Brett Ruffell

Brett Ruffell

I’ve written before about a growing frustration within the industry. Increasingly, global food companies are coming out with their own welfare programs for poultry and egg sectors. Many of them include their own unique commitments suppliers must adhere to. Adding to this frustration, some of these pledges appear to be driven not by evidence but by pressure activists put on brands.
You’ll notice this issue has an international feel to it. While Canada is a global poultry leader, we thought it’d be interesting to look abroad for ideas and innovations.
The Government of Canada has launched a new funding competition, through the Strategic Innovation Fund, for national scale initiatives in automation and digital technology applications in the agriculture and agri-food sector.

The government will provide between $10 million and $50 million to a successful applicant in the competition.

To capitalize on technological advances, the government is seeking applications for funding from networks and consortia of private sector companies, researchers and non-profit organizations that will work collaboratively to develop and deliver automation and digital technology applications for the agriculture and agri-food sector.

The government is seeking proposals for the development and delivery of large-scale, disruptive approaches to automation and digital technologies with applications in the agriculture and agri-food sectors.

Proposals should:
  • solve problems through the use of data and technology in the agriculture and agri-food sector, such as automation and robotics, precision agriculture platforms, data and digital solutions, sensors, interconnected software and hardware, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain;
  • include collaborations between businesses (including small and medium-sized enterprises), post-secondary institutions, research institutes, and non‑profit organizations from multiple sectors across Canada;
  • generate strong economic and social benefits, such as private sector investments in R&D, the creation of new intellectual property and innovations, and the development and implementation of new products, processes and services; and
  • bring about positive environmental impacts, such as the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, food waste, water usage and energy consumption.
Applicants will have until January 11, 2019, to submit a Declaration of Intent. The information contained in the Declaration of Intent will be posted online in an effort to foster collaboration among potential applicants. Applicants will have until March 1, 2019, to submit a Full Application for funding under this competition.
Happy New Year! As you’ll read in the pages ahead, we’re ringing in 2019 with an eye towards the future. This issue is focused on the research and innovations that will help shape the industry in the coming years.
After a year of uncertainty, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico finally agreed on ‘NAFTA 2.0’. Renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), all three countries are expected to ratify the deal fairly soon.
DATE: October 23, 2018

LOCATION: Minnesota

DETAILS: Routine surveillance has detected a low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) H5N2 in a commercial meat-type turkey flock of 40,000 birds in Minnesota. The flock was healthy and not showing any clinical signs of AI. Flock is being depopulated through controlled marketing.

SOURCE: www.fbcc.ca

Location - Stratford, Ont.
Sector - Broilers 

I had the privilege of visiting numerous barns this summer, and lugged my video equipment with me to document my travels. I met many passionate farmers doing innovative things. People like Ryan Kuntze, a Stratford, Ont.-based broiler producer and self-described peat moss guinea pig.

Amy and Patrick Kitchen moved from B.C. to Ontario several years ago intent on buying a farm. They knew from the start they wanted to get into market gardening. Eventually, they decided on a mixed offering. “We wanted to add livestock to the equation to diversify our income and for the manure benefits,” Patrick says.
We know the ink has barely dried on this year’s Who’s Who edition – our previous issue where we profiled rising poultry stars from across the country. However, we’re already planning ahead for next year. And we once  again want your input.
After decades as a highly respected researcher, teacher and mentor, monogastric nutritionist Derrick Anderson has developed an eye for talent. He sees something special in Dalhousie University researcher Stephanie Collins. “I think she’s one of the rising stars in Canadian poultry,” he says of the young scientist. “She’s the next generation of nutritionist.”
The son and nephew of Quebec’s first organic egg producers, David Lefebvre had plenty of unique experiences growing up. One of his fondest memories is gathering eggs with his family on weekends. It was no easy task.
It’s that time of year again where we celebrate industry leaders from across the country. Indeed, our annual Who’s Who issue is back. This time we’ve added a few new twists. For one, we gave the issue a theme. Our first premise is “Rising Poultry Stars” and each year after we’ll be giving the issue a different focus.
Several years ago, the people at Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) noticed a trend. In an increasingly urbanized society, fewer people had a direct connection to where their food came from. Despite this shift, the organization’s CEO Tim Lambert noticed younger Canadians were more interested in where their food came from. They appeared particularly concerned about the environmental impact of production.
As if tax planning weren’t painful enough for poultry producers… Over the past year, the federal government has made things even more confusing – and drawn the ire of farmers in the process. Last summer, the feds unveiled controversial small business tax reforms.
Poultry groups have called it a giveaway, failure and deeply concerning. The reviews are in for the latest version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. They aren’t good.
Last year the industry saw an irksome trend endure. Global food companies, in response to pressure from deceptive activist groups, continued to roll out different poultry welfare policies.
Wetaskiwin, Alta. – As more poultry farms across Canada and the U.S. make the shift to antibiotic-free (ABF) production, a growing body of industry examples points to feed and nutrition as a critical factor in success.

