Kristy Nudds

Kristy Nudds

November 27, 2012 - The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) today announced the launch of its new "Choose Cage-Free" campaign in the U.S. and Canada, to recognize what it says it the scale and intensity of animal welfare issues presented by caged egg production.

The WSPA campaign is designed to educate consumers about what the organization calls the “disturbing plight” of egg-laying hens, and encourage them to buy cage-free eggs.

Josey Kitson, Executive Director of WSPA Canada said in a release “buying cage-free eggs supports better hen health and welfare.”

Despite some media attention on this issue in the past year, a recent study conducted on behalf of WSPA by a third-party firm, The NPD Group Inc., found that consumers are drastically underestimating the number of caged-hens producing their eggs[1]. This study also found that 70 per cent of Canadians believe that to be treated humanely, a hen should be able to stretch her wings and move around, something she is not able to do in a cage.

To learn more about the campaign, please visit www.choosecagefree.org.

[1] The NPG Group study found that in Canada, consumers believe that 71 per cent of their eggs come from hens kept in cages. The actual number is closer to 95 per cent.

 

November 26, 2012 - Derek Detzler has been appointed Product Manager – Poultry for Jefo, an industry leader in non-medicated species-specific additives. 

Derek’s role will be instrumental in providing key management services to Jefo's current and future customers with emphasis on technical strategies for antibiotic-free production (ABF) and reduced medications/antibiotics for poultry production.

Derek Detzler and his family reside in Ontario, Canada and will work primarily in the regions of Canada and Latin America.

For more information about Jefo, please visit: www.jefo.com

 

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of Canadian Poultry!

To celebrate, we’ve created a special section on our website (www.canadianpoultrymag.com/100th) where we are publishing articles from the past 100 years to provide our readers with our history and the history of the Canadian poultry industry.  

We started out as the Pigeons, Poultry and Petstock Journal of the West, evolving into Canadian Poultry World, then Canada Poultryman, and now Canadian Poultry.

Throughout our century of publishing, the farmer has always been the focus of this magazine, and we’ve striven to provide the most up-to-date information and to be a useful tool for Canadian poultry farmers. This is something we will continue to do for the next 100 years.

Looking through our archives has been a fascinating journey of discovery of how the industry has evolved. We’ve published articles on genetic breakthroughs, the discovery of anticoccidials, advances in equipment, the first fast food poultry in Canada, advancements in feed technologies and ingredients, the creation of our marketing boards and the adoption of on-farm food safety. The industry has come a long way and so has the magazine!  

Perhaps what has changed the most is the role of the farmer during the last century. In the first half of the century, the poultryman was literally on his own. However, the discovery of anticoccidials allowed for commercial rearing of poultry.

Since then, science- and industry-related companies and service staff have played increasingly more important roles in assisting the farmer in rearing poultry. Poultry production has become a partnership with other members of the Canadian industry acting with the farmer to place, rear and market safe poultry products for the Canadian consumer.

We encourage you to visit our 100th anniversary website to read articles from the past and to share your thoughts, comments and stories of your and your family’s involvement in the industry. The website will be updated continually over the next year, so check back often.

The argument that supply management costs Canadians more at the grocery store once again has become news fodder, and, as usual, the focus on cost differences is flawed and detracts from the bigger issue at hand.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) has released details of an investigation it conducted into cheese smuggling across the U.S./Canada border in Niagara Falls, Ont. It reported that the Niagara Regional Police service is investigating several officers who are accused of using their police vehicles to bring mozzarella cheese from the U.S. into Canada, and offering it at reduced cost to Canadian pizzeria owners.

The cost of cheese in Canada has long been a contentious issue for the pizza and restaurant industry, and has in part led the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association to appeal to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food that supply management in the poultry and dairy industries increases prices for its members, stifles innovation and creates unfair competition among buyers.

Coincidentally, several days prior to the CBC report, the British Columbia Egg Marketing Board (BCEMB) released a new consumer campaign called “Eggonomics” to try to address the issue of price differences between U.S. and Canadian eggs at the grocery store. The BCEMB says that cross-border egg shopping costs its industry upwards of $3 million a year. The organization has launched a website – www.eggonomics.ca – where it gives “six reasons to take U.S. eggs off your shopping list.” These include the negative impact on B.C.’s GDP, the loss of economic support in B.C. communities, quality and freshness concerns, and the impact on infrastructure (for example, the concern that spending outside of Canada will leave less money available for social programs such as health care).

The Eggonomics campaign speaks to Canadian consumers’ values, a strategy that Charlie Arnot, CEO of the U.S.-based Center for Food Integrity, has been championing, most recently at the North American forum on Sustainable Animal Agriculture held in Mississauga, Ont. Rather than relying on explanations of economics and science, he feels, animal agriculture needs to gain consumer confidence and trust by communicating values that farmers and consumers share, such as producing and eating high-quality products that sustain farming and rural communities – essentially, the benefits agricultural production provides to society as a whole, not just to farmers’ bottom lines.

Of course, immediately after the CBC report and the release of the BCEMB Eggonomics campaign, national newspapers such as the Vancouver Sun and the National Post ran columns criticizing supply management, saying it costs consumers too much money and that if tariffs were eliminated and U.S. product was allowed in, everybody would win: costs would go down, and Canadian farmers could suddenly become more competitive and innovative.

What’s missing from their collective argument is not only the loss of revenue to the Canadian agricultural industry, but also its sustainability. As an example, take what is happening in the beef and pork industries in Canada right now. Both are at a tipping point and predictions are that they will continue to shrink. This has a spill-over economic effect on communities, and although we will see more U.S. beef and pork products in the grocery store, it’s doubtful consumers will reap any price benefit. They certainly didn’t during the BSE crisis nine years ago.

Without control over or support of domestic supply, livestock industries have two other choices: shrink and be eliminated altogether by foreign competition, or continue in chaos and hope for the best. Where is the value in that?

Oct. 4, 2012 - The Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, Vancouver Humane Society and the World Society for the Protection of Animals have joined together and created a new quarterly newsletter to share their collective opposition of cages for laying hens and gestation crates for sows.

The first issue of the newsletter, released on October 4, 2012, entitled "Farm Animal Welfare in Canada," highlights the initiatives that will be a focus by all three groups, which include:

  • urging egg producers in Canada to switch to cage-free, not just colony-type housing; 
  • ensuring the Canadian egg industry and food retailers continue to meet globally recognized hen welfare standards;
  • calling for a transition to group housing for sows by 2017, and for this to become part of the new Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs.

For more information and to view the complete first issue of Farm Animal Welfare in Canada, please visit the website here.

