while many Canadians know little about farming, over 60 per cent indicated that they would like to know more. As farmers and the food industry, we have a huge opportunity to engage with Canadians and build trust in our food system.The task of getting our message out is extremely difficult. No one industry or organization can do the work that needs to be done; it has to be a collaborative effort. There are many excellent Canadian initiatives underway — each with a slightly different focus and mandate but each providing important tools to promote Canadian food, farmers, and agriculture. Farm & Food Care, Agriculture More than Ever, and Agriculture in the Classroom, along with countless commodity specific programs all at various stages of their growth, are doing tremendous work in being agricultural advocates. Two months ago I was honoured to become chair of Farm & Food Care Canada. For those who haven’t heard of this organization, it’s a framework of farmers, food companies, input suppliers, and associations created in 2011 with a mandate to provide credible information about food and farming in this country. Farm & Food Care Canada is also home to the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI). The CCFI will be another source of credible information on food and farming related issues — information and research that has been compiled by trusted professionals within the Canadian and U.S. food industries.One of the key elements related to the structure of Farm & Food Care Canada is the collaborative approach that it brings to the table. The ability to collaborate and work together with the groups mentioned above — and others — is unique and gives us a great opportunity to connect with consumers.As we move forward, it is critical that all of us involved in the Canadian food industry (yes, that includes farmers) must put our personal agendas and biases aside and work together to get the good news story out about Canada’s food system. If we don’t tell our story, who is going to talk to the 60 per cent of Canadians that want to know more about farming?Over the last few years, we have seen some common farm practices — practices that we as farmers think are normal — come into the spotlight. As a result, some poultry and hog farmers are facing the fact that they’ll have to adopt new, costly housing methods for their livestock and some crop farmers will have to adopt alternative methods to protect the seeds they plant.I can’t help but think that if there was a framework such as Farm & Food Care Canada 25 years ago, and if the average Canadian consumer had better access to accurate information, then maybe some of the challenges we face today could have been overcome. The work ahead is huge and we will not have success overnight. However, the ground work that we lay together as a united agriculture and food industry today will help to ensure that the Canadian food system is trusted, healthy, sustainable, and robust for years to come.Ian McKillop is the Chair of Food & Farm Care Canada, a coalition of farmers, associations and businesses proactively working together with a commitment to provide credible information and strengthen sustainable food and farming for the future. McKillop is a fifth-generation egg, beef and grain farmer in Elgin County, Ontario and has a proven track record for leadership. He has been a board member of Farm & Food Care Ontario since its inception in 2010, while balancing his time on his busy farm with his young family. McKillop served as a board member for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association for five years, and chaired the National Farm Animal Care Council’s Beef Cattle Codes of Practice committee. He also served as president of the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association between 2005 and 2008.
September 1, 2016 - The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI) in a wild mallard duck from a state wildlife refuge near Fairbanks, Alaska. READ MORE
July 10, 2016 - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has set up a quarantine zone after low-path H5N2 avian influenza was detected in southern Ontario. The CFIA says a quarantine zone covering a three-kilometre radius has been placed near St. Catharines. The agency says bird flu hasn't been detected anywhere else in the quarantine zone, but officials say they're monitoring for any spread of the disease. Currently 23 premises are quarantined, however only one commercial/regulated broiler chicken farm is in within the quarantine zone besides the AI positive duck flock. The other quarantined premises are small and/or unregulated flocks. Trace out to three other high risk contact flocks (from the positive farm) has been completed and those flocks have tested negative. The Feather Board Command Centre have asked Ontario poultry industry stakeholders to use heightened biosecurity measures if it is necessary to enter into this area. Heightened biosecurity measures include (but are not limited to): • wearing boots, protection suits, hats and gloves/hand washing; • ensuring that all deliveries/loading should be the last on the route; and • washing and disinfecting the truck’s undercarriage and steps before proceeding with any other delivery/loading. Should you become aware of health concerns in a flock(s), please advise the farmer to contact a veterinarian, as well as their Board or call 1-877-SOS-BYRD.
Decades ago when the scientific community had concerns about bacterial resistance to antibiotics, the agricultural industry started to produce antibiotic-free (ABF)flocks. Generally speaking, all chicken is antibiotic-free, because there are no antibiotic residues in the meat due to the withdrawal periods in broiler production. So in the U.S., “antibiotic-free” is not allowed to be used on a label but may be found in marketing materials not regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In recent years, the term “raised without antibiotics” (RWA) is widely used for the flocks that are raised without the use of products classified as antibiotics for animal health maintenance, disease prevention or treatment of disease. However, it can mean different things depending on the country in which you are producing chickens. Table 1 below shows the different meaning of an RWA flock in Canada, U.S. and Europe. In Canada, absolutely no antibiotics, ionophores, or chemical coccidiostats are allowed in RWA production, whereas in the U.S., chemical coccidiostats are allowed for RWA flocks. This poses even more challenges for Canadian RWA producers. There are many factors that can affect broiler flock performance ranging from nutrition and health status of breeder flocks, hatchery operations, chick quality, nutrition and water quality to flock management. To successfully grow RWA flocks, one should not only provide good management and environmental conditions as for regular broiler flocks, but should create superior conditions such as reducing stocking density, increasing downtime between crops, acidifying litter, and providing high quality water. Nutritionally, well balanced rations formulated with high quality ingredients are crucial for RWA flocks. Chick qualityA great flock starts with good quality chicks, and chick quality is even more important for broiler RWA production due to the lack of antibiotic protection. The feeding and management of broiler breeders can play an important part in the offspring’s health and performance. The breeder farms should follow strict biosecurity protocols, and breeders should receive a well-balanced and nutritionally adequate diet. Eggs should be handled in a professional manner and stored in ideal conditions. Hatcheries should follow a strict biosecurity program, with regimented cleaning and disinfection procedures. Chick boxes and hatcher trays have to be washed with correct temperatures. Good maintenance of hatching temperature and ventilation equipment is critical, as it has been shown that stress from late stage over-heating may result in leg problems and performance issues. Transport can be stressful for chicks. The temperature should be tightly regulated in the compartments with proper ventilation. To ensure uniform chick quality, there should be no over-heating in some areas while dead spots exist in others. Coccidiosis vaccinationUnlike RWA producers in the U.S., Canadian RWA producers cannot use chemicals to control coccidiosis, so the only option is vaccination. Coccidiosis control is key for successful RWA production, because it impacts intestinal integrity, gut health and is correlated to the risk of necrotic enteritis. Uniform vaccine application and uptake are essential for successful protection from a coccidiosis vaccine. The stocking density for the first seven days should be controlled at a half square foot per chick (or 465 cm2/bird), and litter moisture kept higher than normal at 30 to 35 per cent. The higher density and litter moisture will encourage oocyst sporulation and the opportunity to re-infect each other from their droppings. Thus, the immunity to coccidiosis will be developed earlier, and the flock will be better protected from coccidiosis. Flock managementStocking density after 10 days of age is also one of the most important factors that affect RWA flock performance. A minimum density of one square foot per bird is ideal. When the density is reduced, birds have more water line and feeder space, less competition for feed and water, better litter conditions and fewer pathogen challenges. For RWA broiler production, the litter quality is crucial. The wetter the litter, the more likely it will promote the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria and moulds. Wet litter is also the primary cause of ammonia emissions, one of the most serious performance and environmental factors affecting broiler production today. Controlling litter moisture is the most important step in avoiding ammonia problems. There are many factors that can affect litter conditions, such as leaking water lines, various diseases, improper rations, and ventilation. Ventilation removes combustion waste by brooders, ammonia, and moisture produced by birds while continually replenishing oxygen. Broiler genetics keep improving, and broilers grow faster every year, so their demand for oxygen is increasing all the time while their output of moisture is also increasing. Thus, producers should not use the ventilation rate of 10 years ago to grow today’s birds. Adequate and effective ventilation is critical for litter management and coccidiosis control, especially for RWA production. Producers should check and manage watering systems to prevent leaks that would increase litter moisture. Furthermore, producers should adjust drinker height and water pressure as birds grow to avoid excessive water wastage into the litter. Chick growth rate should be moderately controlled to avoid fast weight gain. This is particularly important in a flock that is 10 to 30 days of age, when there is more challenge from coccidiosis, thus a higher risk of necrotic enteritis. Producers should modify the lighting program, by slightly increasing dark hours to nine or even 10 hours, in order to improve the health condition and immunity of the birds. This modification is even more necessary for RWA flocks than for regular flocks. Nutrition for RWA flocksSound nutrition starts with a good selection of high-quality ingredients. Composition of feed ingredients should be consistent, and all grains should be free from toxin contamination. This is critical for the first four weeks of age. Nutritionally, all ingredients should be highly digestible, since the nondigested portions might enhance unwanted microbial growth and increase the chance for necrotic enteritis. The maximum inclusion rate for some ingredients such as wheat and corn distiller grains must be closely monitored, if not eliminated. There is evidence that suggests a strong relationship between higher inclusions of these ingredients with necrotic enteritis. Some reports suggest that animal protein may increase the risk for necrotic enteritis. It is generally accepted that lower crude protein levels should be fed to RWA flocks, because higher protein may increase the chance for necrotic enteritis. Mineral balance is vital for RWA rations. Mineral levels that are either too high or too low will not only affect broiler body weight gain and feed conversion ratio (FCR), but also impact litter quality, gut health, and hence flock performance. With reduced growth and high-quality ingredients, the RWA feeds can cost more than the regular feeds. Together with a higher FCR for RWA flocks, it will result in a higher feed cost per kilogram of body weight gain. Alternative feed additivesOver the last few decades, there has been a lot of research to explore alternatives for antibiotics in broiler production. Generally, these alternatives are categorized into feed enzymes, phytogenic additives, probiotics, prebiotics and symbiotics (a probiotic and prebiotic combination). Feed enzymes which help improve the digestion and nutrient utilization, and in some cases improve gut health, are widely used by nutritionists in both regular feeds and RWA feeds. Phytogenic additives (herbs, spices, essential oils or extracts) that originate from plants have been used in human food and medicine for thousands of years. Among these phytogenic products, essential oils have received considerable attention. Their active ingredients such as carvacrol, thymol, eugenol, alicin and cinnamaldehyde have been evaluated extensively as alternatives for antibiotics to improve animal health and performance. Some phytogenic products have direct antimicrobial effects, and other products show their effects on immune-regulation. Probiotics are also called direct fed microbial (DFM) in the U.S. The mode of action is to compete for available receptor sites and nutrients with pathogens, and produce or secrete metabolites (such as short chain fatty acids and bacterocin), thus changing the gut microflora and bird performance. Prebiotics are feed components that are not digested by host animals but selectively promote beneficial bacterial growth, hence improving animal performance. In this category, some commonly used products are mannan-oliglosaccharides (MOS) and fructo- oliglosaccharides (FOS). There has been considerable research done to investigate the effects of these alternative products on animal performance and health. Yet, the responses are quite variable due to the purity and concentration of these products, how they interact with flock management and health conditions, as well as the nutritional status of the birds. SummaryTo date, there is no silver bullet as an alternative to antibiotics. In conclusion, a decent RWA flock relies on the following factors: Good quality chicks that come from a healthy breeder flock and well managed hatchery; A successful coccidiosis vaccination program with higher stocking density and higher litter moisture for the first 10 days; Sound management practices with an emphasis on improving ventilation and reducing litter moisture; An RWA ration formulated with highly digestible ingredients and optimized mineral levels; Moderately reduced growth by providing more dark hours.
June 6, 2016 - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is collaborating with public health, veterinary, and agriculture officials in many states, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), to investigate seven separate multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections. Results from these investigations showed that contact with live poultry in backyard flocks was the likely source of these outbreaks. READ MORE
The rapid escalation in cage-free sourcing announcements from fast-food and quick serve restaurants in recent months has become concerning. The words “cage-free” have become a marketing gimmick, and less a about the welfare of laying hens. Opponents of animal agriculture will look upon this tidal wave as a win for animal welfare, and continually claim that these restaurant chains are answering consumer concerns over hen housing. But, I suspect that most food businesses are, for the most part, bowing to pressure placed on them from animal activist groups. Releasing a cage-free commitment announcement has essentially become an insurance policy for a company against having its name associated with disturbing undercover videos or other forms of negative press and social media backlash. Until recently, this battle hasn’t affected individual farmers in Canada to a great extent. It’s provided an opportunity for some to expand or transition and supply what is still considered a niche market. However, when major grocery store chains follow suit, the entire egg industry is going to be affected — and so is the average consumer. Restaurant and foodservice providers can make blanket statements about sourcing one type of egg because it’s too complicated for them to offer, for example, a breakfast sandwich made with either an egg that’s cage-free, conventional, organic, enriched or free-range housing – it’s confusing and a logistical nightmare for their supply chains. Whether a consumer is actively choosing a particular restaurant because the eggs are cage-free or not is a moot point when virtually every chain offers the same egg option. For a consumer, the decision of where to eat becomes a matter of convenience, price, and taste. However, the grocery store is still where a consumer can make a conscious decision on what type of egg to buy. But that may change. In mid-March grocery members of the Retail Council of Canada(RCC), including Loblaw Companies Limited, Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc., and Wal-Mart Canada Corp., announced they are “voluntarily committing to the objective of purchasing cage-free eggs by the end of 2025” (see page 6). No longer is the cage-free issue a way for a company to differentiate itself within a competitive marketplace, it’s now on a path to become the majority. There’s no doubt that cage-free housing offers improved animal welfare compared to conventional housing, however a multi-year intensive study by the Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) determined that when all factors of sustainability were examined, including important parameters such as food affordability and environmental impact, cage-free systems did not reign supreme. The CSES study determined that enriched colony housing offered the best for the hen, farmer and consumer – yet it’s a system that is rarely mentioned by restaurants and retailers. The Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) hope to change this. It’s not about pitting one system against another – it’s about providing the consumer and retailers with choices, and keeping eggs an affordable source of high-quality protein. There’s still time to turn the tide – but it’s going to be a battle the Canadian egg industry will be fighting for the next several years at least.
Nov. 30, 2016 - A local company has developed an electronic logbook system that can help the livestock industry quickly and easily track movement on and off farms – information that is absolutely critical for preventing or minimizing costly disease outbreaks. Currently, a paper-based visitor register is the global standard for keeping track of who entered or left a farm property at what time and where they’d been previously. A manual system is slow and leaves room for error, however, neither of which is helpful during a disease emergency, especially in the early days when spread can still be prevented or contained.“It’s not just livestock that are affected by catastrophic disease outbreaks, it’s just as important for crop and horticulture growers to keep unclean vehicles moving from farm to farm,” says Tim Nelson, CEO of Be Seen Be Safe Ltd. “Uncontrolled disease populations increase exponentially and that’s why control is so important.” Be Seen Be Safe uses predetermined geo-fence boundaries around a farm business to automatically record movements on and off the property, either through a mobile phone app or an in-vehicle GPS system used by the individual accessing or leaving the premises. Property owners can download and review their electronic visitor records using a personal login; no movements outside of the pre-determined geo-fence around the property are recorded. The information is collated and analysed to predict disease spread, and can then be used to electronically contact people within the surrounding area of a possible outbreak, a process that currently is done manually. It runs in tandem with the company’s customizable Farm Health Monitor software, which lets farm staff record clinical signs of disease on-farm before there is a formal diagnosis as part of regular or special herd visits. The software also allows for inventory management of antibiotics on-farm, by letting users record both purchase and actual use of antimicrobials. “This is a proactive decision support tool for farmers,” explains Nelson. “The Farm Health Monitor gives you the clinical signs, Be Seen Be Safe provides the movement, and when you overlay the weather on a network of properties, you can start to show risk that you can alert people to.” “Everybody is worried about catastrophic diseases, but this is also powerful for production-limiting diseases that can be carried from farm to farm,” he adds. “If livestock and poultry sectors start to see cost benefit from this because it is reducing the rate of production-limiting illness, people will get used to observing and preventing instead of diagnosing and treating disease.”First steps have been taken to build a farm sector-led biosecurity community with the hosting of a successful information day in Guelph recently. The system is being trialed in the Ontario poultry industry, as well as with large poultry integrators in the United States, and an agreement is in place with a Spanish partner to roll it out to the swine industry in the European Union. A pilot is also underway with the wine industry in Australia to track the spread of fomites, which can carry disease.Be Seen Be Safe has received support from the Bioenterprise Seed Funding program funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. The Ontario poultry industry trials are supported in part through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.
