Kristy Nudds

Kristy Nudds

The Chicken Farmers of Canada’s (CFC) longest-standing chairman is ready to give up a life of airports, conference calls and meetings to focus on helping his three daughters take over the family farming operation in Nova Scotia.

David Fuller says that change is always good for an organization and that the  “time is right” for him to leave the position he’s held since 1999.  

“Trying to run a farm and be the Chair of CFC has been more than a full-time position,” he says.   

Now, he’s looking to spend more time with his family, and helping his three daughters — Natasha (along with her husband, Cory Dykens), Stephanie, and Jennifer — take over the farming operation, which produces 1.6 million kilograms of chicken on three farms in the Canning area, in the picturesque New Minas basin.  

Fuller began his career in the chicken industry in 1976, when he formed a partnership with his parents John and Betty, who had a broiler and turkey operation.  At that time, and throughout the 1980s, chicken production increased and the family acquired additional production quota, expanding the farm to its current size.  David and his wife Diane bought out the farm completely from his parents three years ago.

Fuller worked on the farm full-time until 1987, when he began to take on more of a leadership role within the industry. That year, he began serving on the Chicken Farmers of Nova Scotia board, as Chair for several years.  In 1993, he became Nova Scotia’s representative to CFC, and served on CFC’s Executive committee in 1994 but had to resign that year as the CFNS had asked producers for its support in leaving CFC. Believing that leaving CFC was not the right thing to do, Fuller says he had no choice but to resign from the CFNS as well.  His fellow producers supported his position and voted against leaving CFC.  Fuller then returned to CFC in 1996.  

Fuller says the reason he became so involved in the industry was “it was the opportunity for me to say thank you and hopefully, be able to bring something to the table that would be beneficial for the Canadian chicken industry,” he says.

As a farmer, one of the biggest challenges has been to always make sure that there is stability in the system in the long-term, which allows farmers to invest with confidence.  Stability in the system is a key part of his role as Chair of CFC.   

“As Chair, my job was to make sure that the organization looks after the interest of the farmers that we represent, as well the partners that we work very closely with, whether upstream or downstream from the farm, including government,” he says.

He says he has found his experience as chair very rewarding.  “To be able to bring the parties together, to build consensus on issues that face our industry as a whole, has been one of the highlights,” he says.

There have been many highlights throughout his tenure at CFC, but the most significant highlight, says Fuller, is the Federal-Provincial agreement that CFC officially finalized in June 2001.   This required getting consensus amongst all provincial commodity boards, provincial supervisory boards, provincial agriculture ministers, as well as the federal agriculture minister.  “To be able to put an agreement like that in place that everyone could agree to, that would tell us how we are going to do business in the future as a unit, to me was a highlight, “ he says.

Fuller was also driven by the fact that when he first took the position of chair, he had many that told him he couldn’t get it done. “That was a mistake,” he says.  “When you tell me I can’t do something, then I go at it.”

He got involved personally — visiting ministers, talking with them one on one in each province, to make sure that they understood what CFC was doing, and what the scope and the intent of the agreement was.  

A challenge, says Fuller, has been the trade file, because it has the potential of having a significant impact on Canadian farmers if it goes badly, regardless of whether a farmer is in supply management or not.

He says he took the file under his wing and was very close to it during his tenure.  “It has not been an easy challenge to sit and talk not just with Canadian officials, but officials from other countries to try and build consensus on how to best look after the interests of everyone involved,” he says.

He believes that with the support supply managed industries have from all political parties, whether provincial or federal, shows how important supply management is to Canada and how it is beneficial.  “I think our governments clearly understand the benefit of supply management, and that it’s biggest benefit, to be frank, is that it costs them nothing,” he says.

However, one of the biggest challenges he’s faced is how to convince the media of this, and in particular, that farmers do not set retail prices.  He expresses frustration with the fact that despite meeting with numerous editorial boards across the country to try and get this message across, “we just can’t seem to get it there.”

“If Canada gives supply management up, we will not get anything for it,” he says.  “People have this assumption that supply management is holding us back, and that is so far off the truth.”

He says although the media likes to say that Canada is unique (with respect to wanting to protect supply management as a sensitive product) but “we’re not.”  He points to the U.S. having sensitivities around oranges, sugar, and cotton, and Australia and New Zealand, who claim to be free traders yet have so many barriers put in place, that no one can ship anything into their countries.   