 

September 26, 2012 - Farming and food leaders from across Canada and the United States came together in Mississauga last week at the inaugural North American Forum on Sustainable Animal Agriculture.  Farmers, processors, retailers, agri-business, researchers, government and other food industry leaders discussed issues of critical importance to everyone in attendance, in particular, defining sustainable animal agriculture in a way that supports agriculture while building consumer trust.  The forum was co-sponsored by the Farm & Food Care Foundation, based in Ontario, and the Center for Food Integrity, an American organization with a mandate to build consumer trust and confidence in food and farming.
 
The line-up of internationally-recognized speakers included Dr. John Kennelly of the University of Alberta; Sylvia Rowe, president of SR Strategy; David Smith of Sobeys, Inc.; Dr. Tina Widowski of the University of Guelph; Moon Mukkar-Poyser of Cargill Inc.; Colin Siren of Ipsos Marketing and Martin Gooch of the Value Chain Management Centre.
 
Hog farmer Amy Cronin, Chair of Ontario Pork, was a dynamic feature speaker. Cronin talked about sustainability as it relates to managing her family farm.  As a hog farmer, Cronin told the audience that it’s currently costing her $170 to grow a hog to market weight – when it’s sold for $130. That’s not sustainable farming, said Cronin, although it’s an unfortunate reality of the current marketplace.
 
Bruce Christie, Chair of the Farm & Food Care Foundation said that the forum brought an audience together who shares a “collective desire to provide safe, affordable food with predictable, secure demand and supply”. He added that cooperation between all sectors of agriculture is paramount to successfully address the sustainability challenges facing the industry and the need to feed a growing population.
 
Charlie Arnot, Chief Executive Officer for The Center for Food Integrity added, “because of the change in size and structure of the food industry and the use of new technology, consumers are expressing growing concern about a wide range of issues including animal well-being, food safety, nutrition and others.” Arnot continued, “Events like this bring us together to openly discuss the challenges and potential solutions.”
 
Several of the speakers said that sustainability has to include five pillars of a food system including food safety, human well-being, animal health and welfare, the environment and economics/food affordability.  The challenge ahead is to determine how all five pillars can be supported by a strong social contract while keeping food affordable.  David Smith of Sobeys challenged the farmers and food industry leaders in the audience to define sustainability before it’s done for them.  The Forum concluded with discussion on next steps and actions that the agri-food sector needs to take to continue the dialogue and work on developing a social contract between the people who grow the food, the industry and governments related to food and farming, and everyone who eats.
 
Copies of the presentations from the Forum will be available on the Farm & Food Care Foundation’s website at  www.farmcarefoundation.ca
 

September 25, 2012 - The National Chicken Council and the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) have released a statement in response to the U.S. International Trade Commission’s (USITC) request for comments and investigation on negotiating objectives with respect to Mexico’s and Canada’s participation in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

The groups said in the statement: “The U.S. poultry industry strongly opposes Canada’s participation in TPP unless Canada expressly commits to removing all border restrictions on poultry imports from the United States, including any restrictions claimed on the basis of supply control. Canada is free to maintain its domestic supply control system if it wishes; but it cannot maintain border restrictions on poultry if it wants to participate in a free trade arrangement such as TPP.”

Bill Roenigk, senior vice president with the National Chicken Council has stated in a Reuters article published September 24, 2012 that Canada's entry into the TPP (if allowed) will give the U.S. poultry industry a "second chance" to address Canada's poultry tariffs, something the U.S. thought would the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would have eliminated almost 20 years ago. 

 

 

The use of smartphones in agriculture is gaining ground. This is the finding of a recent survey conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).  

The study found that 69 per cent of those surveyed reported having a smartphone, with BlackBerry being the most popular type. This is a significant increase in usage when compared to data released by Farm Credit Canada (FCC) last November, which found that only 29 per cent of Canadian farmers reported having a smartphone. However, the FCC study asked farmers who did not currently own a smartphone whether or not they would purchase one within the next year, and 50 per cent of respondents said that they would.

Half of the respondents in the OMAFRA study reported that their smartphone is essential to how they do business, with accessing e-mail, messaging and the Internet the most popular applications.

The use of social media is also becoming more popular. The OMAFRA survey cited Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as the three most popular sites used, and sharing information, networking and sales as the three most common reasons those in the agricultural industry use social media for their businesses.

Let’s focus on sharing information. If the survey was to be repeated in the coming years, this area is where I would like to see continued growth, particularly when it comes to sharing information with those who are not involved in agriculture.

The OMAFRA survey showed that Twitter was the most popular social media app, with 47 per cent of smartphone users indicating they used it for agriculture-related purposes. This has been evident in the past six months; for example, those currently using Twitter will no doubt have noticed an increase in the sharing of planting, harvesting and commodity market information from producers and industry partners across the country.

But the biggest benefit producers can reap from Twitter, in my opinion, is the ability to monitor the types of negative messages that the agricultural industry is increasingly having to deal with.

A great example of the power of Twitter came in mid-August, when a study released in the Journal of Atherosclerosis by University of Western Ontario neurologist Dr. J. David Spence made big headlines by likening eating eggs to being as bad for a person as smoking cigarettes. This made for great fodder for newspapers and media outlets in North America, who ran away with the study without really delving into the fact that on a scientific basis, the study made a link that had no statistical merit.

The scrutiny and backlash was fast and furious – bloggers and tweeters were quick to pounce on how the study was performed, pointing out its weaknesses. I heard the report on CBC while driving in to work that morning, and by the time I booted up my computer and went on Twitter the faults of the study were being shared among followers, and what could have been a major setback for the egg industry essentially became a non-story by the end of the day.

For those using Twitter on your smartphones, or just thinking about it, remember to share information not only with each other, but also with those who don’t understand what you do – it’s an opportunity to educate, engage, and most importantly, monitor what could be detrimental to your business and industry.

Lameness and poor locomotion in broiler chickens can not only affect production performance, but has welfare implications as well. Poor gait scores can negatively affect welfare audits and results in sub-optimal performance. Flocks with good leg health grow to their genetic potential, have better feed conversion rates and result in fewer processing downgrades.


Lameness and poor locomotion in broilers is caused by either non-infectious conditions (ie. bone deformities) and infectious causes (ie. bacteria and viruses) and inadequate nutrition, or a combination of each. Genetic selection has, for the most part, greatly reduced the incidence of non-infectious causes of leg problems. But good barn and bird management can play a large role in the prevention of infectious causes.


Aviagen Group Inc. held a “Science to the Field” seminar on the topic of leg health in mid-April preceding the London Poultry Show in London, Ont. Several renowned speakers were featured and gave their insights from the field and research on leg health, what common problems are seen in the field and how improvements have been made through genetics and how management is key for preventing leg problems caused by infectious agents.

Genetic Improvement
There is growing societal concern that rapid growth rate results in poor leg health, and thus affects the welfare of broilers.

In the past 50 years, the growth rate of broilers has increased 300 per cent due to intense genetic selection.