Dr. Elijah Kiarie is a newly appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Bio–sciences at the University of Guelph. Dr. Kiarie has recently secured partial funding for two research projects and will be investigating the optimal feed structure for pullets. His research will be designed to investigate optimal feed structure (by using oat hulls and limestone particle size) for enhanced gut and skeletal development in pullets and subsequent effects on egg production, hen bone health and integrity and livability.Oat hullsModern layer diets have been refined to improve intake and efficiency. The implications of these strategies are diets with low fiber and overall structure. Poultry require a certain amount of fiber for optimal development and physiology of the gastrointestinal tract. Low fiber diets have negative consequences on the development and functioning of the gut, particularly the gizzard. Addition of insoluble fiber could be a practical solution of increasing diet structure. In an interview, Dr. Kiarie explained the problem at hand. “It remains unknown whether it is beneficial to introduce fiber at the rearing phase or laying phase, or indeed both phases,” he said. “Modern pullets have a propensity to reduce intake at the onset of lay. Stimulation of gut development at the pullet phase may lead to birds with improved appetite for satisfactory laying phase performance,” he said. “This may be particularly strategic for alternative housing where the birds may have increased nutrient requirements over and above normal maintenance and still meeting the requirements for egg production.”Diets will be designed with oat hulls to create feed structure and fed to pullets throughout the grow-out period. During the laying phase, birds will be maintained on diets with or without the addition of oat hull. Gut and skeletal development will be evaluated during the grow-out phase and egg production and quality will be measured during the laying phase. Limestone particle sizeProper skeletal development is essential for high levels of egg production in all poultry housing systems. “Studies to improve skeletal health often focus on manipulating the birds’ environment and nutrition during the layer phase. Unfortunately, at this phase it might already be too late to improve bone quality,” Dr. Kiarie explained. “Earlier interventions by stimulating bone development at pullet stage could lead to a bird with sound skeletal structure for satisfactory laying phase performance in alternative housing.” “Pullets undergo fast bone formation during rearing, and nutritional strategies during this phase could have a major impact on bone quality and skeletal integrity of hens,” he added. The proposed research will evaluate the effect of limestone particle size on pullet skeletal development and subsequent effects on layer performance, bone health and integrity in hens housed in conventional and furnished cages. Dr. Kiarie said the limestone particle size will be used as a method of manipulating the calcium supply form to create feed structure. Diets differing in limestone particle sizes will be formulated and fed to pullets throughout the grow-out period. During the laying phase, bird diets will be maintained in conventional and furnished cage housing systems. Skeletal development will be evaluated during the grow-out phase. Egg production and quality and bone health and integrity will be measured during the laying phase. “The long term objective is to explore nutritional means to improve gut health and function, skeletal integrity and feed utilization in pullets and layers,” said Dr. Kiarie in describing the anticipated outcomes of these studies. “Research results will be directly transferred into practice through partnerships with feed manufacturers and allied industries that serve the Canadian egg producers.”Components of this research will be funded by the Egg Farmers of Ontario, Egg Farmers of Canada, and the Canadian Poultry Research Council.
Do turkeys respond the same way as broilers to transportation? That’s the question professional engineer Trever Crowe has been investigating at the University of Saskatchewan (UofS). “Animal welfare is the greatest impetus for our work,” Crowe told the audience at the Poultry Industry Council 2016 Research Day in Guelph, Ont., with his work focusing on the transportation of turkeys to market. The turkey industry is facing increased demands from regulatory agencies and consumers but current broiler data may not be directly applicable to turkeys.” Travelling TurkeysCrowe’s objective was to investigate the response of turkey hen and tom physiology, behaviour and meat quality to different temperatures and humidity levels during simulated transport.Crowe, the associate dean in the College of Graduate Studies and Research at the UofS and a faculty member in the department of mechanical engineering, was the principal investigator, along with his research assistant, Catherine Vermette, graduate student Zoe Henrikson, and a platoon of other casual workers helping to collect the data. Environmental simulationResearchers mimicked a typical farm-rearing environment at a barn on campus with 120 12-week old turkey hens and 120 16-week old turkey toms, growing them for a week with ad lib feed and water under 16 hours of light. After reaching market age the birds were crated and exposed to simulated transportation conditions where they were randomly assigned to one of five treatments: two warm treatments at 28 C with 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, two moderate treatments at 20 C with 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, and one cold treatment at -18 C, all at a stocking density of approximately 83 kg/m2. Crated birds were placed inside a pre-conditioned environmental chamber for eight hours under these experimental conditions before being processed at a mini slaughter plant set up at the university’s College of Engineering. Experimental measures included live shrink; core body temperature; behavioural observations during exposure such as sitting, standing, huddling, shivering, panting, pecking, ptiloerection and preening; blood glucose levels before and after exposure; heterophil/lymphocyte ratio and the meat quality – the pH and colour of the breast and thigh. HypothesisIn terms of meat quality, Crowe hypothesized that warm exposure would result in pale, soft, exudative (PSE) meat, demonstrating a decline in pH and subsequent water holding capacity that results in tougher, paler meat. He also expected that cold exposure would result in dark, firm, dry (DFD) meat, due to an increase in muscle pH. There was the potential that meat exposed to cold would provide a larger yield, reduced drip and cook loss, with improved texture and taste scores.ResultsThe results indicate that toms tolerate the cold better than hens but hens did better in the warmer conditions. For cold transport at -18 C, hen live shrink was greater, core body temperature tended to be lower, thermo-regulatory behaviours such as huddling, shivering, ptiloerection increased, both breast and thigh pH tended to increase and became darker when compared to both treatments at 20 C. Under the same cold conditions the blood glucose of toms had a tendency to decrease, thermo-regulatory behaviours increased and thigh pH increased. Comparing warm transport conditions, the opposite was true. Crowe found overall, that hens were less susceptible to the effects of warm transport than toms. Comparing both 28 C treatments to 20 C treatments at 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, hen live shrink was greater and thermo-regulatory behaviours such as panting increased at 28 C. For toms live shrink increased, core body temperature increased, thermo-regulatory behaviours increased and breast pH increased under 28 C treatment compared to 20 C. Research conditionsCrowe suggested that the exposure conditions were not extreme enough to cause consistent and widespread physiological changes but that changes in core body temperature indicate birds were possibly beginning to reach the limit of their thermal coping abilities. Crowe pointed out that the research was conducted under ideal conditions, with all birds healthy and dry. Turkey physiology and behaviour were affected to a greater degree than meat quality measures; meat quality was not compromised and defects did not occur in cold or warm transported hens or toms.Crowe suggested that the large size of turkeys relative to broilers and size differences between hens and toms likely account for some of the variation in results and make it difficult to extrapolate work done with broilers to turkeys. As he says, turkeys are not just big chickens. Funding PartnersThis work with turkeys was one of the Growing Forward II projects sponsored by Turkey Farmers of Canada and Agriculture Canada. Crowe is now looking ahead to do similar work with end-of-cycle hens in a collaborative project with Karen Schwean-Lardner and he has also explored the possibility of similar work with broilers. There are no immediate plans to extend this work on turkeys, although there are other turkey-related projects ongoing at the UofS.
As the broiler breeder industry has evolved, there has been considerable change in equipment. A large percentage of production houses have moved from manual egg collection to mechanical systems based on a community nest or an individual, single-hole system.When mechanical nests were first introduced, many people began referring to them as ‘automatic’ nests. While the term technically applies to mechanical nests, they still require a lot of human involvement to operate efficiently.Key to achieving outstanding performance with mechanical nests is the proper training and rearing of the females. This should start in the pullet barn, by placing slat sections, or perches, to help get the birds used to going up on to the slats. The training should continue in the laying barn by routinely walking the birds to encourage them to move on to the slats and towards the nests. The females should also be in the right condition at lighting and carrying the proper amount of fleshing and fat reserve, to help them come into production with the correct nesting behavior.Most mechanical nests are placed on slat sections, which play an important role in how the nests perform. Make sure slat areas are not too tall; 20-25 cm (8-10 inches) is a good height. Anything taller will discourage birds from jumping up from the scratch area, and a step or ramp would be useful in helping the birds move up on to the slat.The nests should be down and open for the females to enter one week before the expected first egg. This will be approximately one week after light stimulation, which gives the pullets an opportunity to explore the nests and become comfortable using them. Close the nests at night to help keep the nest pads clean, which will also prevent the eggs from becoming contaminated. This becomes even more important as we move into an era of antibiotic-free broiler production. Three areas of nest maintenance that have a huge impact are the nest pad, the curtain and the nest belt itself. Nest pads must be clean, because if dirty, a bird may be less likely to use that nest box. Secondly, if it is used, the egg laid on that pad will most likely be contaminated. As well, nest pads installed at the wrong angle will cause issues. If the angle of the nest pad is not great enough, the eggs will not roll out of the nest box properly. If the angle is too much, it will discourage hens from using that nest box.On center belt nests, if the curtain that separates the nest box and the egg belt is missing or curled up where the hen can see the egg belt moving, hens are discouraged from utilizing the nest box. If multiple nests are affected, you will soon see many of the hens laying their eggs outside the nest.Egg belts should always be kept clean and in good repair. A belt that is not clean will often have an odour that the hens do not like and will keep them from using the nests. If the edges of the belts become frayed, the edges can rub the hen while the belt is running and cause her to leave the nest.Producers should have a consistent program for running egg belts. It is best not to run the belts until you see 10 to 15 eggs. When starting the belt, run it slowly late in the afternoon. A rapidly moving belt creates excessive vibration, which scares the birds out of their nests. By slowing down the speed of the egg belt, you are less likely to scare the birds out of the nests. Once the daily production reaches 5 per cent, run the belts at noon and again later in the day, around 5 p.m. When production reaches 20 per cent, go to more frequent gatherings. A good rule of thumb is to gather eggs at 8 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. This will help acclimatize the birds to the sound and vibration of the belt. Multiple, consistent gatherings can prevent eggs from building up on the belt and also allow for an accurate daily count of egg production. It is very important to accurately calculate and plan the nest space required. With a community style nest, a good rule is no more than 48 birds per meter of nest space. With a single-hole nest, allow for a maximum of 5 hens per hole, which will give the hens enough space to lay their eggs in the nest.Other considerations1. Correct equipment layout: With a community nest system: have a mix of feed lines in the scratch area and on the slats Water lines approximately 60 cm (24 inches) from the nest entrance, and adequate spacing between water and feed lines to allow the birds to comfortably use them With individual nest systems, have an adequate landing area from the front edge of the slat to the nest of 35-40 cm (14 -16 inches). The distance from the back of the nest to the feeder and the feed to the drinker line should be at least 45-60 cm (18-24 inches), and the height from the slat to the bottom of the feeder should be 20-22 cm (8-9 inches) 2. Ventilation: High temperatures on the slats can stop the hens going into the nest Improper inlet pressure can cause air to enter the nest at a rate that causes a draft, forcing the hen out of the nest 3. Light intensity and distribution: A minimum of 60 lux (6 FC) at bird level is desired, but an approximate six-fold increase in intensity from the brightest spot in rearing to the darkest spot in laying is needed No more than a 20 per cent difference in intensity across the barn Close attention to these details will help achieve a high-performing flock producing clean, high quality eggs.
Fortune magazine in September took a deep dive into the cage-free egg movement, chronicling how McDonald’s made its decision to go cage-free and the company’s prospects for being able to follow through on its pledge.McDonald’s announcement a year ago spurred a tidal wave through the food industry. Around 200 companies, including every major fast food chain and many major brands, have said they will go cage-free. Most of them target 2025 for completing the transition.The Fortune article cites results from Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) research that examined three different hen housing systems – conventional cage, enriched colony and cage-free – and concluded there are positive and negative trade-offs with each.Food beat writer Beth Kowitt cites that the CSES study considered the housing systems as a whole – worker health, animal health, food affordability, food safety and environmental impact, while activist groups focus solely on animal welfare. An excerpt: In the end, science wasn’t the deciding factor. The study intentionally excluded one component – consumer sentiment – and that turned out to be the most important of all. The phrase “enriched cage” means nothing to the average person. So if McDonald’s had shifted to that option, it wouldn’t get any credit from consumers. “Science was telling us enriched, but when talking with the consumer, they had no clue what enriched was,” says Hugues Labrecque, who runs the egg business that serves McDonald’s at Cargill. Once that became clear, cage-free became the inevitable consensus.In a Forbes op-ed, contributor Steve Banker, who covers logistics and supply chain management, cites the Fortune article and analyzes what will have to happen in the marketplace in order for McDonald’s to meet its cage-free commitment by 2025. He concludes, “McDonald’s shows us that companies have a chance to do ‘good,’ where ‘good’ is defined in a way that resonates with their customer base….”In a Forbes article back in May, “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert noted there currently is no United States Department of Agriculture legal definition for “cage-free” and that, “…transparency of what the term actually means will anger many as they discover their imagery of a happy-go-lucky hen running through the field is far from the truth.”People with strong feelings about hen housing tend to bypass scientific studies such as that conducted by CSES. Food companies want to give customers what they want regardless of the science.There are a number of barriers to consumers integrating scientific information into their decision-making process. The influence of group values, confirmation bias, scientific illiteracy, the tribal nature of online communication and other factors all pose challenges to successfully introducing technical information into the social conversation about food and agriculture.Many of the barriers can be overcome by following the formula developed through CFI’s research. Establishing shared values opens the door for technical information to be introduced into the conversation. It begins by first identifying and then communicating values from a credible messenger. Only then can incorporating technical information be viewed as trustworthy, building on a message platform that encourages informed decision-making.Building trust is a process. Authentic transparency and continued engagement will encourage objective evaluation of scientific information that supports informed decision-making. Encouraging informed decision-making requires meeting people in the communities where the discussions are taking place, acknowledging their scepticism and committing to long-term engagement.The Center for Food IntegrityCFI is a not-for-profit organization whose members and project partners represent the diversity of today’s food system, from farmers and food companies to universities, non-governmental organizations to retailers and food processors.Visit foodintegrity.org for more information.
Every day nearly 62,000 cockerels are culled in Canada. That’s 22.5 million birds each year. While the number sounds shocking, it is the harsh and unavoidable reality of Canada’s egg industry. In the developed world, that number reaches over a billion chicks. The birds that commercial egg farms purchase are bred specifically for egg, not meat, production, which means that while the females are highly coveted, male chicks have absolutely no value.This is not only a serious animal welfare issue, but also an issue of waste. But technology developed by the Egg Research Development Foundation (ERDF) could change all that. Hatcheries in Canada run a tough business. According to Tim Nelson, Chief Executive Officer of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC), when you take into consideration their losses, they run at 50 per cent efficiency. For one, some 10–15 per cent of all eggs are infertile, and hatcheries are forced to dispose of them as waste. Of those that do hatch, cockerels make up 50 per cent. The chick must then be identified, culled and disposed of by the hatchery. On top of the waste and animal welfare issues this raises, the hatchery must foot the bill for their incubation, as well as the labour and energy associated with raising them. In 2007, the industry started working towards a solution. Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) has been funding research for a new technology, tentatively called “Hypereye,” that uses hyperspectral imaging to identify infertility and gender in day-of-lay eggs. If successful, Hypereye could be a game changer for Canada’s egg industry. Hypereye uses spectroscopy, which is technology that allows hatchery personnel to identify eggs that are infertile. More importantly, though, it allows them to determine gender of the day of lay. Since day-of-lay eggs are essentially the same as regular table eggs, early identification could mean a new source of eggs. The potential, said Nelson, is huge.Dr. Michael Ngadi, a food and bioprocess engineer at McGill University, is the head researcher on the project. In a recent interview, he explained how the Canadian technology differs from similar technology being developed around the world. A team in Germany, he said, is also using spectroscopy, although their approach is much different.“We combine spectro-image data, so that’s why we call it the hyperspectral imaging,” explained Ngadi. “It’s a combination of broad spectral image signatures that we get from the egg. Then we put that through a fairly complex mathematical analysis where we are using some deep learning techniques to identify or relate those spectral and image data to the specific attributes that we are looking at – in this case, whether it is fertile or not and whether it is male or female.”Dr. Ngadi said that they have chosen not to go into the infrared range for a number of reasons, mostly because he doesn’t see it as commercially feasible to operate at that wavelength. “Also because you will not be able to get an image at that wavelength,” he added. Hypereye is almost ready for market. In fact, Nelson said that it could be ready as early as mid-2017. At present, the bench-scale model operates at an accuracy of 99 per cent. On a commercial scale, Hypereye must be able to process 30,000–50,000 eggs per hour. Currently, it’s nowhere near that speed, said Nelson, although he’s confident that speed won’t be an issue. “It’s just a case of ramping up the software,” he said. “Speed is important, but accuracy is more important. Right now we’re not worried about speed.”The Poultry Industry Council in Ontario first provided funding for the project in 2007. Preliminary results were so successful that EFO decided to invest in further research, which is now being conducted through the McGill University in Montreal.Currently, ERDF is looking for a qualified commercial partner who will assist taking the technology into production, and then market and service it around the world. ERDF believes that there will be considerable interest in the technology, especially since the approach they take keeps the eggs intact. Other systems, explained Nelson, involve invasive DNA testing. Not only is DNA testing time consuming, but it also requires putting a hole in the egg. There is greater risk of contaminating the eggs with bacteria and transmitting disease between eggs, and partially incubated male eggs and incubated infertile eggs have to be destroyed. Since Hypereye will enable hatcheries to determine gender and infertility on the day of lay, eggs need not be wasted. Theoretically, said Nelson, the egg industry could take a large number of hens out of production. This is unlikely, though, especially as new egg markets are opening up. One such market, said Nelson, is the pharmaceutical industry. In recent years, EFO committed $1 million to Relidep, an antidepressant drug that requires thousands of fertile eggs each day. Nelson said the food processing market will take them as well. Harry Pelissero, EFO’s general manager, says Canadian egg producers need not worry about production loss. “The non-female eggs could be used either for other uses such as table or breaker markets, vaccine egg production or for production of anti-depressants,” he said. “Given the ever-increasing use of eggs as a source of protein, existing egg farmers should not be worried about any reduction of egg production as a result of the implementation of this process.”While the announcement is an exciting one for the industry, it could be a while before Hypereye is available commercially for large-scale operations. “There are a whole lot of variables in the industry that we need to account for when we are actually putting this thing out there,” said Nelson. “Age of flock may make a difference, what the flock’s being fed may make a difference, and genetics of the flock may make a difference. So there’s a whole lot of things we have to take into account.”The long and the short of it, though, is that the technology is there. “And because this is day-one and because it’s non-intrusive, it’s really important technology,” said Nelson.Pelissero agreed. “We are getting closer to building a prototype, testing and will be in a position begin to take orders within the next two years,” he concluded.