“Whether you are talking about health and welfare, performance and profitability, or quality and safety – the area of feed and nutrition is an important nexus point,” says Dr. Nancy Fischer, poultry nutritionist at Country Junction Feeds, an antibiotic-free feed manufacturer serving customers and partners across Canada and the U.S. “Feed and nutrition connects and strongly influences each of these outcomes. As a result, it is one of the most powerful tools to support successful ABF production.”

There’s no silver bullet to achieving a sustainable ABF operation, she says. “You have to be an attentive manager and you have to be prepared to make some changes.” But in working with numerous operations and industry partners over the past several years, the Country Junction Feeds team has found that taking the time to develop a more sophisticated approach to feed and nutrition can go a long way to ensuring a positive transition. “It’s a big piece of the puzzle.”

Big piece of the puzzle
For one thing, transparency and verification requirements are getting tighter, says Fischer. To meet new retailer and food company branded program standards, operations increasingly will need not only to prove no antibiotics use on-farm, but also to prove that feed is sourced from antibiotic-free feed mills. Country Junction Feeds is the first large-scale feed manufacturer in Western Canada, and one of the first in Canada and the U.S., to achieve verified antibiotic-free status for its facilities.

In addition, shifting away from antimicrobial use means operations need effective diversified approaches to support animal health and welfare as well as performance. With advances in science, knowledge, technology, sourcing and bio-based additives, poultry operations now have a much wider portfolio of resources and strategies to draw upon. “The reality today is that you can get a lot more value and benefits out of feed than you did in the past. We have seen many advances over the past few years. It’s just a matter of taking advantage of them.”

Shift to greater precision, customization
Along with the spike in demand for ABF feed sourcing, among successful ABF operations Fischer and colleagues have observed a strong drive toward more individualized nutrition plans and greater use of the latest generation feed additives. Specifically, bio-based products that can get more out of feed and play a role as antibiotic-alternatives by supporting animal health and welfare along with performance. Top examples include pre- and pro-biotics and multi-functional enzyme formulations.

“Precision is one of the keys,” says Fischer. “For example, we’re finding that even small tweaks to the types of protein used and protein levels can make a big difference for gut health. Additives can do a range of things from boosting nutrition density and supporting health to reducing stress. The key is to look at the feed sources and dietary strategies as a whole, and link that to the specific needs of the birds in a particular environment and production system. Getting an overall updated analysis done by a trusted advisor is a good starting point.”

Anchoring an integrated strategy
Improvements to feed and nutrition approaches can help anchor an integrated strategy supporting ABF production. Additional key measures include use of vaccines, enhancement of barns with improved circulation and temperatures controls, housing with more space, stringent disinfecting and cleanliness protocols, strict biosecurity measures, improved water quality and enhanced monitoring. Further essential measures include training programs and education efforts for producers and service technicians, along with strengthened veterinary relationships and oversight.

Operations also need plans in place to allow for antimicrobial use when needed, says Fischer. “Even if you’re doing everything right to minimize the need for antibiotics, no system is bulletproof. Birds sometimes get sick and treating illness is a responsible part of animal care. When this happens producers can work with animal health experts and veterinarians to determine if an antibiotic is needed. For cases where antibiotic use disqualifies the birds from an ABF market, it's important to have a ‘Plan B’ in place to direct those birds to a different market.”

Driving innovation
Based on the examples Country Junction Feeds has observed, producers who combine these approaches have an excellent framework for achieving ABF while maintaining competitive performance, says Fischer. “The added bonus is that by taking a stronger hands-on approach to management – often you can see better results on all outcomes compared to a traditional system.”

This stems from greater management attentiveness, as well as from upgrading areas such as feed and nutrition that may have been taken for granted. “With the right approaches, typically what we hear from our customers is there are much fewer health issues and the results are better than ever.”