Dr. Derek Emmerson, vice-president of research and innovation with Aviagen, says that in the past, the focus on genetic improvement was solely on growth, however, leg strength and skeletal structure and integrity became a focus for the company starting in the 1970s. Since the company has such large pedigree population, it allows geneticists to have a large genetic pool to work with and allows for a high selection intensity.


Intense selection led to a great reduction in metabolic diseases such as ascites, and Tibial Dyschondroplasia, a leg deformity. The breeding company employs various systems to identify birds with poor leg health, including the use of x-rays and ultrasounds and assessing gait scores to remove birds with potential problems from the breeding stock.


Anne Marie Neeteson, vice president of welfare and compliance at Aviagen, says that in Canada, the company is fortunate to have access to processing data collected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which helps it to determine the incidence of leg problems occurring in the field, which in turn helps it develop selection programs.


Both Emmerson and Neeteson noted that genetic progress does not happen overnight — it takes four years to see improvement and select traits from grandparent stock to see the results at the processor level. “It’s a challenging task, but not impossible,” says Neeteson. A large part of the challenge, says Emmerson, is that selecting traits to improve leg health, metabolic health, liveability, etc. is that the selection does not account for environmental influences.


“Genetics is not everything,” says Neeteson. “A large influencer is being a good farmer.”

Common Leg Problems
Dr. Nick Dorko, Global Head of Veterinary Technical Services for Aviagen, reviewed the common leg problems in broilers.


Rickets, TD

Both Rickets and Tibial Dychondroplasia (TD) result from an abnormality in the formation of bone and the growth plate. Rickets is a disease of young, growing animals while TD is most often seen in broilers greater than 20 days of age. The abnormalities are often associated with dietary insufficiencies of calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), or vitamin D3, or an imbalance in the Ca:P ratio.


As noted by Emmerson, Aviagen has been selecting against TD and Dorko agrees, saying that he doesn’t see this as having a genetic component anymore, but rather the cause is usually related to feed and/or a gut issue. 


Problems due to infectious agents

Bacterial and viral challenges in the flock due to poor barn hygiene, stress, density, poor feeder and water spacing, poor litter quality, improper ventilation and poor water quality can result in leg problems such as Bacterial Chondronecrosis with Osteomyelitis (BCO), Synovitis, “Kinky Back” (Vertebral Osteoarthritis), and “Green Leg”. 


Bacteria, particularly Staphylococcus aureus, can travel to bone and cause infection if given the opportunity (via scratches, the feet, vaccination). This bacteria is ubiquitous in environments where poultry are hatched, reared, and processed, says Dorko. Reoviruses can cause arthritis and have been implicated as a cause of malabsorption syndrome, which can be an indirect cause of leg problems.


Resolving the cause of leg problems is often difficult because the causes are often multifactorial, he says. He feels that in addition to good barn management and decreasing environmental stress on the birds, the prevention of respiratory, enteric (gut) and immunosuppressive diseases is essential for preventing leg problems.

Prevention and Control

Nutrition

Dr. Mark DeBeer, global head of nutrition for Aviagen, noted that feed formulation problems, although uncommon, can contribute to leg problems. However, factors that can affect malabsorption of nutrients (such as disease and infectious agents) are the primary issue.


He says “some of the things we do that we think increase bone strength really don’t.” It was previously believed that Ca and P were key for promoting bone development and growth rate, however it is now becoming clear that Vitamin D3 is the main driver. “Getting all three of these nutrients at the right ratios and levels in the feed is key for success,” he says.
It’s known that Vitamin D3 can increase muscle growth by increasing breast yield, although how this occurs is not yet known, and it is currently being researched, he says.


Dr. Nick Dorko says that dietary insufficiencies of Vitamin D, Ca and P is usually caused by improper levels in the feed, or a problem with feed handling — feed that is old or has been stored during hot weather can result in the destruction of vitamin D or other fat soluble vitamins. Moulds and fungus can also destroy nutrients, he says. One thing all farms should do, says Darko, is to retain a feed sample from each delivery until the end of the flock so that it can be tested if problems should arise. “It sounds simple, but many people don’t do this.”


Malabsorption of Ca, P or Vitamin  D can be caused by a damaged intestine or decreased liver function, and from a depressed feed intake (either not enough feed is available, or weak birds have resulted from poor brooding management). Indirect causes include diarrhea and digestive issues (resulting from enteric viruses, coccidiosis, poor quality feed), mycotoxins (these can cause liver damage), the wrong form of Vitamin D in the feed (ie. D2 instead of D3).


Both DeBeer and Dorko noted that the improper use of phytase can also be a contributing factor. The function of phytase can be affected by improper application and mixing, matrix values and degradation. 


Lighting

It was once believed that near-continuous light (23 hours per day) was necessary to achieve the growth potential in broilers. However, recent research by Karen Schwean-Lardner and Hank Classen, both with the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Saskatchewan, has dispelled this myth and has shown that a reduction in the hours of light per day will still promote growth while keeping the health and welfare of the birds in mind. 


Schwean-Lardner and Classen examined the growth and welfare performance of broilers raised under four different lighting programs: 14L:10D, 17L:7D, 20L:4D, and 23L:1D, beginning at seven days of age. All of the birds were raised using 23 hours of light for the first seven days.


Performance data showed that providing more hours of darkness compared to near-continuous light slowed early growth, but resulted in market growth rates as good or better than near-continuous lighting. Of the four lighting regimes, birds raised using the 20L:4D had the best growth performance at market age and similar to the other programs using longer dark periods, resulting in improved health and welfare.


Compared to near-continuous light, providing a longer dark period resulted in improvements in economically important traits, such as: improved feed conversion, improved growth rates, and a reduction in mortality, particularly mortality resulting from metabolic and skeletal issues.


This research is now part of an Aviagen technical document for producers “Lighting for Broilers”, which is available on Aviagen’s website.

Brooding Management
Dr. Stew Ritchie of Canadian Poultry Consultants Ltd. in Abbotsford, B.C., concluded the day with a discussion of the Platinum Brooding® program, which he developed with his business partner Dr. Bill Cox to help poultry producers give their flocks the best early start, thereby preventing issues that can affect performance, including leg problems.


As noted by other presenters, failures during the brooding period can have significant consequences on bird health and performance. The program provides hands-on training for producers on brooding practices and disease prevention, and has been so successful that Aviagen has now partnered with it to provide the program across Canada in the coming year, as well as offering the course for U.S. producers with the University of Georgia.


Ritchie says that optimal brooding establishes steady state eating patterns early, which improves performance parameters, which significantly benefits animal welfare and food safety as well.