Nov 3., 2016 - Smart Earth Seeds has recently announced that Omega-3 boosting Camelina meal has been approved for listing in Schedule 4 of the Feeds Act in Canada as feedstuff for laying hens. Smart Earth Seeds t has been working to develop Camelina as a novel rotational oilseed crop in Western Canada. Thanks to the efforts of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Livestock Research and Extension Branch and the University of Saskatchewan, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has approved the inclusion of 10 per cent Camelina cake in feed for egg-laying hens. "This is another major step for Camelina production in Canada," says Jack Grushcow, founder and CEO of Smart Earth Seeds. "This latest approval makes the crop production economics for Camelina even more attractive. The more local markets we can develop for Camelina meal the greater the opportunity to process locally and provide regional economic development."CFIA previously approved cold-pressed, non-solvent extracted Camelina meal for broiler chickens at up to 12 per cent inclusion. Another application is going forward to approve the inclusion of Camelina in dairy cattle rations. "This is good news for Canadian poultry producers, this approval ensures Canadian producers can benefit from access to a high quality protein that also contains significant quantities of Omega-3 oil," says Rex Newkirk, chair in feed processing technology at the University of Saskatchewan."Increasing Camelina cake inclusions in layers' feed resulted in a dose-related increase in polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids and a superior balance of Omega-3:Omega-6 fatty acids in table eggs," adds Matt Oryschak and Eduardo Beltranena, who led the layer trials at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.Camelina is a diversifying oilseed crop that offers greater disease and drought tolerance. It can be grown with low inputs on marginal land while providing valuable crop rotation benefits. Camelina cake is rich in protein, fibre and α-linolenic acid and its inclusion in feed for broiler chickens and laying hens will help produce value-added, healthier poultry products for Canadians.
Oct. 14, 2016 - Monitoring the migration routes of wild birds could help to provide early warning of potential bird flu outbreaks, experts say. The recommendation follows new research that shows migrating birds can help to spread deadly strains of avian flu around the world.Lethal strainsSome strains of bird flu viruses are highly lethal in birds they infect and pose a major threat to poultry farms worldwide. In rare cases, the viruses can also infect people and cause life-threatening illness.Asia outbreakResearchers investigated how a subtype of bird flu called H5N8 spread around the world following outbreaks in South Korea that began in early 2014. The virus spread to Japan, North America and Europe, causing outbreaks in birds there between autumn 2014 and spring 2015.Migration patternsScientists analysed migration patterns of wild birds that were found to be infected with the H5N8 virus. The team then compared the genetic code of viruses isolated from infected birds collected from 16 different countries.Long-distance flightTheir findings reveal that H5N8 was most likely carried by long-distance flights of infected migrating wild birds from Asia to Europe and North America via their breeding grounds in the Arctic. The researchers say their findings reinforce the importance of maintaining strict exclusion areas around poultry farms to keep wild birds out."Bird flu is a major threat to the health and wellbeing of farmed chickens worldwide," says Samantha Lycett with the University of Edinburgh. "Our findings show that with good surveillance, rapid data sharing and collaboration, we can track how infections spread across continents." SurveillanceGreater surveillance of wild birds at known breeding areas could help to provide early warning of threats of specific flu virus strains to birds and people, they add. Deadly bird flu strains – known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) – can kill up to 100 per cent of the birds they infect within a few days. The study was conducted by the Global Consortium for H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses and involved scientists from 32 institutions worldwide.This study could only have happened through bird flu researchers around the world pooling resources and working together," adds Mark Woolhouse, also with the University of Edinburgh. "We see this as a model for how scientists should unite to combat infectious diseases of all kinds.Global studyThe study is published in the journal Science and was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, COMPARE. The Roslin Institute receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
September 14, 2016 - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has announced an investment of $690,000 to Éleveurs de volailles du Québec (ÉVQ) to help the Quebec poultry industry reduce the preventive use of antibiotics. Under this project, the Poultry Research Chair at the University of Montreal's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine will assess various alternative strategies and their effects on flock performance. The latest research into anti-microbial resistance (AMR) builds on a previous project, also funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and will seek solutions that can be applied across the entire poultry industry. This contribution has been made through the AgriInnovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a five-year, $698 million initiative. AAFC supports the development and adoption of industry-led initiatives regarding biosecurity and animal care to support the prudent use of antimicrobials. Pierre-Luc Leblanc, President, Les Éleveurs de volailles du Québec said in a release “the Quebec poultry industry is committed to developing cutting-edge farming methods while maintaining strict, rigorous animal welfare standards. Flock health and the quality of consumer products are top priorities. Working with the Poultry Research Chair, we are taking the necessary steps to preserve and enhance these priority areas by building on research and development."
June 30, 2016 - Egg Farmers of Canada and the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) have announced the launch of the public comment period on the draft Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Layers. The public comment period allows stakeholders - poultry producers, consumers and others with an interest in the welfare of laying hens - to view the draft Code and provide input to the final Code. The draft revised Code is the result of the unique consensus-based, multi-stakeholder approach used across various agricultural sectors, which brings together all relevant stakeholders with responsibility for animal care standards. “Egg Farmers of Canada is committed to continuous improvements and a high standard of care for laying hens in a manner that is sustainable and implementable by all farmers in Canada,” said Peter Clarke, Chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada. “We value the National Farm Animal Care Council’s leadership and the rigorous, multi-stakeholder approach to developing the evidence-based standards that will enhance our national Animal Care Program,” he added. Once finalized, the revised Code will promote sound management and welfare practices through recommendations and requirements for housing, care, transportation, and other animal husbandry practices. The process began in April 2012, using the NFACC Code development process. Egg Farmers of Canada initiated the review with the support of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council and Pullet Growers of Canada. “The Code development process helps diverse communities work together to improve the lives of farm animals,” said poultry welfare expert Dr. Ian Duncan, representing the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies on the Code Committee. “We hope for broad participation in the public comment period. It’s an important opportunity to improve the quality and success of each Code.” The draft Code and the public comment system is accessible at:www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/poultry-layers. All comments must be submitted through the online system. The public comment period closes on August 29, 2016. The Code Development Committee will consider the submitted comments after the close of the comment period and the plan is that the final layer Code of Practice will be released by the end of 2016. A Scientific Committee report summarizing research conclusions on priority welfare topics for laying hens can be found online alongside the draft Code. This peer-reviewed report aided the discussions of the Code Development Committee as it prepared the draft Code of Practice. The report, developed by world-renowned animal welfare scientists, should be reviewed prior to making a submission. The layer Code revision is led by a 17-person Code Development Committee that includes participants from across Canada including producers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, retailers, researchers, transporters, processors, veterinarians and government representatives. More information on the Code development process is available at www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice. The layer Code is one of five Codes of Practice being developed as part of a multi-year NFACC project. Codes of Practice serve as our national understanding of animal care requirements and recommended practices. It is important that Codes be scientifically informed, implementable by producers, and reflect societal expectations for responsible farm animal care. The Codes cover housing, feed and water, handling, euthanasia, transport and other important management practices. In a release today, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) indicated that the timeline for ending the use of conventional cages has been accelerated, ending five years earlier than indicated by the Egg Farmers of Canada. Funding for this project has been provided through the AgriMarketing Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal–provincial–territorial initiative.
August 12, 2016 - New-Life Mills, the animal feed division of Parrish & Heimbecker Limited and P & H Eastern Grain Division have pooled resources to launch the new Science of Sustainable Agriculture Expo at this year’s Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock, Ont. from Sept. 13th-15th 2016. The exhibit will explore the elaborate connectedness of today’s agricultural world with sustainability in the forefront. The display at the Farm Show will be both educational for the inexperienced and eye-opening for the savvy farmer. “It’s amazing how nearly every aspect of what we do in agriculture is connected on some level. We are among the most responsible of industries when it comes to ensuring nothing goes to waste,” says Sherry Slejska, marketing communications specialist, New-Life Mills. “To my knowledge, this will be the largest initiative P&H has ever started to show the community how deeply involved we are in helping them produce crops, market crops, transport crops and feed livestock through a spider web of interactions between Ontario’s livestock and cash crop growers as well as many other commercial players. We are involved in almost every step from fertilizing the crop to grinding it into flour and opening up their marketing opportunities to the world. Most farmers don’t realize that,“ advises Jeff Jacques (Sales Mgr Crop Inputs and Agronomy, Parrish & Heimbecker, Eastern Grain Div.).
Dec. 2, 2016 - Each year the Canadian Animal Health Coalition (CAHC) presents the Carl Block Award to an individual nominated by his or her peers for outstanding contributions in the field of livestock animal health. This award is in memory of Carl Block, who was chair of the CAHC when he passed away as the result of a small plane crash in May 2002. The CAHC has named Dr. Grant Maxie of Puslinch, Ont. as this year’s recipient of the award. Through his hard work and dedication, Dr. Maxie has made many significant contributions to the Canadian animal health industry. Maxie has been integrally involved in the laboratory management and surveillance scene both in Canada and internationally over his distinguished career. Since 1997 he has been Director of the Animal Health Laboratory (AHL), University of Guelph and since 2007 co-executive director of laboratory services, University of Guelph. In these positions he has provided leadership in several national diagnostic and surveillance initiatives. Most recently, he has lead the Animal Health Lab and provided guidance to industry through the recent PEDV and Avian Influenza outbreaks in Ontario. He is the project chair for the Disease Surveillance Plan 2013- 2018, an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs project, administered by AHL that has enhanced the conduct of disease surveillance in Ontario and has contributed nationally as well. Accompanying Maxie’s nomination for the Carl Block Award were several letters of support from both Canadian and international bodies, which is a testament to his influence globally. In a news release, CAHC says that considering that the primary criteria to receive the Carl Block Award is that recipients demonstrate leadership, commitment and passion for enhancing animal agriculture in Canada, it is easily apparent why Grant Maxie is the 2016 recipient.
Nov. 28, 2016 - Cara Operations Limited has announced that it has successfully completed the St-Hubert acquisition. The company first announced on March 31, 2016, that it entered into a definitive agreement to acquire 100 per cent of Group St-Hubert, Quebec's leading full-service restaurant operator as well as a fully-integrated food manufacturer for $537 million. Jean-Pierre Léger, the outgoing chairman and CEO of St-Hubert commented, "I'm proud of the St-Hubert legacy and confident that this new alliance with Cara will open up opportunities for St-Hubert associates as well as new possibilities, both inside and outside of Quebec, for the St-Hubert business". Cara's chief executive officer, Bill Gregson, said, "This acquisition represents a historic alliance and an excellent strategic fit for both companies. It gives St-Hubert the opportunity to expand its restaurant network as well as to drive a national retail food program on behalf of Cara, leveraging St-Hubert's existing management, Quebec manufacturing facilities and supplier network".
Nov. 28, 2016 - On Nov. 24, 2016 the board of directors of Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) elected Benoît Fontaine of Stanbridge Station, Que. as its chair.Fontaine most recently served as the 1st vice-chair of the CFC executive committee. He initially joined the board of directors in 2013 as an alternate, and became Quebec’s director in 2014. Fontaine farms in the Lac Champlain area and raises chicken and turkeys. A 2nd generation chicken farmer, Fontaine has been heavily involved in the Union des producteurs agricoles since 1999. Fontaine has also served on both CFC's policy and production committees.The leadership turnover followed the resignation of Dave Janzen, who has stepped down from his CFC duties for personal reasons. Janzen represented British Columbia on the board of directors as an alternate in 2006 and served as the B.C. director from 2008. He joined the executive committee in 2010 and became chair in 2012.In a news release, CFC thanked Janzen for his many years of dedication, leadership and service.At the same time, the CFC board also welcomed Derek Janzen to its executive committee as 1st vice chair.With an eye to the future, Chicken Farmers of Canada says it will work with all its partners to ensuring clear, common goals for the future, and set a solid path and purpose for all stakeholders.
Hybrid Turkeys, a division of Hendrix Genetics, has built a new breeder facility between Berkeley and Markdale, Ont. The name of the farm, “Berkdale” is a mix of the two.While construction of a new turkey breeder farm might not seem terribly newsworthy, this one is, firstly because of its location. The site was chosen at a significant distance from the company’s other operations in southern Ontario, mainly for biosecurity reasons. “Five years ago we wouldn’t have even considered a location so far away from our other farms,” says Hybrid Turkeys’ farm division manager, Marek Mirda. “To ensure secure supply to our customers, especially during disease outbreaks and establishment of quarantine zones, we looked for an area with distance from our own and other poultry farms. During disease outbreaks there can be an impact on healthy farms due to restriction of movement within quarantine zones, so we want to minimize or eliminate this potential risk.”Hybrid Turkeys began its search for a location by examining a Canadian Food Inspection Agency map of Ontario that pinpoints all types of livestock operations. “We evaluated this area on the map to choose a location with the least amount of poultry operations,” Mirda notes. “After working with real estate firms, we found this property between Berkeley and Markdale.”New designLocation aside, Berkdale has other important biosecurity aspects, with the most significant being a farm design that connects the barns. In the past, Hybrid Turkeys would have designed the farm so the egg house and lay barn (for example) were separate buildings, and staff would therefore have to change clothing and boots every time they would go between. “A system of separate entry and exit not only adds risk of picking up outside organisms, but is also difficult during winter months in Canada,” Mirda explains. “The new system has staff go through biosecurity procedures once and then they have safe access to the entire barn system.” Hendrix Genetics is in the final stages of upgrading a layer breeder facility in Ontario that will have the same design, he adds. In addition, Berkdale (and a Hybrid Turkeys pedigree facility as well) have a dry shower and other additional measures to keep foreign organisms as far away from the barn as possible - on both the brood/grow side as well as lay barn side. Upon arrival at the farm, staff and any visitors must enter the dry shower facility, which requires individuals to change out of street clothes into farm clothing and footwear. Next, individuals exit the dry shower into a neutral air pressure zone before accessing the completely enclosed wet shower rooms. After using the shower facilities, individuals change again into new farm clothing and boots, ready to enter the clean zone of the farm. Outside the buildings, there is complete separation of the clean and dirty zones. Dirty zone roads are for external suppliers to deliver fuel and other supplies without entering the farm area. Clean zone roads are only for internal clean vehicles that transfer staff or supplies between barns. All the buildings’ mechanical equipment can be accessed from the dirty zone so that contracted service technicians have quick access in case of urgent need. Hybrid Turkey employees have access to a storage garage in the clean zone with equipment only to be used within the clean zone, and one on the dirty side for use only in the dirty zone. Additional biosecurity was gained through filling any saw cuts on concrete with caulking to prevent particulates from settling in. “One of the project members suggested we used ‘an entire truckload of caulking’ to ensure no cut was missed!” Mirda reports. In addition, as part of the ventilation system, the farm features darkout hoods large enough for a person to fit inside, which makes it easier to ensure proper cleaning of these areas. There is also a wash station for vehicles on the ‘lay side’ of the farm.Berkdale also features an innovative truck-loading dock for the egg cooler, complete with dock-levelling equipment and seal for the truck. This system allows for the use of trolleys to transfer eggs from the storage room into the trucks rather than the traditional moving of eggs by hand. “Temperature shock is avoided,” explains Mirda, “and there is also no need for an outside connection, in that the delivery driver can stay in the cab while the eggs are loaded by internal staff. It’s a best-practices system that improves worker health and safety and minimize the handling of eggs.”Results so farBerkdale began operation in August and all systems are running smoothly with birds doing extremely well. Mirda says the winter season is when staff expects to see the new design of this facility to show its full benefits. This will be in part because use of the barns on the lay side (that are connected between egg house and laybarn) will begin then, and also, from a comfort and efficiency standpoint, workers will not have to go outside as much during the harsh weather.When asked what factors other poultry operators should consider in building a similar facility isolated from all other farms in the company, the Berkdale staff had good input. They pointed to the decision of whether to try and relocate current employees or search for new employees close to the new facility who may need a lot of training and support. They also pointed out that you have to be ready for staff and equipment from other company facilities to be dispatched as needed for hands-on assistance at the ‘orphan’ facility.Scott Rowland, general manager, Americas at Hybrid Turkeys says that although this facility came at a significant cost, the company leaders feel that the investment in Berkdale is the next step in biosecurity for both customers and staff. “The features of this facility were designed to secure the supply to meet our customers’ needs, while ensuring excellent health and safety of our workers,” he says. “This investment signifies our dedication to continuous improvement. By spreading out our operations, we are working towards the next generation of biosecurity.”Hybrid Turkeys also has production and research facilities in several other locations in Canada, as well as in the U.S., France, Poland and Hungary.
November 21, 2016 - Libro Credit Union (Libro) and the University of Guelph (UofG) have announced Ryan Gibson, PhD, as the Libro professor of regional economic development for southwestern Ontario. The professorship is a partnership between Libro and the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), focused on building economic development and innovationacross the region, through research, teaching, outreach and collaboration.Gibson joins the UofG from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, N.S. He’ll be working through the OAC’s school of environmental design and rural development.“Ryan’s expertise and experience are a perfect fit for this new position,” says Rene Van Acker, OAC dean. “His focus on community-engaged scholarship combined with his enthusiasm, assures me he will do great things while working with the communities of southwestern Ontario.”Gibson’s research examines issues related to the future of rural communities and regions, and topics such as governance, immigration and revitalization. He is also president of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, a national organization committed to strengthening communities by creating economic opportunities that enhance social and environmental conditions.Originally from rural Manitoba, Gibson has a deep respect for rural communities, rural people and the events that shape their futures. Growing up witnessing the transformations in rural development, agriculture and their influence on communities instilled a fascination and commitment to rural issues.Libro has committed to endow the professorship with $500,000 over 10 years, which will be matched to existing donations, for a combined gift of $1 million.Overall goals of the professorship include: Establishing southwestern Ontario as a defined economic region of the province and identifying strategies to shape the future vision of economic development Strengthening links between rural and urban communities to establish solutions for an integrated regional economy Building a network among Ontario’s post-secondary institutions and research facilities to collaborate on initiatives to grow regional economic development The professorship will be hosted at the UofG within the OAC, bolstered by the Ridgetown campus.