Despite the frustration of the trade file, Fuller commends the Canadian government for it’s continual support of supply management.  He says it is “unheard of” to have the Prime Minister mention support for supply management on two different occasions during his Speech from the Throne.   He also noted that Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has been true to his word that supply management is non-negotiable.

A big challenge left unresolved as he leaves his position has to do with differential growth.  Since 2007, CFC has been working on provisions for differential growth in its operating agreement under the federal-provincial agreement.   In the past few years, growth has “subsided tremendously,” he says.  

“We are in a growth market, but it’s minimal,” he says.  If the market was experiencing a growth of five per cent a year, it would be easier to achieve consensus amongst stakeholders.  Currently, the market is only experiencing one to two per cent growth annually.  CFC has been working on several formulas, and will continue to explore ways to allow for differential growth in Canada, he says.

Fuller says he is proud of CFC’s On-Farm Food Safety Program and it’s Animal Care Program, which were developed during his time with CFC. He also notes that CFC’s involvement, along with the other national feather boards and the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council (CPEPC) with the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) has been a “real opportunity” for the organization.

The SM5 group was also formed during his tenure and he says that “having the ability to sit down with his fellow members of supply management and talk about issues that face us all has been very rewarding, and to be able to build a team that works closely together is so crucial,” he says.

Fuller says he has learned a lot from CFC on how to be a better farmer, as it has helped him to learn the issues and complexities of the industry. Hearing from other farmers is “eye-opening” he has learnt from them how to do things better.  “By communicating with each other you learn things, and that definitely helps you be a better farmer,” he says.

He has also benefitted from being part of the development of two of CFC’s strategic plans (they are developed every five years).  The strategic plan is a “roadmap” for the organization to follow, and it uses it to re-verify whether it’s going in the right  direction, or whether the members need to sit down and rethink things.  “I think it’s absolutely key, and I’ve adopted it on my own farm,” he says.

Fuller is also thankful for the many rewards and opportunities his time with CFC has brought. “The biggest reward for me in this whole job was the opportunity to meet with not just my fellow farmers, but people throughout the industry as well,” he says.

The opportunity to travel to many different places throughout the world and talk to with farmers and stakeholders in these countries has been something that he has enjoyed and he greatly appreciates.

“The travel that my wife and I have been able to do while I was chairman has been phenomenal,” he says. “We thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for giving us that opportunity.”

He says that he thinks the opportunity to travel and see more of the “real world” has made them better people.  

When speaking at a number of different events, one of his key messages has been “that in Canada, we take way too much for granted and we have no idea what it’s really like in a lot of other countries in the world,” he says.

Fuller announced that he would not be seeking re-election at the 2011 annual meeting of Les Éleveurs de volailles du Québec. His last official day as CFC chair was March 20, when the board elected B.C. representative David Janzen as the new chair.

When asked what advice he would give his successor, Fuller says, “always look for commonality and then try to build from the commonality out.  If you find the common ground between people or organizations on issues, you will continue to build consensus.”

Fuller says CFC is keeping him on retainer for six months to help with the transition between chairs.  The organization will be honouring him at its summer meeting this July in Winnipeg.

Pressure from animal rights groups to improve the welfare of laying hens has resulted in significant legislative changes in Europe and California with respect to layer housing. Welfare concerns have also caught the attention of consumers and retailers in the rest of North America, and egg producers are now faced with providing a better quality of life for the hens, while still providing a product that meets food safety standards and that is economically feasible, not only for their own bottom line, but also at the grocery case.

Consequently, many producers in Canada are considering installing (or have already installed) alternative housing systems, such as enriched cages or aviaries, on their farms. Although existing research in Europe and North America shows that these alternative systems provide many welfare benefits, many questions still exist with respect to cost of production, how best to optimize bird management in each different system, and how bird density and group sizing affects welfare and costs within the systems.

That’s why nearly two years ago, the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) decided that it wanted to support a research chair in animal welfare, according to EFC’s manager, corporate and public affairs, Bernadette Cox. The organization spent some time examining the research work and meeting with scientists in the field. Cox says that CEO Tim Lambert and EFC chair Peter Clarke felt that Prof. Tina Widowski of the University of Guelph was the person they were looking for, and announced that she was the new EFC chair in poultry welfare in May 2011.