The old saying that corn should be “knee-high by the Fourth of July” certainly did not hold true for much of the North American corn crop this year. As of early August, corn in some areas of Ontario and the United States is barely knee-high, and is withering away, unlikely to recover even after a few days of steady rain.

The 2012 corn crop was predicted by the United States Department of Agriculture to be a bumper one when seeding rates were tallied. Just days ahead of its Aug. 10 report, analysts are predicting a yield nearly 20 per cent lower than last year’s.

The scarcity of rain and scorching temperatures across the U.S. corn belt have been called “unprecedented” and many farmers have said they’ve never seen drought conditions like these. Ontario, too, is feeling the heat – some areas in the southwestern and eastern parts of the province are experiencing the worst drought in a generation, and crops are suffering.

Reduced yields and increased prices have led economists in the United States and Canada to estimate that food prices will increase by approximately three to four per cent in the coming year, putting pressure on households already cash-strapped from a slow-growing economy.

The drought has also reignited the food-versus-fuel debate. In 2005, the United States Environmental Protection Agency developed the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) program, which requires that 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel (the majority of this being ethanol from corn) be blended into gasoline by 2012. In 2007 this was increased to 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol, which is equivalent to roughly 4.7 billion bushels. Depending on what is harvested, this means that as much as four to six bushels out of 10 will be used for ethanol production.

Given that startling statistic, it is not surprising that a coalition of poultry and livestock groups have asked the EPA to waive the federal RFS mandate for 2012 and for the first half of 2013. They were joined by a bipartisan group of 156 members of Congress, who, when the RFS was created, pointed out in a letter to the EPA that unforeseen circumstances would require the EPA to “exercise flexibility” and urged the EPA to consider a “fair and meaningful nationwide adjustment to the Renewable Fuels Standard.”

At press time, the EPA has not made such an adjustment. The U.S. farm bill has also been stalled, although Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed a $383  million disaster relief package that is aimed primarily at cattle and sheep producers. Crop growers will benefit from crop insurance; however, U.S. poultry producers are left without a significant safety net. President Barack Obama has urged Congress to pass the farm bill, saying, “Congress needs to pass a farm bill that will not only provide important disaster relief tools but also make necessary reforms and give farmers the certainty they deserve.”

Neither the relief package nor the farm bill were approved before the House took a five-week break in August; however, Obama has said he hopes lawmakers get an “earful” from constituents and return on Sept. 10 ready to work.

It will be interesting to see how the United States reacts to this disaster, and to what extent trickle-down effects will be felt globally, as so many countries are reliant directly or indirectly on the U.S. corn crop. If hot, dry summers are to be the “new normal” – as weather analysts predict – governments need to put serious thought, and funding, into future agriculture and energy policies.

With the announcement that Canada has joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks have come the usual onslaught of opinion pieces editorializing that the end of supply management is just around the corner.


These writers make the assumption that Canada has to agree to give up supply management in order to be part of the club, because it appeared other countries involved – namely Australia, New Zealand and the United States – paid this price for entry.


But did they really? As I write this column, no one knows the specifics of what’s being discussed in the TPP talks, as they are a very well-guarded secret. And agriculture is but one part of these discussions; natural resources, energy and technology will also play significant roles. But as Jim Knisley writes in his column this month (see page 122), the “Asian three” (China, Japan and South Korea) are the key players for Canada. They are unlikely to export dairy or poultry, and we can benefit from their investment in manufacturing. Australia and the U.S. also need deals with the Asian three, many of which will not involve agriculture.


The Prime Minister made it quite clear in his Speech from the Throne that the federal government will protect supply management, and federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz has echoed that sentiment on numerous occasions, particularly to those who wonder whether or not supply management was the price of entry for the TPP talks.  


It would be foolish to dismantle a system that, apart from research investment (which dried up in the latest federal budget), the government pays nothing to maintain. There are few other agricultural industries in Canada for whom this holds true.


The pundits want consumers to believe that supply management raises the price of dairy, poultry and eggs, and that low-income households are paying to keep farmers wealthy. They compare our prices to those of the U.S., but they always neglect to mention that farmers in the U.S. are subsidized. Thus, their argument is weak: reforming the dairy and poultry industries is certainly not going to cure poverty.


Another popular argument is that the price of quota is a barrier to those wanting to enter supply management. While quota levels are indeed high, getting started in any type of farming nowadays is costly, so let’s make the argument a fair one. Agricultural land values have risen astronomically in recent years, due in large part to increased grain prices. As is evident in the recently released 2011 Census of Agriculture, the number of farms in this country continued to shrink, yet farms are getting larger, because farmers who already own land are better able to leverage credit than outsiders. They also need more land to produce more to afford the increased costs of inputs and thus be more profitable.


For the first time, the number of farmers in the age group of 55 or older now represents the largest group of farmers in Canada. This is very telling, as it speaks to the ability of young people to enter, or continue with, the business of farming. This is certainly not limited to supply management.  


I don’t understand the fierce opposition to a system that provides consumers with what they want and that works for farmers and government. Despite the failure of Doha, and prior to the TPP discussions, Canada has made multiple bilateral trade deals for other farming sectors (namely pork, beef and grain) with countries in Asia and South America and has a free trade agreement with the U.S., all achieved without being “hindered” by supply management.


Despite what the pundits want us to believe, there is no reason to panic just yet. They will likely tire of regurgitating one another’s arguments and move on to another target.

"It was a great transition,” says Erna Ference of the decision she and her husband Reg made more than 20 years to leave the city and begin farming.

Born in Ontario and raised north of Toronto in Sutton, Erna began her working life as a legal secretary at a firm in downtown Toronto. But commuting back and forth from Sutton to Toronto (more than an hour’s drive each way) was too tiring, and the prospect of moving downtown wasn’t for her – so she headed West to Alberta during the oil boom of the 1980s for new opportunities.

She got a job with a law firm in Calgary, and not long afterwards she was offered a position with Canadian Western Natural Gas, where she met her future husband, Reg Ference. She also began working on her accounting designation, which she continued after she and Reg married, and she left Canadian Western Natural Gas to take a position with another oil and gas company due to a marriage policy (as employees with the same company, to marry either Reg or Erna had to give up their job).

When they decided to start a family, Erna says they did not want to raise children in the city.  “An opportunity came up to buy a broiler farm from Reg’s parents, and we thought that would be a good environment to raise children.”

So in 1988 they left corporate life behind to farm in Black Diamond, just west of Okotoks in the foothills.  Erna says that the transition from working for someone else to being their own boss was a really nice change, and “that one of the biggest lessons we learned was that when you are your own boss, everything is negotiable.”

“It makes a huge difference, and I couldn’t believe how profound that lesson was,” she says.

They learned this lesson during a time of struggles; once they realized they could negotiate costs, things like their insurance policy were drastically reduced and they could negotiate with the bank on purchases.  “With this came a feeling of freedom and excitement,” she says.