Nov. 8, 2016 - The Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture (CYSA) Competition has announced the winners of the 2016 competition which took place Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. Senior Champion: Spencer Graling from St. Paul, Alta.; First Runner-up: Daniel Vander Hout from Waterdown, Ont.; Second Runner-up: Katelyn Ayers from Severn, Ont. Junior Champion: Douglas Archer from Mount Pleasant, Ont.; First Runner-up: Maxwell Archer from Mount Pleasant, Ont.; Second Runner-up: Aleri Swalwell from Strathmore, Alta. This 32nd edition of CYSA welcomed 30 competitors aged 11 to 24 from across Canada who offered their insight and solutions regarding the following topics: What is the impact of public opinion on Canadian farmers? How would you explain a GMO to a non-farmer? What does the next generation of agriculture bring to the table? How can we improve the media's perception of Canadian agriculture? Old MacDonald had a farm - but what about Mrs. MacDonald? "Once again it was wonderful to see the continuing interest of the very talented young people across Canada that want to speak out about agriculture. From a board perspective, we all take great pleasure in ensuring this exciting competition prevails annually to capture the thoughts of each and every participant," says Ted Young, CYSA chair. CYSA also took the opportunity to present long-time board member and past president John J. MacDonald with a plaque recognizing his more than 10 years with CYSA and naming him honourary president. CYSA also presented a recognition plaque to honour board member and past president Richard Kutnz who is concluding his term on the CYSA board. As announced after the Seniors final round the topics for 2017 will be: Working in agriculture is more than just farming Does digital farming have a place in the future of Canadian agriculture? Farm gate to dinner plate: The importance of food traceability for Canadian consumers How will we feed 9 billion people by 2050? Food waste: What is the global impact and who is responsible for making a change? This year also saw a change in board members with Gerry Sullivan (Nfld.) becoming past-president; April Stewart (Que.) stepping into the role of president; Christina Crowley-Arklie (Ont.) becoming vice-president; and Ted Young remains board chair. Each year the renowned public speaking competition is held at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. The competition is open to youth ages 11 to 24 with a passion for agriculture whether raised on a farm, in the country or in the city. Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture is a national, bilingual competition that gives participants an opportunity to share their opinions, ideas and concerns about the Canadian agri-food industry in a five- to seven-minute prepared speech. Since the first competition held at the Royal Winter Fair in honour of the International Year of the Youth in 1985, it has gone on to become the premier public speaking event in Canada for young people interested in agriculture, with more than 900 participants in total over the years. For more information about CYSA visit www.cysa-joca.ca.
It’s one of the most, if not the most, efficient and high-tech poultry barn in Canada – a layer barn/egg cooling facility that offsets the consumption of electricity and natural gas heating through the use of solar electricity generation and many cutting-edge technologies.The total estimated annual electricity and natural gas needs of the facility are between 80,000 to 120,000 kWh (with one GJ of natural gas consumption equivalent to 278 kWh). The existing solar panels generate about 29,000 kWh, so at this point, only about a third of the facility’s power needs are taken care of on-farm – but it’s a facility which holds many keys to how a layer facility might be designed and operated so that it produces as much energy as it consumes, known as “net zero.” Egg Farmers of Alberta describes the site as “establishing precedent for what additional solar (or other energy generation) would be required to get to net zero energy consumption,” and that it will “eventually provide all of the information we need to in order to communicate what a net zero layer barn looks like, and what it costs.”The free-run aviary barn is owned by the Brant Hutterite Colony (population 105) in Brant, Alberta (near Lethbridge) and houses 13,000 laying hens. To help offset some of the construction costs, the colony received a $250,000 grant from the Alberta government. Its partners, Egg Farmers of Alberta (EFA) and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF), also secured some funding from Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (through Growing Forward 2) to help make the project a reality. The idea for a net zero egg facility came about in 2014 after EFA had completed a “life cycle analysis”(an examination of resource use and other factors) of the province’s egg farms. It showed that on-farm energy use represents nearly 15 per cent of the climate change impact of egg production in Alberta. “EFA was and is in the process of building plans and strategies to improve the carbon footprint of egg production and this [project] was a natural fit,” notes EFA Industry Development Officer Jenna Griffin. “Similar projects were initiated with Pork and Milk, but each organization took it in a different direction and I believe we were the only ones that went down the path of building a commercial facility.”To find an egg farmer partner, EFA sent information to all those in the province known to be building a new facility and narrowed it down to a few that met certain criteria. “For example, we wanted the facility to be near a major urban centre, and be of a size that was representative of an average Alberta egg farm,” says Griffin. “The intent was to give ourselves the best chance of successfully getting to net zero and to ensure that the data generated is applicable to most farms.”In describing why Brant Colony went ahead, Brant egg manager Darrel Mandel highlights the collegiality within Alberta’s egg industry. “There is a passion for your fellow producer,” he says. “When one has achieved a new and efficient way to better his or her farm…it is shared…For us, it did not seem right to let this pass and not do it for the industry.” The agreement with EFA and AAF required that Brant Colony provide data about barn energy performance and also install a web cam inside the barn, and Mandel says that while “providing data did not seem to be such a big issue” at the time, “agreeing to install cameras, allowing tours, were some big things to consider, and there were multiple reasons why we felt that first off, why should the public see what we or our birds are doing? It seemed like a very strange and out-of-place puzzle piece…[but] then we asked ourselves, what is there to hide? Why is this making us afraid on sharing what we do best, that being caring for our animals?…Adding the cameras would not change our everyday lifestyle. We love our animals…They need to be treated with the best care possible. By doing that, it gives the consumer a healthier egg…and gives us farmers an accomplishment that we are proud of and willing to share, be it on live stream or face to face with the public.” MAKING CHOICESUsing input from EFA and AAF, Brant Colony designed the building and purchased very high-efficiency systems and equipment. “The highest priority was for full laying-barn energy metering of electricity and natural gas,” notes AAF engineer Kelly Lund. “The next highest priority was for an investigation into using modern Heat Recovery Ventilator technology to save on heat energy.” Another main priority was choosing high efficiency equipment in the egg cooler. Electricity consumption is slashed low through the use of LED lights, which initially cost more but reduce light energy use by at least 80 per cent compared to incandescents, and have 30 times the lifespan.The barn is heated through hydronics, a system wherein heat radiates from warm water circulated through a set of tubes, in this case hung from the ceiling. The water is heated using a natural gas boiler and circulated by electrically-powered pumps. Retaining as much heat as possible is very important to keep energy consumption down, but in a poultry barn, extra insulation won’t really help. That’s because barns lose about 80 per cent of their heat in the winter through ventilation – and that’s why a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) was included in the barn design. HRV’s maintain air quality while preventing large amounts of heat from being exhausted outside through transferring heat from outbound warm barn air to the incoming cold fresh air. The airstreams pass through an elongated grid system and never mix. The amount of heat that can be retained depends on factors such as air velocity and the temperature difference between the airstreams. Moisture must be removed when the exhaust air temperature is reduced to the dew point. “In freezing weather, there is potential for frost build-up with this condensation,” notes Lund. “Most HRVs (including this one) have a defrost cycle they are able to run if required.”The HRV system will become operational this fall. Lund says they are anticipating some potential problems in colder weather, “not so much with the heat exchanger itself, but with the method of interior air distribution, which is a free air jet to a central redistribution fan system. If the incoming airspeed is not fast enough (which could potentially happen in particularly cold weather when the incoming airflow rate is reduced to prevent freeze-up), the incoming air may not reach the target location within the barn to be properly circulated.” Brant Colony has looked closely at the situation with EFC and AAF, and also hired an independent engineer. Mandel says everyone has concluded they need to run a distribution duct in order to get a good air flow to the centre of the barn. “We have decided it is better if we wait until the flock gets depopulated in early 2017,” he says. “We will still try to do some initial HRV testing once the heating season starts to see what the air distribution pattern looks like, but are prepared to shut it down if we notice problems.”When might this particular egg production and cooling facility reach ‘net zero’ energy consumption? Lund says once they have one to two years of data monitoring, they will have “a much better sense of the energy use” and of “the amount of solar panels it would take to make it fully net zero.” She adds that Brant Colony’s decision to go fully net zero will likely be based at some future point in time on “whether the marketplace was ready to reward that level of initiative.” Mandel notes that overall, being involved in the initiative gave him and his Colony colleagues the impression that the barn really could not be efficient enough, which spurred them to continuously look for efficiencies in all aspects of construction and operation. Besides the HRV system which hasn’t begun operating yet, Mandel says everything else is functioning well. “We can see the energy loads of the equipment in the control system and in the boiler room, and the cooler unit and solar are showing positive signs that the research was a worthwhile cause.”
October 28, 2016 - Global Egg Corporation has announced that they have entered into an agreement to purchase the Cargill Etobicoke egg processing facility from U.S. based Cargill, Incorporated. The transaction is expected to be completed later this fall. This is Global Egg’s 2nd plant expansion in as many years. Cargill has owned the Etobicoke facility since 2006. While the terms of the sale are not being disclosed, it has been confirmed that the majority of the facility’s employees will retain employment with Global Egg. “Global Egg is a well established leader in the Canadian egg further processing industry,” says Aaron Kwinter, president of Global Egg Corporation/EggSolutions. “Integrating this new facility and the expertise of our new employees into our existing business model will allow us to continue to meet our customers’ demands for the highest quality and most innovative value added egg products.” Global Egg Corporation is Canada’s largest further egg processor, servicing food manufacturing and foodservice sectors nationally. Canadian owned, Global Egg has been supplying processed egg products since 1972. Today, Global Egg and it’s foodservice division EggSolutions, have production facilities in Elmira, Ontario and now two facilities in Etobicoke, Ont. Its Etobicoke plant was the first egg processing facility in Canada to receive SQF Level 3 “Excellent-rated” certification from the Safe Quality Food Institute and the Elmira facility followed suit when it was expanded in 2015.
Elijah Kiarie hasn’t lost sight of the fact that the poultry industry is a business. He knows farmers want to maximize their income and they want their farms to be sustainable. As the newly appointed assistant professor in poultry nutrition in the department of animal biosciences at the University of Guelph, he intends to lead the establishment of a world-class program in poultry nutrition with a focus on improving feed efficiency to help that important bottom line. As farmers know, feed is more than 60 per cent of the cost of production. In Ontario alone, Kiarie estimated that with 200 million 2.4 kg broiler birds, improving feed efficiency by just one per cent would save the farmers in Ontario about $3 million. Across the country that would translate to $10 million in savings over half a billion birds per year. But when Kiarie uses the term “feed efficiency,” it’s not just your typical feed to gain ratio. Feed efficiency can mean so much more than that. What if birds could get more from their feed? The typical excretion rate on a corn/soy diet is up to 15 per cent. What if that could be reduced to 10 per cent? That would be more efficient. As hens are housed in larger spaces, will more nutrients be directed to activity rather than productivity, reducing feed efficiency? Bone health is also a huge issue: the early nutrition received by the chick plays an important part in the strength of the skeletal system. That is part of a field called epigenetics – a field of research investigating how genes are expressed, right from pre-hatch. Can the chick get a better start? What about antimicrobial use? Both governments and consumers are looking for alternatives. Can probiotics provide a solution? While Kiarie acknowledges manipulating the gut microflora involves more than just nutrition, with management factors also coming into play, what if slight changes in feed can reduce the need for antimicrobials in the first place? These are just some of the questions to which Kiarie will be seeking answers. So far he has defined several issues that may be implicated in sub-optimal production, from variability in feed ingredients and the ability of the bird to digest their food, to water quality issues, high gut microbial loads, subclinical and clinical disease, leg problems, and environmental stress from ammonia. For both eggs and meat, these issues may represent areas where commercial production can be brought closer to genetic potential through nutrition. All of these issues can be traced back to gut microbes. There are more than 400 species of bacteria in the gut – how can we make them happy? When you feed the bird you feed the chicken but you’re also feeding the gut microbes: improving efficiency means you want to only feed the bacteria the chicken needs. As Kiarie says, “If you’re feeding the wrong microbes, you’re wasting feed.“ The chicken is affected in a 360-degree cycle, he explains, starting with the fundamentals: a strong gut and skeletal system to perform. If you don’t have a good gut and skeleton you’ve missed an opportunity to deal with what he calls an “addressable gap.” In this cyclic pattern a chick grows on maternal nutrition, so the mother needs to be healthy; we can’t just look at the chick in isolation. With this cycle in mind, Kiarie is looking at the broiler breeders to address egg size and body weight management. Kiarie earned his PhD at the University of Manitoba and his undergraduate and masters degrees at the University of Nairobi. He has been a research scientist at DuPont Industrial Biosciences since 2011. In his new role at the University of Guelph he will pull together students, researchers, and funding from industry and government for projects and ultimately develop industry workers, bringing all these minds together to work as a team to help to place Ontario as a leader in collaborative, world-class poultry research. The current specific areas of focus for the poultry nutrition plan include neonatal nutrition, immunity and epigenetic responses; dietary factors that affect gut function and health, performance, and product quality; feed additives to improve gut health and feed utilization; researching alternatives to anti-coccidials and antibiotics; and looking at feedstuffs and processing methods. Kiarie continues to work closely with monogastric and gut microbiology colleagues from the University of Manitoba where he researched different feeding strategies to improve gastrointestinal health and nutrient use in pigs and poultry. During the first several months of his new job, Kiarie has met with producers at regional meetings, with industry groups and has spoken with feed company representatives and nutritionists to establish what issues are relevant to the Ontario and Canadian poultry industry. From here he will begin to generate letters of intent for research projects while continuing to publish his own research. While his task is complex, he says his greatest joy still involves answering questions from producers and training students. His professorship position was made possible thanks to a donation by Ontario poultry farmers James and Brenda McIntosh to the university in 2013.
In 2014, Canadian farmers produced more than 595 million dozen eggs per year and had eight straight years of sales growth. According to a recent study by Egg Farmers of Canada, it takes 69 per cent less water and half the amount of feed today to produce a dozen eggs, while hens are producing nearly 50 per cent more and are living longer than they did 50 years ago. Layer operations across the U.S. and Canada are progressing, and this fact is evident when visiting the layer operation at McGee Colony, recognized by Star Egg Company in 2015 with a first place finish in Saskatchewan for reaching the dozen eggs per bird and cost per dozen eggs quota. As of 2014, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) listed the average Canadian flock size at 20,192 hens; however, Canadian egg farms can range from a few hundred to more than 400,000 hens. The average laying hen produces approximately 305 eggs per year (25.4 dozen). The Bovan standard is 353 eggs per hen housed at 78 weeks. The flock of 16,200 Bovan White managed by Jerry Mandel and his father John Mandel boasted a production of 370 eggs per hen housed, with 106 grams of feed intake per hen per day at 78 weeks, in 2015. The number of eggs produced was above the Bovan standard, while the feed intake per hen per day was below the Bovan standard. Jerry and John emphasize that they had great help in earning the plaque from Star Egg Company that was presented to them at the Saskatchewan Egg Producers annual meeting. “Part of making this program work is good teamwork, with everyone making sure the hens get the best nutrition, health and management care,” said Jerry. McGee Colony, located near Rosetown, Saskatchewan, is named after the site of the old village of McGee. The poultry barn and associated equipment are fairly new and well-maintained. Even so, there are challenges that need to be met. The well water’s pH level measures around 9. This is closely monitored and adjusted to 6.5 via acidification of the water on a continual basis. As a result, chlorination of the water is achieved with a more acidic pH, as chlorination works at its optimum for water sanitation with a pH around 5–6.5. The flock is an integral part of the colony. The feed is produced on-farm in a computerized mill, and the grains are grown specifically for use by the flock. Being located in the Rosetown area means wheat is the cereal of choice, not corn. By milling their wheat, McGee Colony was able to change to a larger screen (a 1-inch screen) with several advantages: There are less broken kernels. This reduces feed separation as it goes through the travelling hopper feed delivery system. Whole wheat causes more feed grinding in the gizzard, so more endogenous enzymes are mixed with the feed. Feed passage is then slowed, allowing for better digestion and thus gut health. Less electricity is required. Faster feed throughput is achieved at the mill. The integration of the poultry unit on the farm means the field crop operation is influenced by the poultry operation and the poultry operation is in turn influenced by the field crop operation. Manure is handled so that it is dried as rapidly as possible and initial moisture content is observed constantly. Incoming water, as mentioned above, is treated to optimize pH as well as with chlorine. This combination helps to avoid excessively wet droppings. McGee’s rations do not contain meat meal, so their nutritionist at EMF Nutrition pays close attention to the osmotic balance of the ration, which also helps to reduce the fecal moisture. The inclusion of a yucca plant extract technology helps to reduce ammonia in the barn while also lowering the amount of ventilation required in the winter to remove ammonia, thus allowing for ease of maintaining daytime temperatures at 20 degrees Celsius and nighttime temperatures at 22 degrees Celsius in the winter. The manure, which is removed to the storage room at the end of the barn, has heated air from the barn drawn over it as it is exhausted from the barn. This also helps to further dry the manure. The dry manure is then removed from the storage area and allowed to cure before it is applied as fertilizer on the fields. From this process, less nitrogen escapes from dry manure. The less the nitrogen escapes from the manure and the better bound the nitrogen is, the higher the nitrogen content is in the manure that is applied to the fields. McGee Colony also includes an enzyme technology in their rations to increase the digestibility of plant-based ingredients, thus reducing the need for supplemental phosphorus and decreasing the phosphorus levels in the manure. By lowering manure phosphorus and increasing nitrogen, McGee Colony can minimize the land required to accept the phosphorus while maximizing the amount of nitrogen applied from the manure. This nutrient management plan helps to reduce the nitrogen fertilizer required to meet the needs for next year’s crop. Next year, the colony will be using a foliar-applied source of micronutrients on the land growing wheat for the poultry unit. This micronutrient application helps to optimize plant growth and harvest yield. Higher yield means less land required to grow crops for the poultry unit and more land for cash crops. Higher yield also means more nutrients removed, and the poultry manure can be spread over the land with less time and less fuel. McGee Colony has also implemented some of the programs other successful layer operations have shared within the industry. Dave Coburn of Coburn Farms spoke about its “Best Flock Ever” (Canadian Poultry, April 2012), and mentioned including the Alltech Poultry Pak® program in addition to the use of large particle sizes to stimulate the gizzard. Both of these methods were implemented in the Coburn Farms program to improve gut health and ultimately egg production. McGee Colony has also incorporated both of these programs to maximize their eggs per quota and feed efficiency. With these programs in place, in addition to improving soil management and yield with effective soil nutrient management, McGee Colony is successfully building a sustainable agricultural program. “The eggshells are better, even with the older 70 week birds, and we have less eggshell cracks than before,” said Jerry. “The birds are keeping their feathers longer and they always appear to be active.”