Any type of operation can benefit, she says. “Ultimately it’s about innovation. Anything you can do to get better is going to make it easier to farm more efficiently and more profitably. Improvements will also help poultry operations qualify for new programs coming down the pike from retailers and food companies. People make the difference. If you’re committed and willing to put in the work, that work will pay off whether you are ABF or conventional.”
November 29, 2017, Regina, Sask. - Saskatchewan has announced amendments to the province's Animal Protection Act, which the government suggests will give it more teeth.

Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart announced the changes Monday and they include broadening the definition of animal distress and giving animal protection officers the ability to issue corrective action orders.

It will also expand the locations animal protection workers can inspect to include boarding kennels and other places where services for animals are provided.

Under the amendments, veterinarians must report suspected cases of animal cruelty.

''It's bound to keep those who operate slaughterhouses and kennels on their toes a bit and they'll make sure they're in compliance with the Act at all times,'' Stewart told reporters at the legislature Monday.

Kaley Pugh of Animal Protection Services Saskatchewan said the amendments will make it possible to investigate outside of normal hunting and trapping procedures.

She said the act was very vague before, so her group is pleased with the amendments.

''Animals that are kept in unsanitary conditions will now be considered distressed, animals that require protection from injurious heat or cold will be defined as distressed, so those are improvements that are significant for us,'' Pugh said.

Stewart said the amendments will bring Saskatchewan's legislation in line with other jurisdictions, as well as provide clear direction for enforcement agencies.

Calls for tougher regulations in the province came last year after 14 dogs died of heat stroke and dehydration when a rooftop heating unit malfunctioned at a facility in Saskatoon.

The owner of the kennel, Dave Deplaedt, pleaded guilty to negligence under the Animal Protection Act and his business was fined $14,000, plus a victim surcharge of $5,600.

The president of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Lesley Sawa, said the organization was pleased to see mandatory veterinary reporting of animal neglect and abuse included in the amendments, noting the organization had requested it.

''Updating the Animal Protection Act will go a long way in helping ensure the health and welfare of animals across the province,'' Sawa said in a news release.

Pugh said some vets have been reluctant to report suspected abuse in the past.

''They were worried about the effect on their businesses prior to this. They didn't want to get in trouble with their clients if they did have something they wanted to report,'' she said.
November 20, 2017, Sede Boqer, Israel – A new study shows that poultry excrement may have a future as a fuel for heat and electricity.

Treated excrement from turkeys, chickens and other poultry, when converted to combustible solid biomass fuel, could replace approximately 10 per cent of coal used in electricity generation, reducing greenhouse gases and providing an alternative energy source, according to a new study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers.

While biomass accounts for 73 per cent of renewable energy production worldwide, crops grown for energy production burden land, water and fertilizer resources.

According to the researchers, “Environmentally safe disposal of poultry excrement has become a significant problem. Converting poultry waste to solid fuel, a less resource-intensive, renewable energy source is an environmentally superior alternative that also reduces reliance on fossil fuels.”

According to the study in Elsevier’s Applied Energy, researchers at the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at BGU evaluated two biofuel types to determine which is the more efficient poultry waste solid fuel.

They compared the production, combustion and gas emissions of biochar, which is produced by slow heating of the biomass at a temperature of 450°C (842°F) in an oxygen-free furnace with hydrochar.

Hydrochar is produced by heating wet biomass to a much lower temperature of up to 250°C under pressure using a process called hydrothermal carbonization (HTC). HTC mimics natural coal formation within several hours.

“We found that poultry waste processed as hydrochar produced 24 per cent higher net energy generation,” says student researcher Vivian Mau and Prof. Amit Gross, chair of the Department of Environmental Hydrology and Microbiology at BGU’s Zuckerberg Institute.

“Poultry waste hydrochar generates heat at high temperatures and combusts in a similar manner to coal, an important factor in replacing it as renewable energy source.”

For the first time, the researchers also showed that higher HTC production temperatures resulted in a significant reduction in emissions of methane (CH4) and ammonia (NH3) and an increase of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

“This investigation helped in bridging the gap between hydrochar being considered as a potential energy source toward the development of an alternative renewable fuel,” Gross explains.

“Our findings could help significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation and agricultural wastes. Field-scale experiments with HTC reactor should be conducted to confirm the assessments from this laboratory-scale study.”

The study was funded by the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Rosenzweig-Coopersmith Foundation. BGU Ph.D. candidate Vivian Mau received financial support from the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources, the Rieger Foundation and the Zuckerberg Scholarship Fund at BGU’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research.
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