Erna finished her CMA soon after she and Reg bought the farm, and both of them worked on the farm while raising five children – Trevor, Byron, Andrea, Benjamin and Stephen.

They lived on the farm, located on the edge of town right across from the hospital in Black Diamond, for several years until Reg’s parents, who still had a smaller broiler operation about three miles further away, wanted to expand.

Erna and Reg helped with this expansion, but given its proximity to town Erna says they opted to downsize the farm across from the hospital and expand the operation outside of town, eventually moving their family and adding a double-decker barn that can hold 70,000 birds.  

Reg and Erna purchased the second farm from his parents about 12 years ago, and they now produce close to 85,000 birds at this location, and about 25,000 birds at the “town” location.  A full-time employee lives at that location, and for the past year, Erna’s second eldest son Byron has been closely involved with the management of the larger operation. 

Although only 23, Erna says he seems to be really enjoying it and she can see him making the transition into ownership in the future.

Erna says she has always been involved with whatever the family has been involved with, from her childrens’ soccer and hockey teams, to the Alberta Chicken Producers (ACP) board and the Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC).

Although too busy the first few years they ran the farm to even think about getting involved with marketing and regulation, Erna says Reg was asked to run for a board position with the ACP about 15 years ago, and he served as a director for six years and represented the ACP with CFC.  

Not long after Reg stepped down, Erna says numerous people in the industry told her that she would be a good candidate and advocate for the industry.  Prior to making her decision, she was able to benefit from a leadership program that was instituted within the ACP (a program Reg helped develop) that gave potential board members the opportunity to understand what being a leader means “before you take the big plunge,” she says.

Now the chair (elected this year), Erna has returned to the board after taking a year off. Previously she spent seven years as a board director, serving as ACP’s national representative with CFC for four of those years. While with CFC she served on both the Finance and Executive committees, and spent three years as CFC’s representative on the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) board of directors.

Erna says she is enjoying being chair, but that she still has a learning curve even though she was only away for a year.  “It’s a different role than being a director, that’s for sure,” she says.  “It’s hard to fill someone like (former chair) Scott Wiens’ shoes because he was an excellent leader and was very well respected by many people who tried to encourage him to run for another term, including myself.”

But she’s not afraid to take on the challenge, and isn’t daunted by taking on a significant issue for her board and fellow producers.  The ACP has requested an increase in allocation from CFC, and “we are working hard with CFC to stay within the system,” she says.  “But we are adamant that there has to be a differential growth component and we strongly feel that population should be a part of that.”

She says Alberta has been growing exponentially and the province has been seeing its share of the national allocation drop with each growth in population.  “We don’t think that is very fair, or necessarily reflective of the way the system was supposed to be,” she says.

Supportive of other provinces’ growth plans – particularly those of Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador – “we have some very specific concerns that other provinces don’t share.”

The ACP proposed the increase six years ago, and Erna was the one who announced the proposal at CFC’s summer meeting in Kelowna. “We always said we wanted to work within the system and we always maintained that was our first line,” she says.

She doesn’t anticipate a quick resolution. “I think it would be nice if it was solved tomorrow but when you are working in the large country of Canada with all the different viewpoints and all of the different regions, it’s a big challenge. Nothing happens overnight.”

When she’s not busy with family and board activities, Erna says she enjoys being active with golfing and running. She only started running at the age of 40, and has since run the Boston Marathon and will be running in the Nike Women’s Marathon with her daughter Andrea the weekend after Thanksgiving.

As for the future, Erna says she sees a healthy poultry industry and her son Byron being involved with the farm.  She sees herself perhaps being involved with a non-profit organization if she could find one that “benefited a lot of things that I value,” she says.

She’s also been thinking about a statistic she heard from a colleague where 30 per cent of high school graduates will be working in an industry that doesn’t currently exist within five years.  “That is an amazing statistic, just mind boggling,” she says.  “There are a lot of changes ahead and I would like to look into something that is new, something that I don’t know.”

“I am a big advocate of continuously learning,” she says.

June 26, 2012- The Canadian hatching egg industry is expected to achieve improved flock uniformity and increased chick production through a new investment by the federal government in an integrated feeding management solution.

Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose (Edmonton—Spruce Grove) announced today, on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, an investment of more than $240,000 to help develop a precision broiler breeder feeding system.
 
The Alberta Hatching Egg Producers will use this investment to help develop a precision broiler breeder feeding system that provides the right amount of feed to the right bird at the right time, with the goal of keeping birds fit and reducing waste. The new system is expected to improve production by taking the guesswork out of feed allocation, thereby potentially reducing labour and management inputs, while increasing environmental benefits through improved feed efficiency and a reduction in manure production. The hatching egg producers house all their birds in free-run facilities, and this precision feeding technology will further enhance an already welfare-friendly environment for the birds.

"We are very excited to be working with the hatching egg industry on this innovative project," said Dr. Martin Zuidhof, the project leader at the University of Alberta. "It is exciting to see over 20 years of research come together in a way that promises so much benefit for the poultry industry and the birds themselves. We are pleased with the investments of government and industry partners that are moving this worthwhile initiative forward."
 
The federal government is making this investment through the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP), a five-year (2009–14), $163-million program that helps the agriculture and agri-food sector seize new opportunities and remain competitive. In Alberta, CAAP is delivered through the Agriculture and Food Council (AFC) of Alberta.
 
For more information on CAAP, please visit www.agr.gc.ca/caap.
 
To learn more about AFC, please visit www.agfoodcouncil.com.

June 25, 2012 - Bill Gray, President of L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd. announced today that Mr. Mike Walsh and Mr. Scott Brookshaw will now hold the title of Executive Vice President of the company.

Mr. Walsh, previously Vice President of Sales and Marketing, will continue to advance the company's growth in sales and marketing and business development.  Mr. Brookshaw, previously Vice President of Processing and Farming Operations, will continue to head these operations in addition to his new role.  

In his announcement, Mr. Gray said, “Mike and Scott's years of service, dedication, and proven successes, has led me to this strategic business decision and I am confident that both gentlemen will continue to surpass expectations. I continue to look forward to working with them in the years to come.”

 

June 11, 2012 - Changes to egg production practices that are proposed in federal U.S. legislation (S. 3239 and H.R. 3798) may only increase consumer prices by less than two cents per dozen, a new economic study shows.

The legislation, which is supported by United Egg Producers (UEP), which represents nearly 90 percent of egg farmers, would set a national standard for egg production and labeling and would provide more space for hens and enrichments such as perches and nest boxes in their cages.