Nova Scotia broiler producer Nick de Graaf passed several significant milestones in 2008.First, he bought out his father’s share in the Annapolis Valley poultry farm founded by his Dutch grandfather in the early 1960s in Kings County, Nova Scotia, between Canning and Port Williams. Next, Nick bought more quota, increasing his flock production by 196,000 birds annually. This came just three years after the de Graafs bought additional quota in 2005, increasing their flock production by 102,000 birds per year. “We grow 660,000 chickens per year and we also grow 67,000 turkeys per year,” says Nick. He ships his birds to the Sunnymel poultry processing plant in Clair, Northern New Brunswick. Nick’s poultry production is audited for four food safety and animal welfare programs. For his broilers, this includes the Chicken Farmers of Canada’s (CFC) On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program (OFFSAP) and CFC’s Animal Care Program. He also follows two similar programs for his turkey production. Lastly, in 2008 he also built a feed mill to process poultry rations from his crops. He grows wheat, primarily for straw bedding for his flocks and he is 100 per cent self-sufficient in corn cultivation. Nick owns 700 acres of arable land and he also crops an additional 900 acres in scattered parcels across Kings County. He only grows 65 per cent of the soybeans he uses in his rations as he doesn’t yet have enough acreage for soybean self-sufficiency. However, he is looking for more land. Nick graduated in 1998 from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, now the Dalhousie University Agricultural Campus with a B.Sc. in Agricultural Economics and four years later, in 2002, he became financially involved in the family farm. Nick is now a director on both the Chicken Farmers of Nova Scotia and the Turkey Farmers of Nova Scotia marketing boards. To date, he has served seven years on the chicken marketing board and two years on the turkey board. He is also a past-president of the Kings county Federation of Agriculture. He and his wife, Trudy, have three children. Their eldest daughter, Malorie, is married with two children of her own. Their next daughter, Vanessa, is 16 and their son, Tyler, is 14. Vanessa plans to attend Dalhousie University’s Agricultural Campus and seems interested in farming after graduation, de Graaf says. At age 40 he has not yet begun farm succession planning. Off-farm recreational interests of the de Graaf family include travel and de Graaf says he and his two youngest children enjoy the shooting sports of trap and skeet.
September 28, 2016 - Hendrix Genetics (HG) says it is reinforcing that high health, salmonella-negative flocks and ensuring clean and pathogen-free facilities are a top priority, with an investment in new laboratory facilities and upgrades. The company is highlighting an expansion to its North American poultry laboratory, based in Kitchener, Ont. This central facility, run by a team of six, processes approximately 200,000 samples per year from all turkey and layer parent stock flocks in North America. They also schedule and prepare all tests required by regulatory and export agencies. With biosecurity as a key component of the new layout, HG says it was staff that came up with the design of the various zones. The design sought to ensure secure division between zones for preparing test kits as well as receiving, handling and analyzing different sample types. "The design of this lab was truly a collaborative effort," says laboratory manager, Peter Pozder. "The team worked together to identify opportunities for improvement within the current layout and planned the enhanced work flow; all without any interruption to the testing schedule.” After inspection for biosecurity standards, the new design was approved and is licensed under Canadian federal public health and food inspection agencies. On Sep. 9, 2016, HG opened the doors to local customers, government partners and internal teams in order to exhibit the updated facility. “Investment in the lab benefits our customers and all stakeholders in the value chain," says Scott Rowland, Hybrid Turkeys' general manager for the Americas. "The samples analyzed at this facility, whether it’s directly from the birds or samples from the water residue, litter, transport vehicles, or feed ingredients, have a direct impact on how we can effectively monitor flock health and prevent the spread of disease.”
A recent donation to the University of Guelph’s (UofG) Poultry Health Research Network (PHRN) will further enhance research and outreach opportunities connected to this hub of poultry research excellence.UofG alumni Vic Parks and his wife, Uta, have generously donated almost $40,000 to be used in the area of most need for the PHRN. “The generous gift by the Parks family will have an immense impact on the PHRN,” says Shayan Sharif, an immunologist in the Ontario Veterinary College’s department of pathobiology and leader of the PHRN. “This gift will afford PHRN the opportunity to serve its stakeholders, including industry, government and academia, more effectively through enhanced learning opportunities, research activities and knowledge mobilization.”The Parks have a strong family history with the University of Guelph and particularly the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and Ontario Agricultural College (OAC). Vic Parks graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College with his DVM in 1964 and both the Parks’ daughters are also OVC grads. Both Mrs. Parks and their son, Jason, graduated from OAC’s School of Landscape Architecture.With their daughters’ close ties to poultry health and welfare, “it seemed a good fit to provide this most recent donation to support poultry research at OVC,” says Vic, who began his career in large animal practice, before moving into companion animal medicine. He worked in marketing with Novartis Animal Health in Mississauga for 20 years before his retirement in 2006. During this time the Parks also had a farm near Guelph where they raised Limousin cattle. The Parks fell in love with Salt Spring Island on a trip to British Columbia more than 30 years ago and now live there, near Mount Maxwell Provincial Park. In addition to their donation to the PHRN, the Parks previously established an endowed Parks Family Travel Grant in OAC, as well as an endowed Parks Family Travel Grant in OVC. The latter is presented annually to a fourth-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student entering the Food Animal Stream for assistance travelling outside of Ontario on an external rotation.
Bedding is being examined as an increasingly important factor in poultry health, and can affect a producer’s bottom line through how much labour is involved in spreading it and how well it cleans up.Jillian Jasper, self-proclaimed “head of the herd” at ABC (Animal Bedding Company) in Woodstock Ont., is a firm believer that producers should be taking a much closer look at their bedding choices. “We are told over and over by producers of poultry and every other livestock species that outside of a vet making bedding suggestions in times of health crises, [that they] are never approached to talk bedding,” she notes. “We believe that our products outperform straw, shavings, drywall, peat moss, sand and everything else on the market in terms of animal health and positive environmental inputs. When cull rates with our poultry clients consistently come back with zeroes for respiratory and zeroes for pad/leg health issues, it confirms our complete belief in what we offer.” ABC provides bedding for poultry, cattle, horses, sheep, pigs and exotic animals. It was founded in 2013. Ray Batchelor, a retired Chrysler engineer, got all of the equipment and manufacturing processes up and running. Jeffrey Moore, a chartered professional accountant, runs the overall organization. Jasper takes the lead with sales, marketing and education, using skills gained earlier in her career in animal health pharmaceuticals. She says that during her years of representing other products, she was always searching for her own proprietary product to bring to market. About 15 years ago while showing her horses in Ohio, she came across bedding that appeared to be made from chopped-up cereal boxes. It never left her mind. “After years of research into adhesives, dyes, components of cardboard, other materials, packaging, and so on, I developed a cardboard product that seems simple,” she says, “but it is brought to its greatest potential through addressing the growing consciousness in the ag sector of better animal husbandry and environmental stewardship.” HOOF-PRINT is one of the company’s five products. It manufactured by chopping up virgin corrugated cardboard, extracting the dust and compressing the product into 35-pound bales. It is free of salmonella, toxins, labels, tapes or inks, with what Jasper calls “an overwhelming absorption capacity.” After use, it turns into black, composted material in six to nine weeks. TRACK-PRINT is a mineral bedding which is widely used in all species. It balances pH, absorbs moisture, is non-caustic, acts as a natural insecticide and reduces ammonia. It works similarly to diatomaceous earth, killing insects by scraping at their shells when they crawl through it but Jasper says it is better because it does not lose stability when exposed to moisture. She says it is very effective for darkling beetle control in poultry barns. Bedding for each species required its own dedicated focus. “Eighty per cent of our market is poultry,” Jasper notes. “Initially, it was twenty per cent, but this changed rapidly as we educated and gained exposure in the poultry segment. Our products are very conducive to the biosecurity and general sensitivity of the poultry segment.” ABC distributes across Canada, and will currently ship to the U.S. if Canadian customers have operations there. “Holland is a big potential market for us,” Jasper adds. “We have both a dairy and poultry contingent in Holland…they are very innovative. They love our stuff. And all of those Holland connections come through our existing users.” TrialsBoth HOOF-PRINT and TRACK-PRINT are being trialed at many operations in southern Ontario.Hybrid Turkeys recently trialed HOOF-PRINT as part of its continuous overall company focus on innovation and improvement, especially in this case, the potentially improved environmental conditions due to the ‘dust free’ nature of this bedding. The trial lasted 15 weeks (from 5 weeks to 20 weeks of age) and the following were evaluated: curability, absorption, ammonia levels, dust levels and overall acceptability/comfort of the birds. Overall, Hybrid Turkeys is pleased with the results of the trial but feels further testing is required at different ages and at different stages of production (e.g. rearing phase and lay/production phase). The company also wishes to find out more about the biosecurity processes for the manufacturing of this type of bedding.University of Guelph doctoral candidate (pathobiology) Ryan Snyder is currently studying the effect of bedding and other factors on coccidiosis survival at several area farms. He will have results in years to come.Peter Greydanus who raises broiler breeders for Maple Leaf at Greyda Plains Poultry in Petrolia has used TRACK-PRINT since last October. “It’s controlling the flies and it’s a bit cheaper and less dusty than diatomaceous earth,” he says. “I like it. I think Jillian’s on the right track with it, it’s non-chemical. You have to re-apply after manure builds up and I’m curious to see how it works on darkling beetles.”Greydanus has used HOOF-PRINT bedding in one pullet cycle so far. “I used it combined with straw and it was a rough cycle for coccidiosis because it was too dry,” he says. “Whether it was the product or my management, you’d have to add moisture I think. There’s a lot less dust with it than straw or shavings. I think it would be the same cost as shavings and fewer bags to handle.” In October however, Greydanus was very happy with the performance of HOOF-PRINT in a breeder barn cycle. He plans to definitely use it in the breeder barn going forward instead of straw, at least for winter flocks because it dries “very nicely.”
In 2007, when Dr. Michael Ngadi at McGill University developed a way of predicting chicken egg hatchability using hyperspectral imaging with 95 percent accuracy, no one noticed. Three years later an article appeared in a magazine asking, what happened to that research? No one answered.But in 2012, public concerns with chick maceration changed the question: could this technology determine the gender of the chick? No one had thought to ask until then, but the Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) decided to invest $50K to find out.“It’s a testimony to funding early research,” said Tim Nelson, CEO of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC), a Guelph-based organization that acts as a catalyst to enable cross-disciplinary and cross-sectorial research.Speaking to the Poultry Industry Council’s 2016 Poultry Health Day in Stratford, Ont., Nelson used Ngadi’s research as a prime example of how a piece of research can surface and become useful when exposed to the right timing and conditions. By 2014, the technology had been developed to a point of 99 per cent accuracy of predicting gender at time of lay and almost 98 per cent accuracy of predicting fertility. Not only did this reduce waste, it also reduces the carbon footprint. “Every egg is useful,” said Nelson. The male eggs don’t have to be incubated, saving energy, and they’re still fresh enough to use in food service. For tom turkeys the cost effective sex separation could mean huge incubation and feeding advantages. The camera is non-intrusive, meaning no risk of contamination or disease transmission during testing.In the summer of 2015 this project started “getting serious”, said Nelson, as the discussions and legal agreements swirled towards commercialization. “It takes a lot of time…longer than you think.” The inventor of the technology had to negotiate intellectual property agreements and royalties with his team, McGill University, and the EFO. The sensitive equipment capable of scrutinizing 30,000 eggs per hour was also picking up electrical interference, while the hatching equipment itself was developed in South Africa and required approval from the CSA. The PIC funded the original research; funding sources expanded to include further support from the EFO and the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC).On May 28, 2016, an excited Dr. Ngadi e-mailed Nelson to announce that the prototype would soon be ready to begin industrial trials, and a partnership is being established with an EU organization to further develop and distribute the technology as the project partners seek worldwide distribution. “It’s off the bench now,” said Nelson.
Next time you go into a livestock barn, stop, look, listen and smell. How is one species of livestock different from another? Or better yet, how are all livestock species the same?The answer to that question may just hold the key to the future of research. The days of independent, species-specific research may be changing to a new model, bringing together not only different livestock species but also different sectors of research and industry. “It’s time to start thinking outside the shell,” said Tim Nelson, “and think very big.” Nelson is the CEO of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC) – a new hive of cross-disciplinary research based in Guelph, Ont. The new network is an assembly of Ontario Livestock and Poultry Organizations that are betting the future of agriculture on well designed and directed research. Their mission is to provide, “a single portal through which collective investment in livestock and poultry research conducted in Ontario, is able to generate the best possible outcomes and return on investment for our sector and the Province.” Times are changing, explained Nelson. Funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food is holding steady but overall investment in poultry research is declining and industry funding is flat. Government funding is pulling back at a time when their target outcomes are moving to a focus of creating jobs, although Nelson has high hopes with a new government that believes in science.That’s not the only change. The agriculture and food industry is changing too, looking for economies of scale. Industry is relying less on publicly funded research to pursue their goals of efficiency, while large corporations in areas such as genetics and pharmaceuticals continue to consolidate and do their own research.Meanwhile research priorities are also changing. “We’ve gotten good at producing eggs,” said Nelson. In 1951 a hen would give us 150 eggs; in 2006 that number had risen to 325 eggs, using only 1.4 kg of feed compared to 3.4 kg. The feed to gain ratio in broilers has dropped from 6:1 to 1.6:1. “Do we still need to be doing this,” he asked?Society is changing too, said Nelson, and their push for change is powerful. Many suggested production practices have no science to guide them. It’s one thing to ask to ban cages but what do the birds need in alternate production systems such as aviaries to ensure they’re getting a better deal?At the researcher level, one measure of success is the number of patents issued, which potentially may delay transfer of technical information, adding to cost and reducing the desire of the industry to invest in late-stage research.What opportunities can cross-disciplinary research create in this changing environment? Nelson makes a strong case for collaboration. When it comes to addressing societal needs, for example, Nelson suggests that the ‘silo’ model just doesn’t work. Social and ecological problems are far too complex. In response, research ‘clusters’ are becoming more common, allowing for the spreading of costs and creating a synergy to address common interests. Nelson cautions though that they need to be more than a grouping of researchers in one building, each working on their own projects. Just calling a grouping of researchers a ‘cluster’ doesn’t necessarily follow his definition of cross-disciplinary research.So what does? Let’s consider what topics are important to poultry research right now. Nelson has condensed them to three areas: animal welfare, antibiotics in feed and food safety. None of these are what he calls “single discipline issues”. Each has components that could be cross-funded by more than one sector, working in collaboration. Could solutions to treat salmonella in pigs, for example, also be applied to poultry? Why not to dairy and beef as well? The advantages of shared research are clear: costs can be spread, bigger industry funding can be leveraged to better government funding, more tech transfer will be encouraged and private investment will be exposed to more opportunity. But what about the language? Will researchers talking in ‘pig language’ be able to communicate with those talking ‘chicken’? Nelson says yes, once an early solution gets to the point where it needs to diverge it will need individual attention. “This is a paradigm shift,” said Nelson, which may not apply to all research but it is a way forward that will help the agriculture industry.Nelson wants to target the resources of LRIC at what he calls the ‘Blue Sky/ Discovery stage’: “Start thinking about opportunities early.” LRIC is there to find commonalities in research, searching proposals and issues to find common ground. “Cross-disciplinary research is already a reality; cross-sectorial research will become a reality,” said Nelson. “It will become a necessity.” Don’t be shy, he says, talk to LRIC and find out who else would benefit from or fund your work.