The study, commissioned by UEP and conducted by the independent research group Agralytica based in Alexandria, Virginia, concludes “Most of the impact on consumer prices will not occur until well into the 2020’s, and will probably average a 1% increase relative to the baseline (1.5 cents per dozen) over the 18 years” that the changes in egg production methods are phased in according to the legislation. The increased cost includes capital investments by farmers of new housing facilities ($20-$24 per hen, for a total of $1.6 billion more than if current housing facilities were simply replaced with the same style of conventional cages over the next 18 years rather than replaced with enriched colony cages); modestly higher labor costs (9%) and slightly higher feed consumption (4%).

The current (week of June 1, 2012) national average advertised retail price for one dozen grade A eggs is $1.15, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Based on this new study, that same dozen eggs produced in the new, enriched colony cages might be expected to cost just two cents more.

Gene Gregory, president of UEP, said “In polling, consumers have told us, by an overwhelming margin of 12-to-1, that they prefer their eggs to be produced in the enriched colony cage system because it allows the hens nearly double the amount of space, as well as opportunities to perform more of their natural behaviors like perching and nesting. Farmers need a level playing field and a reasonable transition period to be able to invest the capital needed to give consumers what they want, and this federal legislation is what consumers want, what farmers need, and what scientific experts support.”

The legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore, Elton Gallegly, R-Calif,, Sam Farr, D-Calif, and Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and has 60 co-sponsors in the House; and in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Scott Brown, R-Mass., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., David Vitter, R-La. and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

In addition to being supported by UEP, it also is supported by the Humane Society of the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association, Consumer Federation of America, National Consumers League, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Humane Association, local Humane Societies, dozens of state and regional egg producer groups, and many other groups. There is no government or taxpayer cost anticipated with the legislation.

For more information, visit: www.eggbill.com

May 25, 2012 - The Alltech 28th Annual International Symposium concluded with the pledge for continuous innovation in order to meet the agricultural challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. The Symposium highlighted the wide range of solutions available to society to meet this challenge.

Speaking to an audience of 3,000 delegates, Dr. Ronan Power, vice president of nutrigenomics at Alltech, began the closing session by providing a glimpse of a future where combating disease starts from the cell up. He used the analogy of a hydroelectric power plant to explain the mitochondria, which he referred to as the powerhouse of the human body. Human beings are living longer and as a result encountering disease challenges of a mitochondrial origin, such as Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

He explained that, “Energy comes at a cost and there are harmful emissions like mitochondrial emissions or reactive oxygen species.”

Dr. Power said that biomarkers required to map changes in this area can now be identified. He said that the era of everyone having their own “doctor or laboratory on a chip” is fast approaching.

Dr. Mark Lyons, vice president of Alltech, followed with an insightful overview on doing business in China, the largest feed market at 175 million tons per year, and the most populous nation in the world. He explained the importance of Chinese culture and how every single day Chinese people live out 5,000 years of history, and how they are looking forward and not back. Agriculture is top priority for government as it contributes 10.9 percent of GDP in China and employs 39.5 percent of the labor force.

 “China will be the largest economy in the world. It is only a question of when,” said Lyons.

He posed the question of how China is going to feed itself and the global implications of this for the agriculture and food industry. Food safety and food security are major issues, while food cost is still a major driver for consumers. He explained the secret to doing business in China is clarity, relationships and decision making. It is important to engage in three layers: top management, sales or purchasing, and technical. Decisiveness and clarity are the key piece.

“They are expecting the best, they want support and partnership.” He concluded by saying, “China is the new New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

Chief marketing officer of Alltech, Catherine Keogh, presented on what it takes to build a megabrand and how the agriculture industry can tell its story to the consumer in a rapidly changing world. She said that agricultural brands and the industry as a whole need to consider the audience and how it can multiply these story-telling opportunities and how the industry can win “the war of words and images.”

Keogh emphasized that successful companies will thrive on the basis of their stories. She said, “Stories are how people connect, are what people remember, are how people learn and are what people share.”

Keogh highlighted that the industry needs to communicate, connect and create conviction with a young audience who engages with their environment online and in a social way before that void is filled by other interest groups. She said, “Our industry must take back ownership and harness the power of the hundreds of millions of brand ambassadors and advocates to transmit positive stories. The timing is right — social media is our game changer.”

Founder and president of Alltech, Dr. Pearse Lyons wrapped up the largest Alltech Symposium ever by sharing the stage with Tom and Anya, whose presence put the future in context. He said, “The ultimate social network is inside us,” and, “We should not mess with nature.”

He continued, “Agriculture needs more and more innovators. Surround yourselves with smart people, build small teams and this week we surrounded ourselves with 3,000 smart people.” He emphasized that entrepreneurs create jobs and that each member of the audience were the drivers of entrepreneurism.

The Symposium’s 175 speakers, 13 sessions, 22 discussion dinners and 136 side meetings discussed how we can feed Tom and Anya’s generation.

Visitors to the Alltech Symposium this year also had the opportunity to look at the World Market. With smells of newly baked bread and displays of fresh meat, it was a total experience of food. They previewed the virtual supermarket of the future and imagined purchasing the ingredients for their dinner using their phone.

Mike Stahl says that egg producers shouldn’t be scared to try an aviary system. But then the poultry boss of the Rosalind Colony near Camrose, Alta., has proven that he isn’t afraid to take on a challenge.

Formerly a plumber at the Byemoor Colony – located about 130 kilometres south of Rosalind – Stahl was chosen to manage a new organic free-run egg operation that the colony had been planning to build. But during the planning phase, the colony made the decision to split, purchasing land around Rosalind, and it was determined that the new egg operation would be built there instead of at Byemoor.

The initial planning for the barn was completed by Byemoor resident and current Alberta Egg Farmers chair Ben Waldner, who consulted with Meb Gilani, owner of the colony’s grader, Sparks Eggs. At the time, Gilani was planning to build his own free-run operation (see our November 2011 cover feature) and had visited numerous free-run aviary operations in Montana for ideas.

The barn has three separate housing “units” – two for the layers, and one for pullets. The pullets are housed in the centre of the barn, with the layers on either side. An office, shower, washroom, and egg collection and storage rooms complete the space, dividing the barn into “bird” and “people” areas.  

The birds are raised in an aviary and pullet-rearing system, both manufactured by Farmer Automatic. Each layer aviary and the pullet system can house 10,000 birds, but only 7,000 birds are raised in each unit to fulfill the lower density requirements of organic production. The set-up is “all-in, all-out” – the pullet room is its own structure and is fully enclosed and separated from each of the layer areas. Doors near the floor of the pullet room connect to each layer aviary, allowing the pullets to be moved to one of the aviaries when they reach maturity.  Each of the layer sections and the pullet section has it’s own ventilation.