Any method to preserve a species’ genetics is complex and costly. For poultry, raising generation after generation of a certain group of birds is one method, but because those who have been doing this don’t really receive any benefits that outweigh the costs, many are not continuing with it. In addition, relying on live flocks as a way to preserve genetics is also quite risky because something like a disease outbreak or a fire could always come along and cause the DNA to be lost forever.A solution is therefore needed, preferably one that allows for the preservation of as much avian genetic diversity as possible. This will allow for genes from heritage breeds to be fully examined and characterized – genes which may hold great future promise in commercial breeding in terms of important traits like resistance to disease. American geneticist Dr. Janet Fulton has already demonstrated that there are some genes present in heritage poultry breeds that are not present in commercial breeds, and some of this heritage DNA (very much at risk of being lost at this point in time) may become crucial in future commercial poultry breeding enhancements. But how is a central, efficient and secure way to preserve poultry genes to be developed? Cryopreservation (slow freezing) was tried because it works for mammalian sperm, eggs, embryos and more. But it turned out that cryopreservation of avian sperm significantly lowers its ability to fertilize eggs, and avian sperm doesn’t contain the entire bird genome anyway. While avian embryonic cells do, cryopreservation doesn’t work with them either. Finding a reliable way to preserve poultry genetics is also challenging because of the trickiness involved with manipulating bird eggs and sperm, explains Dr. Carl Lessard, curator of the Canadian Animal Genetic Resources program (CAGR) at the University of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan. “What’s required is to open a small spot in an egg shell and deposit desired embryonic cells into the host embryo without killing it,” he notes. “That’s very difficult. So, while freezing embryonic blastodermal cells is a good way to preserve the entire genome of a species, it just doesn’t allow for easy usability of that genome in poultry.” In 2006, Dr. Fred Silversides (now retired from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) tried some new thinking. What about preserving the gonadal tissue (testicular and ovarian tissue) where sperm and eggs are created and stored? Might it be possible to develop a relatively efficient way to remove gonads, chill and store them, and then thaw and transfer them, resulting in the hatching of a chick with the desired genetics and not any from the surrogate mother hen? Instead of the slow freezing involved with cryopreservation, Silversides tried vitrification, where a gonad is removed from a day-old chick, treated with lots of cryoprotectant and chilled rapidly through a plunge in liquid nitrogen. The gonad is never technically frozen (there’s no ice crystal formation) but maintained in a glass-like (vitreous) state at a very low temperature. Once thawed, the gonad is surgically transferred to a day-old chick recipient that has had its gonad totally or partially removed. At the same time, Silversides and his team developed ways to preserve the viability of the tissues during and after thawing and transplantation, such as treating the recipient chick with immunosuppressants to avoid rejection of the graft.Success was achieved! Over time, the work of Silversides and his colleagues at AFFC was transferred to CAGR, where Lessard became curator in 2014. Since that point, Lessard and his team have been working hard to move all aspects of poultry genetics preservation forward. View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.canadianpoultrymag.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleriae0a889fb63 What’s happening nowThe technique for chicken testicular tissue is now well-established, and Lessard and colleagues are currently optimizing Silversides’ technique for ovarian tissue. “The ovarian grafts are not growing the way we need them to, so we are now trying to find a new chicken line recipient,” Lessard explains. “The bird line we were using likely has an immune response that’s too high. We didn’t see this with the testicular tissue grafts in that line.”With turkeys, Lessard has established a reliable protocol for freezing gonads from newly-hatched chicks, with the next step to optimize the surgical procedures and immunosuppressive treatment to obtain successful growth of the grafts. In terms of the team’s preliminary genetic analysis, they’ve found turkey breeds have a lot of genome ‘admixture’ (many shared genes alleles between breeds), but more samples are needed to confirm this finding. Shared alleles, says Lessard, make it harder to characterize the entire genetic diversity of turkeys and establish what is, and what is not, pure turkey genetics. Once vitrification of male and female gonadal tissue for chicken and turkeys is complete, the team will launch a national call in 2017 to request genetic samples of fertilized eggs from commercial and heritage breeds. They will also move on to other poultry breeds such as ducks.Lessard and his colleagues are also creating a germplasm repository (sperm, eggs, gonads, embryos) for other types of livestock from all across Canada. “We are looking for donations from purebred animals in all areas of the country,” he says, “including bison, cattle, sheep, goat, horse, pig, deer, elk and more. It’s going well, and we’re getting more and more participation from livestock associations and individual producers. Right now (in September and October 2016), we are in Ontario and Quebec gathering samples from sheep, goat and beef cattle.” A website letting the public know what has been contributed is being developed and Lessard is looking for more Canadian and international graduate students to tackle all the work. “We need many samples for poultry and everything else produced in Canada,” he explains. “Genetic characterization of commercial and heritage poultry breeds is extremely important and we need to establish the true diversity of the different poultry breeds produced here. The number of heritage breed birds is shrinking every year, and it’s very important to capture genetics as soon as possible.” Silversides’ vitrification preservation technique has so far been adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture ‘Agricultural Research Service’ Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Lessard says individuals at that organization have already used the technique to preserve the genetics of several U.S. commercial and heritage breeds. In terms of other groups beyond CAGR working on gonadal transfer, a team in Hungary is currently working to master it. To make is easier for them and other researchers around the world learn how to successfully complete surgical transfer of vitrified gonads, Lessard has been working on a free tutorial e-book featuring detailed video and audio descriptions of each step. “This strategy (vitrification and gonadal transfer technique) has great potential to preserve the entire genome of a poultry breed and also use that genome fairly easily,” he explains. “We want it to be available to everyone.”
We have two new cutting-edge Canadian poultry feed developments to present in this issue of Canadian Poultry. First up is a high-protein ingredient produced by Enterra Feed Corporation of Langley, B.C., which recently received Canadian and U.S. regulatory approval for use in animal feed (broilers and pets so far) – the first ingredient of its kind to do so.The ingredient is Whole Dried Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSF). Black Soldier Flies are native to North America and do not bite or sting. The larvae are high in protein and fat, and grow quickly. Enterra’s Marketing and Operations Manager says BSF are renewable and environmentally-friendly, consuming pre-consumer food waste that would otherwise go to landfill, composting or waste-to-energy operations where the food nutrient value would be lost. Victoria Leung also notes that BSF larvae will consume a wide range of waste food, from fruits, vegetables and stale bread to grains and grocery store waste.All of the company’s production processes were developed in-house by Enterra’s research and engineering teams over the course of several years. “The adult flies are grown in cages under controlled environmental conditions,” Leung explains. “Once the larvae mature, they are either sent back to the cages to emerge as flies or they are harvested as product.”When asked about the potential reaction a consumer might have to eating chicken that has been fed dried fly larvae, Leung says that “based on our experience, we are not too concerned…Insects are a natural source of nutrients for chickens, fish and other animals – it’s what they eat in the wild. Free-range chickens, for example, naturally forage for insects.” The biggest barrier to commercialization of BSF has been clearing regulatory hurdles to achieve approval as a feed ingredient. “However, we are now seeing very good progress on this front, first with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S., and now with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) as well,” Leung explains. CFIA approval this summer came after four years of work, during which time the agency reviewed BSF as a ‘Novel Feed Ingredient,’ did a data review and a complete safety assessment (livestock, workers, food and the environment). “CFIA has a very thorough review process that involves assessing the product for safety, microbiology and efficacy for each target animal type, for example salmon, broilers and so on,” says Leung. “We also needed to show the product worked equivalent to or better than feed ingredients currently on the market.”Enterra is working with the CFIA and FDA to have its BSF approved for use in other animal feeds as well, including poultry layers, other poultry (turkeys, ducks), trout and salmon. Approval is anticipated in mid-2017. The firm is also working to develop new products from dried larvae such as oil and high-protein meal.Because it’s a natural ingredient, we asked Enterra if inclusion of BSF in chicken feed will help with bird gut health, for example perhaps reducing incidence of coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis. Leung responded by noting that “insects contain chitin as part of their exoskeleton structure. Researchers have proposed that inclusion of chitin or chitosan in poultry diets may improve poultry health; however, more research is needed.”Dr. Bob Blair, nutritional scientist and Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia (UBC), has studied BSF. “The meal is closest in composition to fish meal and is a valuable feed ingredient,” he says. “It contains 40 to 60 per cent crude protein, depending on the amount of oil extracted during processing.” He has found no issues with blending it into feed, though he notes the high-fat product may have to be stabilized. “I do not have first-hand experience of feeding the meal to poultry since UBC no longer has the requisite facilities, but based on my talks with the company and my understanding of research conducted on similar products elsewhere, I regard it as an excellent poultry feed ingredient. Its main limitation is the cost - can it compete economically with other protein feedstuffs or will its cost limit it to more expensive feeds such as fish feed?” Blair adds that since BSF excrement can be used as fertilizer, the whole BSF production process “is to be welcomed as a sustainable way of producing a valuable feed ingredient from vegetable waste that would otherwise be dumped.”Enterra is currently selling BSF to both Canadian and U.S. customers in the poultry and pet food industries. Scratch and Peck Feeds in Bellingham, Washington began purchasing BSF in April 2015, shortly after it became available on the U.S. market. “We wanted it to package as a poultry treat as an alternative to meal worms which are predominantly grown in China,” explains owner Diana Ambauen-Meade. “One of our company’s values is to source our ingredients as locally/regionally as possible so we don’t buy anything offshore. And we value that they feed the larvae pre-consumer food waste that would normally end up in a landfill as it is a very effective way to close the food waste loop.” She says she fully intends to integrate BSF into her feeds as an alternative protein source to the fishmeal currently used. When asked about the potential to have widespread inclusion of BSF in U.S. and Canadian poultry feeds, in terms of the environment impact that would have on diverting landfill waste and in the avoidance of other feed ingredients which have greater impact, Leung has a positive outlook. “There is a big potential for our insect ingredients to become a standard inclusion in livestock diets,” she says. “Our company plans to expand far beyond our Langley facility – anywhere there is an abundance of food waste, it is possible to build a commercial insect-rearing facility to upcycle the waste nutrients into sustainable feed ingredients.”Antibiotic replacement?Ontario-based AbCelex Technologies has developing a line of non-antibiotic, non-hormonal products that eliminate or significantly reduce pathogens in the chicken gut such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. “Since these innovative products are based on natural antibodies, there is no risk to human health and no possibility of antibiotic resistance,” says President and CEO Saeid Babaei. “The products will be delivered as a feed additive. Chickens simply ingest the antibody and it selectively neutralizes the bacteria. Our results in live chicks show 95 per cent inhibition of the Campylobacter pathogen, far higher than any other pre-harvest method used in industry and what expected by regulators.”AbCelex is now moving forward with young adult field studies to be followed by large broiler trials to support regulatory submissions, with a goal of market launch in late 2018 or early 2019. “Being the first product of its kind, we will work with various regulatory agencies in getting our products approved,” Babaei notes. “Our commercialization strategy is to directly market to large poultry producers/processors as well as co-marketing opportunities with larger animal health companies…We have already partnered with one of Ireland’s largest poultry producer/processor, Carton Group, which may be involved with commercial farm studies and product registration in Europe.”The very small antibodies (also called single-domain antibodies or nanobodies) employed by AbCelex occur naturally only in the blood of cameloids (camels, llamas and alpacas) and sharks. “The discovery of this novel class of antibodies stems from the early 1990s,” Babaei explains, “when Belgium scientists were studying the blood of cameloids and they noticed that the immune systems of these species produced a unique type of antibody around a tenth of the size of usual antibodies — small enough that they were orally bioavailable, whereas conventional antibody drugs must be injected to enter the bloodstream.” The nanobodies’ small size and flexibility for molecular engineering also allows for cost-effective mass production. In the past several years, AbCelex has increased the resistance of its lead products to the acidic conditions of the animal digestive tract, and also significantly improved their resistance to heat (required in poultry feed preparation). In the past year, they have also produced their lead antibodies in various micro-organism systems, such as yeast. In July 2016, AbCelex received an investment of $3.4 million through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s ‘AgriInnovation Program’ to support further product development. Babaei says this will be conducted in collaboration with Canadian and international academic institutions, companies and contract research groups.
The swell of demand from North America’s largest food companies for cage-free eggs is a stunning example of why public trust in our country’s food system matters. The huge number of cage-free commitments from food makers, retailers and restaurants in Canada and the U.S. stems from how these companies perceive overall consumer opinions on hen housing – the fact that consumers do not trust that farmers know best with regard to housing systems that provides the best life for hens. While these North American food companies (see sidebar) are no doubt being influenced by cage-free commitments already made by their subsidiaries or peers in Australia, the UK and the EU, their promises to only source cage-free eggs in these other parts of the world are again based on consumer perception, largely influenced by animal activist groups. The united cage-free front of North American food makers, restaurants and retailers suggests that cage-free housing is inevitable in both Canada and the U.S. There are simply no major egg buyers who want anything else. “This is a done issue in the U.S.,” says Josh Balk, senior director for food policy at the Humane Society of the United States. “I can’t see the Canadian scenario being any different.” However, whether egg farmers in either country will be able to meet the deadlines is far from certain. Eggs Farmers of Canada (EFC) has currently committed to reaching 50 per cent cage-free production within eight years (2024), 85 per cent within 15 years and to have all hens “in enriched housing, free-run, aviary or free-range by 2036, assuming the current market conditions prevail.” This does not line up with North American food industry timelines of sourcing only cage-free eggs by 2025 or sooner. For example, Retail Council of Canada members such as Loblaw and Wal-Mart have committed to 2025, and David Wilkes, Retail Council senior vice-president of government relations and grocery division, says they “will continue to work with producers and processors to transition to this housing environment.” Burnbrae, sole egg supplier of McDonald’s Canada, is switching all its production for that customer to cage-free to meet the restaurant chain’s 2025 deadline. In the U.S., Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Farms, the country’s second and third largest egg producers, are already converting to cage-free barns. A&W Canada currently stands alone among North American food industry companies in its support of enriched housing. The fast food company says it “has worked very hard to have our eggs come from hens that live in enriched cages,” and that it “will continue to serve eggs from enriched housing while we work towards better cage-free housing.” The chain recognizes that Canadians want their eggs to come from hens housed outside of cages, but adds that “there are currently no viable commercial cage-free housing options that meet our strict standards.” To that end, in March 2016 A&W announced it wants to work with Canadian charity Farm & Food Care to bring egg industry partners, retail and food service from across Canada together with the U.S. Center for Food Integrity’s Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply to discuss all issues impacting sustainable eggs (including food safety, environment, hen health, worker health and safety and food affordability), and determine areas that the Canadian egg sector feels funding would be best spent. A&W has offered a grant of $100,000 to further this research. For it’s part, EFC recognizes research that shows each production system comes with trade-offs. We asked EFC about the fact that for any Canadian egg farm to convert to enriched cages and keep the same production level, new barn(s) will likely have to be constructed because the same number of birds cannot be housed in enriched cages in a given barn as were housed in battery cages. Does EFC see this as a particular challenge for Canadian egg farmers in terms of costs and the land required? “There are many factors a farmer needs to consider when evaluating the realities of transitioning an operation,” EFC states. “What’s important to keep in mind is that every farm is different (e.g. size, location, etc.) and until farmers start working through the implications of their transition—carefully considering his/her requirements—any estimation of cost is speculative.” While EFC is currently looking into the financial implications of various alternative housing systems, we asked also if cage-free barns are less expensive than enriched cages, taking into account the possible requirement for new barn(s). “The decision to retool an existing barn or build a new barn is an important component of each farm’s individual transition plan,” EFC states. “Shifting to a new production system with different space requirements can impact the overall size of the flock. Typically, alternative housing systems have a larger building footprint and do not contain as many birds and conventional housing systems.” Cost is a concern for the United Egg Producers, which represents those producing almost 90 per cent of American eggs, and for the National Association of Egg Farmers (NAEF), which represents about one per cent of U.S. production. NAEF is against mandated cage-free production for other reasons as well, including increased egg prices, increased mortality due to cannibalism and other factors, increased pecking injuries, higher risk of contamination due to prolonged exposure of eggs to litter and manure in nest boxes or on the barn floor, high dust levels and ergonomic challenges in egg collection. Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) released the draft version of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Layers for public comment in June. The draft does not promote any type of housing over any other, but does include new recommendations for roomier cages. In the end however, any attempt to convince the North American foodservice industry of the merits of any other type of housing except free-run/cage-free may be a lost cause. Marion Gross, senior supply chain management vice president at McDonald’s USA, may have summed it up best in her statement in January 2016 in the Chicago Tribune: “Enriched [housing] doesn’t mean anything to our customers, but they know what cage-free means.”
Chickens, like all vertebrates, are governed by a circadian rhythm that is governed by the natural light/dark cycle of day and night. As such, chickens mostly rest and are inactive at night, especially when it is dark. Although they do rest during the daylight hours, most of their feeding and activity is performed during this time. Studies show that just as in humans, major abrupt changes to the day/night cycle of the chickens, such as waking up the chickens at night with loud noises, will lead to stressed and anxious chickens. In addition, studies have shown that loud noises such as found near airports, rail road tracks or loud hydraulic or pneumatic equipment and machinery close to the chickens leads to lower egg production, stunted growth, higher blood pressure, stress and fatigue in the birds. A study has shown that loud noise simulating noisy ventilation fans and operational machines found at slaughterhouses led to increased plasma corticosteroids, cholesterol and total protein.1 This study recommended the control of noise pollution near the chickens and chicks. Other studies show that noise levels past the 85 dB level can lead to a decreased feed intake of between 15 to 25 per cent. Lower feed intake stunts chicken growth — something the poultry farmer or processor does not want. But all is not lost. Below are some tips and advice to reduce the noise level to an acceptable and healthier level leading to happier and healthier chickens – both psychologically and physically. First identify the sources of noise pollution equipment. Use a sound measuring tool if necessary. Erect sound barrier secondary glazing in windows. Establish your chicken farm in a quiet area away from airports and industrial areas and rail yards. Maintain your ventilation fans and feeding machines making sure they are not producing excess noise. Try to buy machines that produce the least noise possible. Avoid repairs and renovations with noisy equipment, especially during the rest and sleep hours of the chickens Muffle noisy equipment. Make sure that family members do not honk the car horn too often during chicken sleep hours. Investigate “active noise control” - a noise cancelation anti-noise system that produces sound waves of the same amplitude as the noise pollution, but in opposite polarity causing a cancelling of the noise pollution. Train employees and family members to respect the sleep hours of the chickens - they should not be screaming out to each other, joking etc. around sleeping chickens. We simply see that it’s about common sense and respect. We need to respect the fact that chickens are living beings that need many of the same things that we need, including a good night’s sleep and some peace and quiet during the day. We just have to sensitize ourselves by imaging how we feel when we are woken up while we are asleep. We feel grouchy the next day and are less productive in the office. If we internalize this reality, we will treat the chickens with more respect, which not only is the proper thing to do, but it is actual good business sense. The results will be healthier, bigger chickens. Thus, everybody gains by respecting the chickens needs not to be exposed to high levels of noise pollution: the commercial poultry farmer, the backyard chicken farmer enthusiast, the processor and the chickens. Ronnie P. Cons is EVP of C&C Packing Inc., a leading Canadian distributor of meat and poultry. He can be contacted at
September 21, 2016 - With early harvest feed grain samples confirming a high risk year for potential feed quality issues, livestock operations and feed mills are advised to take cautionary steps to safeguard feed quality and livestock performance. “The risk of feed grain quality issues that can affect livestock performance is quite high this year,” says Rob Patterson, Technical Director for Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.) “That’s no surprise with the type of growing season it has been across the Prairies. In many areas it has been very wet with high disease pressure and high risk of mycotoxins, mold and other issues. We are now seeing the risk confirmed in reports from across the region, based on analysis of early harvest grain samples.“It’s a year when livestock operations and feed mills will want to be even more diligent than normal in taking the right steps to safeguard the quality of feed and the performance of livestock consuming the feed.”A good starting point is to send in feed grain samples for analysis, says Patterson. “This can identify the presence and level of mycotoxins and other contaminants. Once you know what you’re dealing with you can take the steps needed avoid any issues.”The convenience, sophistication and accuracy of fast test capability has improved dramatically in recent years, says Mark Peters, Director of Sales and Marketing for CBS Inc. “We have seen a lot more interest in the testing. Industry has become more knowledgeable and cautious about the risk out there and how it can impact production. The testing is a good insurance policy and it’s good for peace of mind. Especially in a year like this one.”CBS Inc. is an example of industry taking on greater capacity in grain analysis to help serve customers. The company offers a tool called MycoCheck that has been developed in part based on studies in partnership with Canadian universities.“The customer sends us a sample, we run the analysis and get back quickly with the information to support a sound management decision,” says Peters. “The technology has come a long way. We see increasingly more livestock operations and feed mills taking advantage.”More information on grain sample analysis options, potential quality issues and options for safeguarding feed and livestock is available by contacting CBS Inc. directly. CBS Inc. offers additional FeedCheck analysis tools. The company also conducts an annual Wheat Survey in cooperation with industry and the University of Manitoba.More information on CBS Inc. and its comprehensive line of feed technology is available at www.canadianbio.com
Sept. 20, 2016 - Ontario farmers are invited to safely and responsibly dispose of their unwanted or obsolete pesticides and livestock (including equine) medications from Sept. 20-30. This collection program is offered at no cost to Ontario farmers. CleanFARMS, an industry-led, national not-for-profit agricultural waste management organization partnered with the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to co-fund the disposal program with support from CropLife Canada, Ontario Agri Business Association, Farm & Food Care Ontario, and the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers' Association, in offering this free program."Ontario farmers are environmentally conscious and are pleased to partner with CleanFARMS to safely dispose of obsolete pesticides and livestock medications," says Craig Hunter from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. "The CleanFARMS collection program provides an excellent one-stop service for Ontario farmers to continue to protect the land."Farmers in Ontario have a long history of good stewardship practices. Since 1998, Ontario farmers have turned in more than 500,000 kilograms of obsolete pesticides."Ontario has a history of successful collections," says Barry Friesen, General Manager of CleanFARMS. "The participation of Ontario farmers shows they are good stewards of their land and committed to protecting the environment."After collection, the pesticides and livestock medications are taken to a licensed waste management facility where they are disposed of through high temperature incineration.The following locations will be accepting obsolete pesticides and livestock/equine medications from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the dates specified:Tuesday, Sept. 20Brodhagen - Hoegy's Farm SupplyGuelph - Woodrill FarmsGlencoe - Parrish & HeimbeckerWednesday, Sept. 21Brussels - Brussels AgromartAilsa Craig - Hensall District Co-opAylmer - Max Underhill's Farm SupplyThursday, Sept. 22Beamsville - NM BartlettForest - Lakeside Grain & Feed LtdKitchener - GROWMARK IncMonday, Sept. 26Bothwell - Hagerty CreekAlliston - Alliance Agri-TurfTara - Sprucedale AgromartNew Hamburg - Good Crop ServicesLancaster - Munro's AgromartTuesday, Sept. 27Tupperville - Agris Co-opWellandport - Clark AgriServiceBradford - Bradford Co-opWalkerton - Huron Bay Co-opAlfred - SynagriWednesday, Sept. 28Paincourt - South West Ag PartnersPrinceton - CargillOakwood - Oakwood Ag CentreHarriston - CargillCasselman - Agro Culture 2001Thursday, Sept. 29Blenheim - ThompsonsBolton - Alliance Agri-TurfTrenton - TCO AgromartDundalk - Huron Bay Co-opRichmond - SynagriSept. 27-29Verner - Verner Ag CentreGore Bay - Northland AgromartPembroke - M&R Feeds and Farm SupplyArnprior - M&R Feeds and Farm SupplyThornloe - Temiskaming Ag CentreThunder Bay - Thunder Bay Co-opFriday, Sept. 30Courtland - CargillOrangeville - Holmes AgroPicton - County Farm CentreLeamington - Agris Co-opChesterville - SynagriFor more information, please call CleanFARMS at 877-622-4460 or visit www.cleanfarms.ca
September 15, 2016 - The Government of Canada has announced an investment of $10 million over seven years to bring one of the world's most respected experts in food security to Canada. A recognized leader in crop adaptation to marginal soil environments, Leon Kochian will become the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Food Systems and Security at the University of Saskatchewan. The United Nations estimates the world's population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Ensuring sufficient nutritious food will therefore be one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. Working out of the university's Global Institute for Food Security, Kochian will lead a multidisciplinary team to unlock the secrets of a plant's "hidden half"-the root system-an unexplored aspect of plant breeding. His research will develop new root-based approaches to crop improvement that will enable breeding for improved root system structure and function, producing new varieties with higher yields and greater capacity to thrive in difficult conditions. Kochian will identify and map the genes linked to root system traits that are specifically responsible for nutrient and water uptake under drought conditions. He anticipates this research will enable increased crop production in less fertile areas. Leon Kochian is the University of Saskatchewan's second CERC after Howard Wheater, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security. He becomes the country's 27th CERC. In total, Leon Kochian's research will receive support worth almost $21 million. The Government of Canada is also providing $800,000 through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The balance will be invested by the Global Institute for Food Security ($7 million) and the University of Saskatchewan ($3 million).
As I write this, I have the luxury of not yet knowing the outcome of the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election. I say “luxury” with tongue firmly planted in cheek, because I went about deciding who I would have voted for with a “who do I dislike the least?” mindset. The actual content of the candidates’ campaigns was an afterthought.The campaigning became more amusing as time went on and the world watched with morbid curiosity – the kind of rubbernecking you see when a bad car accident has happened on the other side of the road. U.S. citizens are now digesting the outcome of their vote and with the Electoral College (EC) vote pending – which doesn’t necessarily have to follow the popular vote, but typically does – all that’s left is for inauguration on Jan. 20 to make that choice a reality. It’s a time of weighty reflection about whether the U.S. people collectively made the right decision – or the least wrong one. Americans were ultimately presented with candidates that no one dared accuse of having fantastic potential as the leader of the third most populous nation in the world, and its largest economy.The democratic process is not perfect. We’ve seen two shining examples of that in 2016 (don’t forget Brexit). It is, nevertheless, fair.December is typically the time when marketing boards and other agricultural associations begin a democratic process of their own. With annual general meetings dotting the calendar over the next few months, industry associations will also be looking to fill open positions on their board of directors. It’s a time for a renewal and a chance for fresh blood to come in. The shame for our sector, though, is that for every one person who lets his or her name stand for a board position, there are probably many more equally worthy candidates who need the encouragement to take that important step in seeking nomination. In agriculture, after all, humility does trump all. No pun intended. I’ve been involved with several industry recognition awards in the last decade and it has always been a struggle to entice applicants. The problem is not a lack of aptitude. The fact is that farmers just aren’t comfortable with recognition. Regardless of that, poultry producers DO have passion for their industry and an inherent desire to do what’s right. Across Canada, we are lucky to have astute people in the right positions to help move the industry forward. But there needs to be keen talent waiting in the wings as partial turnover occurs each year – new faces to take on challenges and keep momentum. In his inaugural speech, John F. Kennedy succinctly said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” That quote can easily be applied to our sector by interchanging the word industry for country.We’ve just witnessed a presidential election where neither top candidate inspired confidence from the voting masses. Take the time to reflect on how different the next four years could look for the U.S. if a selection of better-qualified candidates had entered the race and ultimately been on the final ballot. If you have ever considered running for a board position, I sincerely encourage you to pursue it. For support, talk to your peers and ask for input. The decision to give so much of your time to the industry should not be taken lightly, but in a democratic society, it truly is a shame when leaders are acclaimed simply because they had no serious or competent challengers.
According to The World Bank the roughly 4.5 billion low-income people in developing countries spend more than $5 trillion a year collectively. Of that, they spend $2.3 trillion a year on food and beverages alone. It stands to reason then that businesses that target those consumers and establish local sources of supply will be able to take advantage of this incredible growth.Furthermore, by connecting segments of those populations with viable markets, businesses have the ability to bring people out of poverty. This is what is referred to as an “inclusive business.” Markus Dietrich, co-founder and director of ASEI Inc., spoke on inclusive business models at this year’s International Egg Conference in Warsaw, Poland. What is an inclusive business?According to the G20 Inclusive Business Framework, inclusive business approaches go beyond corporate social responsibility and philanthropy, and impact investment by connecting poor people to markets. “[Inclusive business approaches] encompass business approaches that directly improve the lives of the poor by making them part of the value chain of companies’ core business as suppliers, distributors, retailers, or customers,” said a report from the G20 meeting in Istanbul in 2015. According to Dietrich inclusive businesses have the opportunity to capture corporate growth and market opportunities while enhancing brand value with key stakeholders. In building an inclusive model, businesses also reap added rewards: gaining social license to operate, future proofing the supply chain and attracting and retaining talent. Dietrich knows all about designing an inclusive business model. He is, after all, an inclusive business specialist with extensive experience in research, consulting and project development. He is regularly recruited by leading corporations to develop inclusive business models aimed at corporate growth and social impact. Dietrich is also co-founder and CEO of Hilltribe Organics, a social enterprise producing free-range and organic eggs with hill tribe communities in Northern Thailand. Hilltribe Organics is the first certified organic chicken farm in Thailand; its products are available in all major supermarkets.Existing inclusive businessesThere are many corporations who have already put their sustainability plans into action. Unilever, for instance, launched its Sustainable Living Plan in 2010. The plan is a blueprint for the company’s sustainable growth. Similarly, Mars established the Cocoa Sustainability Initiative and committed to being sustainable in a generation. To support a long-term goal of Creating Shared Value, Nestlé made 38 commitments that it aims to be by 2020 or earlier. Here in North America, McDonald’s Corporation has decided to stop using eggs from chickens raised in cages over the next decade. But it’s not just food service and processers that are creating inclusive business models. Businesses involved in primary production are challenging older models with the goal of lifting communities out of poverty. The 3 million farmers who work for Amul Dairy Cooperative in India, for instance, all benefit directly from the company’s success. The cooperative is so inclusive that even a farmer with a single cow can join. Locally, a group manages milk collection and pays farmers on the spot. Inclusive businesses in the egg industry value chainThere are examples of inclusive businesses around the world, including in the breeding, machinery and primary production sectors, said Dietrich, who highlighted several examples where business opportunities created better lives for those involved. In Ethiopia, for example, diets are deficient in protein. Indigenous chicken breeds have a survival rate of 50 percent. Birds produce fewer eggs, mature later and are prone to disease.Mekelle Farms saw an opportunity to increase egg production by 500 per cent, thereby increasing smallholder farmer incomes. Higher egg production will both increase the supply of protein to rural and urban households, said Dietrich, as well as lower the cost of protein, making it more accessible.Similarly, in India, poultry farmers have millions of low-productivity birds in back yards. Their flocks aren’t generating enough income, nor are they providing enough food. There, Keggfarms helped make low-income families more food secure by addressing the egg and meat issue, as well as providing opportunities for farmers, explained Dietrich. Keggfarms also create a micro entrepreneur network selling day-old chicks that have a longer life expectancy. Keggfarms has received high praise for its business model. It is even a case study on Social Enterprise at Harvard Business School, said Vipin Malhotra, CEO at Keggfarms.Realizing that per-person poultry meat consumption will rise faster than it will for pork and beef, especially in Africa, machinery company Surehatch saw an opportunity to build connections in South Africa. Surehatch, said Dietrich, focuses on Kenya’s smallholder market, emphasizing the idea of chicken production as a business opportunity. The company trains farmers – more than half of them are women – and helps them to create profitable businesses that provide a steady annual income.Dietrich’s own inclusive business, Hilltribe Organics in Thailand, triples farm incomes, helping to bring families out of poverty. Regular and predictable income, he said, helps improve their quality of life.Developing your own inclusive businessThinking about developing your own inclusive business model? In a recent report, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) noted that there are some 475 million small farmers globally, creating a huge potential supply chain for future inclusive business owners. A good start, said Dietrich, is making the move from corporate social responsibility to inclusive business models. This can be done by partnering with social enterprises and seeking support and financing from an inclusive business ecosystem. Can eggs make a difference? Dietrich thinks they can. At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit of September of 2015, world leaders agreed to adopt the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including eliminating poverty and hunger, and improving health, education and gender equality. Of the 17 goals, Dietrich said that egg production addresses at least eight: no poverty; no hunger; good health; gender equality; good jobs and economic growth; responsible consumption; life on land; and creating partnerships for the goals. “We have proved the point that eggs have the potential to create substantial social impact,” concluded Dietrich. “Having a predictable and regular income has completely changed their lives.”
November 21, 2016 - The gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce in agriculture has doubled from 30,000 to 59,000 in the past 10 years and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs. This is a key finding of newly released "Agriculture 2025: How the sector’s labour challenges will shape its future research" by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC). The LMI research also revealed that primary agriculture has the highest industry job vacancy rate at seven per cent. “The sustainability and future growth of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industry is at risk,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, CAHRC executive director. “It is critically important that this risk is acknowledged and mitigated in an intentional and strategic way. “ The agriculture industry has been encouraging young people and workers from other sectors to get into agriculture as a career. Despite extensive efforts gaps still exist and there still will be a large void in the future. Labour shortages create risks to farmers who can only hope they will have the same or greater access to both domestic and foreign workers in the future as they do now. The LMI study examined only primary production; agri-food industries such as food and beverage processors or input suppliers, which have additional labour demands, were not considered in the research. The research indicates that the worker shortage is critical today and will be even more so 10 years from now, with potentially serious consequences for business viability, industry sustainability and future growth. Access to less labour for Canadian farmers now and into the future will affect food security for Canadian consumers and will also affect export potential of Canada’s entire agri-food industry. To address the labour issues identified in the research, CAHRC, with the help of the Canadian government, has developed agriculture-specific human resource (HR) tools designed to support modern farm operations to manage their workforce. CAHRC offers Agri Skills, online and in-person training programs, and the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business. For agricultural organizations there are customized labour issues briefings that apply the new research to specific commodities and provinces, to explore the labour implications within their specific area. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit cahrc-ccrha.ca. The Agriculture 2025: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future research can be downloaded at http://www.cahrc-ccrha.ca/agriLMI.ca and was validated through industry consultations conducted Canada-wide including: 1034 surveys of employers, workers and industry stakeholders; 80 phone interviews; six focus groups for a total of more than 100 participants; and seven webinars focused on specific commodity groups with 100 participants in total. The LMI research was funded in part by the federal Sectoral Initiatives Program.
Nov. 18, 2016 - The Government of Canada says it is taking steps to address the concerns of import predictability and effective border controls for supply-managed commodities, while ensuring that Canadian processors who use dairy and poultry inputs can remain competitive in export markets.The Duties Relief Program (DRP) enables qualified companies to import goods without paying duties, as long as they later export the goods. Earlier this year, Canada Border Services Agency verifications found that five participants in the Duties Relief Program were improperly selling supply-managed commodities in the Canadian market without reporting these sales and without paying the required duties. As a result, applicable duties, interest and penalties were assessed, and the importers' DRP licences were suspended.Program consultations will be launched with industry stakeholders regarding potential changes to the DRP and the Import for Re-Export Program. In the interim, the Government is also exploring measures with dairy and poultry users of the DRP regarding inventory reporting in an effort to improve the predictability of these imports.In its efforts to ensure appropriate tariff classification of spent fowl, the Government will also look at specific options regarding certification requirement for imports of spent fowl product, while ensuring that any such requirement would be fully consistent with Canada's international trade obligations. At the same time, Government officials are assessing the feasibility of using a DNA test to screen imports of spent fowl at the border.Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) welcomed the news, saying that the consultations will hopefully result in a timely implementation of better rules to stop the distortions into the Canadian chicken market created by inappropriate program duplication and design, and circumvention of tariff classifications.“Our farmers and processors have been afflicted by leakages in the market that have been occurring for manyyears now, meaning they face uncertainty in their own production, and consumers face uncertainty in thesafety of their food,” says Dave Janzen, CFC chair. “We are hopeful that a meaningful consultation process will result in changes benefitting the chicken sector in Canada, and all Canadians.”CFC goes on to say that addressing these critical issues will not affect the significant amount of legal imports of chicken that make Canada the 13th largest importer of chicken in the world. The Canadian chicken sector supports over 87,200jobs from coast to coast in Canada, and contributes $6.8 billion to Canada’s GDP.
Nov. 9, 2016 - All eggs, pork and veal produced and sold in Massachusetts will be required to come from humanely-caged animals by 2022 as Massachusetts voters decided in favor of Question 3 on Nov. 8.The Associated Press declared Yes on 3 had prevailed at about 10:15 p.m.Effective Jan. 1, 2022, the law makes it illegal for any farm owner or operator to "knowingly cause any covered animal to be confined in a cruel manner," and for any business in the state to buy eggs, pork or veal "that the business owner or operator knows or should know is the product of a covered animal that was confined in a cruel manner." | READ MORE.