The walls of the barn are not only energy-efficient, they were manufactured on-site. The colony manufactures a prefabricated wall system known as EnerGard for Greenland Building Systems (www.gogreenland.ca). The walls are constructed using an I joist instead of 2x6” or 2x4” studs, and are filled with a polystyrene infil. The result is an energy efficient wall where “the barn won’t get wet, and there’s less carry-through of air,” says Stahl. The walls are also sprayed with a fire retardant –required by provincial building code – as well as a mold and moisture inhibitor.

The walls of the barn are 12 feet high, with the first two feet comprised of concrete, and the other ten feet is EnerGard. The walls of every house on the colony were also constructed using EnerGard.

Rosalind has two large manufacturing shops that could rival a small factory, where the walls are produced. In addition to the layers, it’s an important source of revenue for the colony, because Stahl says the 4,500 acres of land at the colony is too good for cattle, so it has been cultivated and seeded to canola and wheat.

Although Rosalind has plans in future to build a feed mill, they don’t plan on growing their own organic crops. “The transition is too long – it takes three years of being sterile, and it just doesn’t pay,” says Stahl. The reason for building a feed mill is “consistency and quality control,” he says. He also wants to use a best cost formulation instead of least cost, and having his own mill will allow him to do this. The grass outside the barn that the birds can access in the warmer months is organic.

Heating the bird rooms is very cost efficient, not only because of the walls but also because of Stahl’s previous plumbing experience. Stahl installed two condensing boilers (one 400,000 BTU, the other 150,000 BTU) to heat the pullet room and aviaries. “This has resulted in big savings,” he says. The pullet room has in-floor heating, and being in-between the two aviaries, only has one outside wall so very little supplemental heat is required.  The aviaries also require little heat, as the adult birds produce enough heat on their own.

The first flock of pullets entered the barn in January 2011, and moved to one of the aviaries in May 2011, and the second flock of layers went in June 2011. The first flock was a learning curve for Stahl, and he admits to having problems with floor and system eggs. He credits Farmer Automatic, who sent staff from its headquarters in Germany to give him some help. “This help was paramount in the beginning,” he says.

Although he still has floor eggs from his first flock, he’s proud of the fact that he has only had five floor eggs and two system eggs with the second flock. He says you need “chicken savvy” to understand how to combat potential and existing issues in the aviary. He spends a lot of time in the barn, observing behaviour, which has led to a few alterations, he says. Although he won’t give up all of his secrets, he says he has made some adjustments over time and slowly figured out what works, and what doesn’t.

One thing he tried with the second flock is to mount artificial eggs in the nest boxes, thinking that it might help prevent system and floor eggs. “I can’t say for sure that it works, but this flock has been much better,” he says. One thing he knows that does work is to help spread out the birds with respect to nesting space. Having noticed that the last nest box in the row on the system would get crowded, he installed wood partitions every 10 feet on the walkway in front of the nest boxes to help spread out the birds.

Like many other producers raising layers in an aviary, Stahl realizes that lighting and feeding are key. Lights are dimmed from the outside walls first, then the centre lights are dimmed to indicate to the hens that it’s time to roost.

He feeds four times a day, and some feed must be left in the trough before the lights go out, because midnight feedings can’t be given in an aviary. Three hours after the lights come back on, he does the first feeding, giving the birds enough time to lay and not get distracted by the feeder.

As for dust, Stahl admits to having to wear a mask inside the aviary and that the dust is worse in the afternoon, particularly in winter when the air is dry. He’s been consulting with Dr. Tina Widowski at the University of Guelph on this, and says he is going to start using a sprinkler system to reduce the dust levels.

Stahl is also experimenting with the type of light bulbs used. The first flock was reared using incandescent lights, and the second was reared using compact fluorescents. He has been measuring both with a power meter to compare the cost difference, but thinks that he will likely be replacing at least one of the aviaries with LEDs.

For his first two flocks, Stahl says he has achieved about a 91 per cent production rate, which is pretty good for an organic free-run operation, but it’s not good enough for him. “I want to do better than the manual,” he says. For his third flock, he’s set himself a goal of 94 per cent. With his attention to detail and tenacity, he has a good chance of achieving it.

The Poultry Industry Council recently held a “Science in the Pub” seminar that aimed to challenge current knowledge about cleaning and disinfecting poultry barns, and how these processes may be affecting the birds’ immunity and ability to handle pathogens.

Dr. Shayan Sharif, an immunologist with the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, began the evening meeting with a discussion on how the environment influences a chicken’s immune system.

The immune system of a chicken or turkey is affected by the presence of pathogens (bacteria, protozoa, fungi, viruses), how the birds are managed, and the genetics of the bird (host). To manage the health of the chicken’s immune system, an equilibrium must be achieved between the host, the environment and a disease-causing pathogen, he said. If anything tips the balance of this equilibrium, infection and disease are the result.

He believes the environment the birds are raised in is having a significant impact on the virulence of pathogens and how they impact health.

He used two well-known poultry diseases as examples. When it was first described in the 1940s, Marek’s Disease (caused by a virus) had rather mild symptoms, said Sharif. However, by the 1960s, the disease had become much more serious – its virulence had increased – and the disease began affecting different biological systems within the bird. He believes the cause of this is the change in the environment the birds were raised in over this time period.

Sharif noted that Jungle Fowl can harbour a lot of coccidia (the protozoa that cause coccidiosis) without getting very sick or dying. He said these birds can also harbour multiple strains of coccidia, and that some of these strains are not found here in North America. He said that this is evidence that Jungle Fowl and coccidia have evolved together, and that there may be some benefit to the bird from this relationship. He argued that some protozoa and bacterial species may actually assist the bird by enhancing its immune system.

He said that the immune system of modern chickens is actually shrinking, as research has shown a reduction in the quantity of immune cells, such as T cells and B cells, produced in the thymus and bursa respectively. It’s known that this decrease has something to do with the birds’ diet, but genetics is also likely playing a role, he said. The environment is also key – although some growth in the immune system occurs pre-hatch, much of the development takes place in the four to eight weeks following hatch.

Sharif pointed to the “hygiene hypothesis” of how, in western societies, there has been an increase in autoimmune diseases because people living in these countries are living in too clean an environment, thus reducing their exposure to potential pathogens early in life, which weakens their immune system. Sharif questions whether or not the poultry industry is causing the same issues with the birds by placing them in too clean an environment.

By not exposing them to pathogens early on, he feels that this may be causing immunosuppression, reducing a chick’s ability to handle the stressors (such as suboptimal brooding, transport to the farm, nutritional challenges, temperature fluctuations, etc.) that it will be exposed to.  

He also pointed out that the chick’s early immunity can be influenced by the use of ionophores, probiotics and antibiotics, which all impact the microflora of the gut, where immune cells are also produced. Probiotics have been shown to have a positive influence on this microflora, he said.

Dr. Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt from the University of Montreal was the second speaker of the evening. He said that many researchers around the world believe that keeping a barn too clean isn’t necessarily a good thing, and that it’s probably a good idea for birds to be challenged early to enhance their immunity.  

However, he noted that just how clean the environment should be before birds are placed is highly dependent on the country involved and its view on cleaning and disinfection protocols. How these processes are performed is also key, he said. Perceived failures in removing pathogens from the barn are often the result of cleaning failures.

Vaillancourt gave an overview of his experience consulting in France, where the protocol is to be “super clean.” In France, there is a total down time of two weeks from shipping to chick placement. This includes a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the barn and equipment, a period of time to let the barn dry, and then a second disinfection.

This protocol is more extreme than what is used in the U.S., where the strategy is “different situations require different tools,” he said. The U.S. also considers the cost-benefit of certain practices, he said. Although performing a second disinfection is a good idea scientifically, it may not be economical, he said. Canada is somewhere “in between” France and the U.S., he said.

Having worked in North Carolina, Vaillancourt said when he was first asked to go to France to consult on sanitation, he wasn’t sure he would be of benefit. However, he said that although they were “super clean,” it did not necessarily correlate with a reduction or a decrease in the persistence of a pathogen in the barn. “I’m not saying it’s not worth cleaning and disinfecting, but we do not necessarily need to imitate others,” he said.

He pointed to a research study conducted in France examining the persistence of salmonella in barns. He said that when no disinfection took place, the risk of salmonella in a subsequent flock was eight times greater than if two disinfections had taken place, and if only one had been performed, the risk was six times greater. The use of antibiotics in the previous flock resulted in a threefold increase, and if rodents were not controlled, the risk was nine times greater.

What’s important is how the barn is cleaned prior to disinfection, and keeping the barn dry during the down time, he said. Optimal cleaning requires mechanical action, pressure, a detergent used at the right concentration, and adequate contact time. Temperature of the water is also important, he said. Between 45 and 60 C is ideal, anything over 60 C, and “you are just baking the organic material and providing any potential pathogens with a coating,” he said.

In France, microbial monitoring is used to measure how “clean” a barn is. Vaillancourt said a researcher decided to compare a visual assessment of organic matter present after cleaning to microbial counts measured on swabs of the barn environment. Vaillancourt said that interestingly, there was very little relationship between how clean a barn “looked” and how clean it really was.

“Dryness is your friend, it’s the enemy of pathogens,” he said. If there is going to be a longer down time between flocks, as long as the barn is dry, this shouldn’t be a problem. If the barn is humid, pathogens start to multiply. “Use ventilation and heat to ensure that the barn is dry,” he said.

The importance of cleaning can also be seen in a 2006 study performed in Canada. Vaillancourt said the study, which looked at different building materials (wood, plastic and metal) and the type of cleaner used (water, iodine, or a foam or gel detergent) showed that the type of surface didn’t matter when it came to cleaning, but the method used was important. Iodine did not perform well, and the gel detergent resulted in a lower bacterial count than that of the foam because it increased contact time, he said. Dry cleaning (removal of dust and dirt without water) was best for wood, and wet cleaning was best for plastic and metal.

“What’s important is how the surface you are dealing with is cleaned, and how dry it is,” he said. “You may be surprised to see that what you have been doing may not be working as well as you think.”

May 11, 2012 - The Poultry Industry Council (PIC) recently honoured three researchers from the University of Guelph with it's 2012 Poultry Worker of the Year Award.

Dr. Steve Leeson, Dr. Ian Duncan and the late Dr. Bruce Hunter were presented with the award May 8 during a ceremony at the Poultry Industry Council’s Spring Symposium (formerly known as Research Day). The annual Poultry Worker of the Year award recognizes those who have made a significant contribution to the poultry industry.

Duncan began his research career studying how important a nest is to a hen, and his groundbreaking work is regarded as the foundation for much of the animal welfare research with laying hens performed around the world.

Dr. Leeson, regarded as the "god of poultry nutrition" focused on feeding both birds and people.  Well respected by industry for his understanding of the importance of research in the real world, he is credited with providing new marketing opportunities for designer egg products, such as the Omega-3 egg.  During his career, he averaged one publication per month, which includes authoring books, articles for refereed journals, and trade journals.

Dr. Bruce Hunter's award was accepted by his widow Daina Hunter.  Dr. Hunter, who passed away suddenly in October 2011, was acknowledged for his 33 years of teaching and research at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).   He ran the OVC's wild bird clinic for 15 years, and was a co-leader of a Veterinarians Without Borders poultry project in Ghana.  He was also a highly-regarded expert on mink farming, and played a key role in the development of a Canadian Community of Practice in EcoHealth (CoPEH) and a graduate-level course in ecosystem approaches to health that involves the University of Guelph, the University of British Columbia and the Université du Québec à Montréal.

 

 

 

 

May 4, 2012 - Tim Hortons announced today that they have called upon the pork industry and it's suppliers to eliminate gestation stalls for sows and to develop clear plans and timelines by the end of the year to phase out these housing systems.

It has also set a goal of purchasing at least 10 per cent of it's eggs, representing significantly more than 10 million eggs, from enriched hen housing systems by the end of 2013. The company plans to actively evaluate the industry's capacity to provide eggs from enriched housing systems, and to progressively increase it's commitment beyond 2013 as additional supply becomes available.

The Company intends to give preferred sourcing to pork suppliers who have clearly documented plans to phase-out the use of gestation stalls, and egg suppliers working to phase-in enriched hen housing systems. Tim Hortons will share next steps in early 2013, after reviewing industry plans and having further dialogue with the egg and pork industries and other animal welfare stakeholders.

"We're calling for an end to gestation stalls for sows and to significantly increase the use of alternative housing systems for hens. We believe there are better, more humane and sustainable housing systems that can improve the quality of animals' lives. Striking a balanced, realistic solution for the farming community, which will need to make significant investments in new buildings, is also essential, and we fully recognize this will take time," said Paul House, president and CEO, and executive chairman, Tim Hortons Inc.

In addition to these major commitments, Tim Hortons is planning other animal welfare initiatives. In 2012, it will commission scientific, fact-based animal welfare research with leading academic institutions on sustainable, humane animal housing systems. Further, it plans to call for a North American-wide summit of restaurant companies interested in the humane treatment of animals in the restaurant industry supply chain.

"We hope and expect that our initiatives can help speed up the process by which farmers and producers will phase out gestation stalls for sows and move to alternative hen housing systems, so they can in turn meet industry and guest demand for such products," added House.

The company said in a relase that these new initiatives build on it's commitments announced earlier this year to source at least one per cent of eggs in it's supply chain from enriched hen housing systems, and to work with the pork industry to develop long-term, realistic improvements in pork housing systems. Tim Hortons is committed to achieving meaningful and sustainable progress in animal welfare in a way that reflects the Company's and it's guests' values.

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