In Lower Saxony, Germany, Stefan Teepker has just spent 25,000 € (approximately $36,500 CAD) on a new on-farm visitor gallery complete with food vending machine, video system and 24-hour viewing area on one of his poultry farms.It’s not that he’s expecting the vending machine to be a big money maker – he needs 15 € a day in sales to make the venture work – but he’s hoping it will attract the non-farming public to his farm to learn more about how broiler chickens are raised, housed and treated in Germany. Teepker unveiled his concept to a group of visiting international agricultural journalists who were touring northern and eastern Germany this past July.It’s not easy being a farmer in Lower Saxony, where agriculture minister Christian Meyer represents the Green Party. Strict animal welfare rules, limitations on new barn constructions and looming new clean air laws mean farmers have a lot more to worry about than just raising healthy, quality livestock and poultry. To Teepker’s way of thinking, that’s precisely why someone has to show people where their food comes from, and there’s nobody better to do that than farmers themselves.“We have to show how we produce the meat people eat and with this new viewing area, people can come here any time to watch our birds,” he explained while looking into his bright, modern barn filled with healthy, contented birds. “Some farmers say we can’t do this job, someone else should – but who else would that be?”Doing nothing is not an option as the pressure from those opposed to livestock farming is already making itself felt. For example, even enriched poultry cages will be phased out entirely in favour of all cage-free production by 2025, beak trimming will be banned by the end of 2016, and culling of male chicks will no longer be permitted in Lower Saxony by the end of 2017.The state has also committed to reducing antibiotic use in agriculture by 50 per cent in five years, resulting in farmers having to notify the government each time they purchase antibiotics for livestock use. And according to Teepker, Lower Saxony is no longer issuing building permits for new livestock barns, citing environmental concerns, and that it is very difficult to even secure permission to renew existing facilities. Farmers who wish to expand their production have no choice but to buy existing farms or relocate to other parts of Germany, he said. “We built our first barn in 2009, where we got a permit in 12 months and built in six – it was two years in total from thought to bird. Now it is up to six years,” he said. New clean air laws from the European Union designed to reduce emissions from intensive livestock operations will mean new costs too, he added. Teepker farms together with his younger brother Matthias near Handrup, Lower Saxony, about 360 km north of Frankfurt. He’s in charge of the broiler side of their operation, which also includes pigs, biogas production and 350 hectares (approximately 865 acres) of crops. In 2013 he purchased the farm where he has added the viewing gallery and renovated the 10-year old facilities. And although he considered expansion into Eastern Germany several years ago, he ultimately decided against it due to the high cost of farms. Teepker is not alone among farmers in Germany adding viewing galleries into their livestock barns, but notes that his goes above and beyond the simple window and information card that most provide. Videos available on demand, for example, demonstrate other aspects of his farm and the life cycle of his birds. Feed samples show what birds eat and feeders and waterers are on display to demonstrate how they eat and drink.And the vending machine, which Teepker has stocked with chicken products, can sell anything from a single egg to a five kilogram bag of potatoes. This particular farm happens to be on a busy public cycling trail, so Teepker hopes his location – and the cold drinks he is including in the vending machine – will help draw people in. View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.canadianpoultrymag.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria4f71ff03b9 If the viewing room and vending machine are successful on the broiler barn, there are plans for a similar installation on one of their pig barns too.Facebook is his biggest audience, where “Landwirtschaft Teepker” and regular posts of photos and updates about farm activities have garnered more than 2,100 likes, but he’s also a keen supporter of video. His most popular online video, called a look into chicken production, has logged more than 78,000 views to date. “YouTube is the new Google so you need to have video even if it isn’t the best,” he believes. But nothing beats a face to face connection, which is why the Teepkers have also reached out to local schools, starting about five years ago with inviting kindergarten classes out to the farm and expanding to include twice yearly classroom visits with small birds. They also sponsor children’s soccer jerseys in the community. And those public education efforts seem to be paying off. “We are noticing changes in attitudes with parents and teachers – “where are the cages” is now the most asked question,” Teepker said, adding the most people don’t know that German broilers are not raised in cages. “I think and hope that we are doing a good job.”Yet despite some success, Teepker is also a realist about the public pressures facing farmers and the challenges of reaching out to consumers who are increasingly distanced from farming and food production. “This is a first step, but the discussion will never finish,” he believes.
Nov. 1, 2016 - The Canada and Manitoba governments are investing more than $432,000 over two years to help Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) establish a new program to provide practical, on-farm expertise, resources and training to enhance on-farm safety. The announcement was made by federal agriculture minister, Lawrence MacAulay and Manitoba agriculture minister, Ralph Eichler.The farm safety program will offer access to agriculture industry-specific information to ensure agriculture employers understand the regulations, rights and responsibilities around safe workplaces and to identify safety risks on their farms.“Many people in agriculture work outdoors with heavy equipment or livestock in locations that can be a far distance from emergency services, which can increase the risk of injury,” says Eichler. “This program will give producers the information they need to comply with safety and health regulations and ensure safe work environments for themselves and their employees.”Services will include: information and resources on health and safety regulations, risk-specific tip sheets and signage and basic safety orientation for farm workers, supervisors and owners; on-site safety advisors who will work directly with farm businesses to identify and address farm risks; commodity-specific farm safety workshops; and safety awareness training for farm workers and supervisors, as well as hazard-specific training. The program will be administered by KAP, with leadership and guidance provided by a Manitoba farm safety council. It will include representatives from a number of agriculture stakeholders, as well as organizations focused on workplace safety and health.“Our goal is to provide resources for farmers that are practical,” says Dan Mazier, KAP president. “Rather than just telling them to read through safety regulations, we are making someone available to show them what they can do to reduce accidents on their farms and comply with provincial regulations.”SAFE Work Manitoba is a project partner and will provide funding, expertise and other resources to support the initiative.“SAFE Work Manitoba commends KAP for taking this important step in establishing a farm safety program,” adds Jamie Hall, chief operating officer, SAFE Work Manitoba. “This program will help make Manitoba’s farms safer for farmers, their families and for workers. We look forward to a continued partnership by working with KAP to bring safety information and resources to Manitoba farms.”Work to establish the program will begin immediately. Funding will be provided through the Growing Forward 2 – Growing Actions program, which supports industry-led initiatives to increase competitiveness and develop innovative solutions for agricultural organizations. For more information about Growing Actions and other programs, visit www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/growing-forward-2.The federal and provincial governments are investing $176 million in Manitoba under Growing Forward 2, a five-year, federal-provincial-territorial policy framework to advance the agriculture industry, helping producers and processors become more innovative and competitive in world markets.For more information on Manitoba’s agricultural programs and services, follow the Twitter account @MBGovAg KAP is Manitoba’s general farm policy organization, representing farmers and commodity organizations from across the province. For more information about KAP, visit www.kap.mb.ca .
October 25, 2016 - Corn Mazes, pumpkin picking, hayrides and Christmas trees. These are all reasons why visitors flock to farms in the fall and winter. Nothing is more enjoyable than spending time with your nearest and dearest enjoying the weather and an outing to a local farm. However, agritourism (activities that bring visitors to a farm or ranch) isn’t without risk. Anytime people are in a situation where they could be in contact with animals, farm equipment or other hazards like water, there is the potential for injury. Agritourism is one venue for people to be visiting a farm, but other visitors come too. Open farm days are becoming more popular each year. And of course, family and friends enjoy coming to see where their loved ones work and live. It’s important to remember, these non-farm folks may not see the hazards or understand the risks of farm life, it’s up to you to tell them. First of all, think about driving and parking on your farm. Moving vehicles and moving people aren’t the best combination. Having a designated area with clearly marked parking areas will help keep vehicles and people where they are supposed to be. The point of visiting the farm is to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the farm. In order for visitors to have the best time possible, direct your visitors to the low hazard areas on the farm. Take into account the hazards that you have on your farm, it could be places like busy work areas, slurry pits, grain handling areas, or even animal pens. Each farm is unique, and it’s up to you to identify these areas. If you can’t direct visitors away from these areas, take steps to warn them with signage or even barriers like fences. Keep trip, slip and fall possibilities to a minimum. Not everyone visiting your farm may be sure-footed or able to quickly compensate for slippery, rough, or cluttered surfaces. Walking through grassy areas with ant mounds or gopher holes might not seem too risky, however falls, especially for older adults, can lead to serious injuries and other complications. Asking everyone to walk on designated paths or roads can help avoid these mishaps. If you’re providing food or if people are picnicking on your property, handwashing stations are a must. Keep in mind, if you are providing a petting zoo, handwashing is very important. It’s a good idea to make sure that people understand that washing up is a good idea after touching an animal. Remember, if you’re putting people in motion on something like a hayride, you need to work out procedures and policies including mapping out a safe route that doesn’t cross public roads, safe equipment to operate the hayride, and rules for riders are clearly expressed. This list isn’t comprehensive, it’s up to you to determine the unique hazards and risks associated with your operation. These are just a few things to think about when people come to visit your farm. So it’s essential to have a plan - one for keeping you, your family, your employees and your visitors safe on the farm. Walkthroughs, having an on-farm safety plan and committing to a safe farm can mean all the difference. For more information about agritourism and how to make your farm safe for visitors, please visit safeagritoursim.org. For more information about farm safety, visit www.casa-acsa.ca.
Producers face a great many challenges, from increasing red tape to unaffordable land prices from market instability to climate change. But there’s one challenge that Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) CEO Tim Lambert thinks will trump the others: social license. Addressing the challenge head on, EFC created EggCentric TV, an online television network where eggs – and those who produce them – come first. What is social license?Generally speaking, social license refers to a community’s acceptance or approval of the businesses that operate within it. Social license sits outside of the regulatory system. It is not something that can be purchased; it is earned through transparency, solid communication, meaningful dialogue, and ethical and responsible behavior. The concept of social license isn’t new. In recent years, though, it has become increasingly important for businesses, like those operated by Canada’s farming community, to connect with the general public to establish open, genuine dialogue. “I believe that the whole concept of social license and public trust is the next big challenge in not just agriculture, but the whole of society in business, faces,” said Lambert. Transparency is key, he continued. “More and more, we need to communicate who we are, what we do and how we’re doing it. Control the media, control the messageFor too long, mainstream media has had the cornerstone on story telling. And while farmers were in the fields or in the barns, mainstream media was working on its next big exposé. “The problem we have is who tells our story,” said Lambert. “On the cage side of the debate, the story is told by animal welfare or animal rights activists.” Ordinary journalists, said Lambert, have tried to put “feel good” stories out and failed. “The major newspapers choose not to cover it from our side because there’s no excitement in telling a good news story,” he said. Lambert knew, though, that Canada’s egg farmers had plenty of good stories to tell, so instead of seeking traditional coverage he decided to sidestep it altogether. The result: EggCentric TV. “It’s a way of bypassing traditional media who will frame the story the way they want to tell it, not the way it is,” said Lambert. “We will be able to use this platform in so many ways, across the world, to tell the story of the egg industry and what a brilliant story it is.” TELLING THE GOOD NEWS STORIESWhen Lambert first starting exploring the idea of EggCentric TV he worried that there wouldn’t be enough content to justify the project. In order for the project to be a success, he knew that content would have to be regularly updated. Once they got going, though, he and his team quickly realized that content is virtually endless. “We started by thinking in terms of all of the cooking programs, so celebrity chefs and recipes,” he said. “But there’s a much bigger opportunity. A much broader opportunity.” Today, EggCentric TV features healthy recipes created by Canada’s top celebrity chefs. Individual programs highlight the nutritional value of eggs, and show viewers how eggs are produced. They focus on animal care, different housing systems and how eggs are produced sustainably. “EggCentric TV is the absolute ideal platform for us to build our public trust and social license,” said Lambert. “Why? Because it’s our platform.” Sarah Caron is the lead on the EggCentric TV project. She says that the platform allows them to reach an ever-growing population of Internet users and digital video viewers. “Households around the world with connected TVs are expected to double in the next five years,” she said. “That is a growth of 835 percent in just 10 years. “Streaming media gives consumers more convenience, more options and better programming than traditional TV can offer,” she continued. “This gives consumers control over what they watch – whenever and wherever they want.” EggCentric TV is available through Apple TV, as well as Roku, a streaming media player that connect your TV to your home Internet connection. Roku is available in the US, the UK, Ireland, France and Mexico. Each month, new countries are added to that list. “Eggcentric TV has been successful on Roku from the beginning, averaging over 1,000 visits per week from global users,” said Caron. “Worldwide interest in eggs is amazing. Eggcentric TV features engaging video content from social influencers and celebrity chefs. It aims to share simple and delicious recipes, [and offers] tricks and tips that inspire consumers to create and enjoy egg dishes at home.” To build excitement, Roku and her team load content and share it on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. At last count, total social engagements, likes and retweets, reached over 300,000. Total impressions, the number of times an ad has been seen, reached 25.5 million. “And we just have our own Canadian content up,” said Lambert. While EFC is committed to new content every week, the organization hopes that egg producers from other nations will join them in sharing the message. They too, he said, should view social license as the next big thing.
October 19, 2016 - The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) refers to permitted business deductions in a number of sections of the Income Tax Act (ITA). However, these deductions can only be used if the taxpayer can show their business has a reasonable expectation of profit. The problem is that reasonable expectation of profit is not defined in the ITA so how is “reasonable expectation of profit” applied for tax purposes? Farm losses and restricted farm losses are a prime example of the interpretive confusion that might exist under Section 31 of the Tax Act. These rules limit the amount of losses from a farming operation that can be deducted from other income by taxpayers whose chief source of income is neither farming nor a combination of farming and some other source. There is extensive case-law dealing with the issue of what a taxpayer's "chief source" of income is for this purpose. The last bench-mark case found in favour of a producer and ignored whether the source of income was a combination of farming or some other source. The court ruling did not factor the government’s contention that farm income had to be the main source of income.The court decision didn’t last long because the federal budget of 2013 introduced a change to the Act that reinforced the government’s earlier interpretation of the legislation. The amendment states that if your chief source of income is not farming, then the restricted farm loss rules apply. Farm losses in this case may reduce income from other sources for the year only to the extent of the lesser of the farm loss for the year or $2,500 plus half of the farm loss exceeding $2,500 to a maximum of $15,000.The deduction for the farm loss for a year is therefore limited to a maximum of $17,500 representing an actual loss of $32,500. Any farming loss which is not deductible currently by virtue of Section 31 becomes a "restricted farm loss".There are subtle differences in the way CRA categorizes two sets of farmers. The taxpayer who does not look to farming or to farming and some subordinate source of income for his livelihood but carries on farming as a sideline business The taxpayer who does not look to farming or to farming and some subordinate source of income for his livelihood and who carries on farming activities with no reasonable expectation of profit. Whether a taxpayer has a reasonable expectation of profit from his farming operations is a subjective or objective determination to be made from all of the facts. Some of the criteria to be considered are: Extent of activity in relation to businesses of comparable nature and size Amount of gross revenue from farming in relation to the relevant expenses Time spent in the operation as compared to other income earning activities Profit and loss experience in the past years Taxpayer's training Taxpayer's intended course of action Capability of the venture as capitalized to show a profit after charging capital cost allowance As you might expect, the importance of documenting and supporting the above noted criteria will assist you in ensuring you can claim your farm losses.
Oct. 14, 2016 - The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has created a way to help agricultural associations save money, engage members and improve revenues through a powerful new phone app. After rigorous testing, the Ag Smart-Association App (ASApp) was launched recently via the Apple and Google App stores. The innovation that ASApp brings to the industry is the ability for an organization to reach its members on the screen of their choice. Smartphones are the most-used mobile business device and ASApp leverages push-notifications to alert members to the latest stories and news in real-time. “Smartphone Apps, like ASApp bring the best of your website to your members’ mobile phones,” explains Andrew Hurrell, business development and stakeholder engagement with CAHRC. “It helps ag associations to engage their members, save money and generate revenue by providing self-managed mobile application services.” If controlling costs while delivering better services to your members is important to your ag organization, a smartphone application is a great solution to consider. ASApp brings newsletters, journals, conferences and event programs right to the phones of association members – with all information easily updated by staff via the web interface. Increased revenue streams are possible through ASApp by using it for membership renewals, advertising directories, and sponsor’s offers and benefits. Beyond the traditional communications capabilities, the smartphone app can engage your membership to help with advocacy by asking members to perform activities through the app. Finally, usage analytics and easy to administer member surveys help to provide important insights to associations about their membership. Each association’s version of the app is customized for branding and functionality, allowing ASApp to adjust menus, content and features as desired. When offered by national or provincial organizations, ASApp is free to users and is always ON with real-time notifications. This creates a wide range of applications for member engagement allowing members to: sign-up and renew memberships with payment processing; register for events; participate and vote during events; access multilingual content; be included in association contact directories; access secure log-in areas; and engage in social media feeds, among other functions – as well as full access to CAHRC provided employer tools including the Ag Employer Toolkit and CAHRC’s national job board, AgriJob Match. The app design is compatible with both Android and Apple smartphones and follows best practices in mobile user interaction design and suability. As with other mobile applications it is intuitive requiring no end-user training. For more information on CAHRC’s ASApp visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.
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Agricultural Adaptation Council Annual General MeetingThu Dec 08, 2016 @ 9:00AM - 12:00PM
Prairie Livestock Expo 216Wed Dec 14, 2016 @ 9:00AM - 06:00PM
Western Poultry ConferenceMon Feb 27, 2017
Alberta Poulty Industry Annual General MeetingsTue Feb 28, 2017
Manitoba Turkey Producers' 48th Annual General MeetingTue Mar 07, 2017 @11:30AM - 04:00PM
London Poultry ShowWed Apr 05, 2017