Widowski, who is based in the Ontario Agricultural College’s Department of Animal and Poultry Science, was chosen in part because she has an impressive record of research in a variety of welfare issues, is actively engaged with other scientists in North America (including the University of Michigan and the Poultry Welfare Cluster, also based at the University of Guelph), and is the leader of North America’s largest group of animal welfare scientists as director of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare.

Cox says that, although EFC is not directing the type of work that is being done, Widowski does inform the organization of her progress and seeks opinions about what areas of welfare research are the most pressing for Canadian egg producers.

The funding partnership between the University of Guelph and EFC formally began in March 2011, and will continue through January 2017.

Not only will the partnership benefit egg producers, but it will benefit the University of Guelph as well, says Widowski. The funding has allowed for the hiring of a junior faculty member (currently underway) and has provided opportunities for several graduate students, who will become part of the next generation of technical experts in animal welfare. The university’s poultry unit at the Arkell research station has also benefited, with new, up-to-date equipment, she says.

Four rooms in the poultry unit were cleared to accommodate the new housing systems, all of which are manufactured by Farmer Automatic (FA), a Germany-based company that has a partnership with Ontario-based Clark Ag Systems Ltd.

One room houses FA’s pullet-rearing floor system, the Portal Rearing System, while another of the rooms houses the Loggia system, the company’s layer aviary. The other two rooms house the Layer Cage ECO, FA’s enriched cage system, which has been designed according to the regulations for layer housing set forth by the EU and that came into effect Jan. 1, 2012.

The equipment was installed over the summer of 2011, and the university and Clark Ag Systems Ltd. held an open house in mid-September for producers and industry representatives prior to the arrival of the birds.

What’s Being Studied
Widowski’s first project is to study the behaviour, welfare and production parameters of layers housed in the enriched system at two different densities — 80 square centimetres/bird and 116 square centimetres/bird (the EU regulation). The reason behind this, says Widowski, is that if the industry is faced with a “transition” period with respect to bird densities (as may happen in the U.S. with the proposed agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers), it’s important to know what production levels are achieved with smaller densities because more barns will be required to match the current production levels of conventional systems.

Two different cage sizes are being utilized. The larger cage is double the size of the smaller, and the amenities (i.e., “enrichments” such as nest area, perches, scratching area and floor space) are also doubled. To examine the effect of density in each cage size, the smaller cages have groups of 28 or 40 birds, and the large cages have groups of 55 or 80 birds.

What’s of interest to Widowski is how well the birds are using the enrichments. Decades of research have shown that hens are highly motivated to perform/express behaviours that are natural to them, which conventional cages do not allow. Four key behaviours have been identified as being important to a hen — foraging, dustbathing, nesting and perching. Enriched systems provide the tools to allow hens to express these behaviours, but Widowski says that although we like to give ourselves a pat on the back for giving the birds something to perch on and a nesting area, it’s important to make sure that these behaviours are actually being supported by the amenities provided.

For example, what is not known is whether the nesting area is sufficient for the number of birds in each cage, she says. She and her research team have observed that about 10 to 20 per cent of eggs are being laid outside of the nest area, with the majority of these laid in the scratch area. Widowski says she would like to know whether this is because the nest space is insufficient, or because, like the nest area, the scratch area is in a corner of the cage and this offers the birds the same seclusion they would have in the nest.

Methodology for data collection has been completed and Widowski says she has a team of graduate students ready to start collecting and quantifying welfare and behaviour data. Each room is equipped with video cameras, and the students will be examining bird behaviour on the videotape as well as through live observation.

One student will be looking at nesting in depth — where the birds are laying, why this varies and whether social competition for nesting is a problem, she says. Another student will be examining dustbathing and foraging behaviour.

This student will be looking at how well the birds use the scratch area, which is a smooth plastic mat (Widowski opted not to use an astroturf-type mat, as it gets full of manure and she says many producers are moving away from these). Because enriched systems do not provide litter or other material to stimulate foraging and dustbathing as the aviary/free-run housing systems do, this behaviour is being triggered by having a feed auger over the scratch area that provides 20 grams of feed 10 times throughout the day. The effectiveness of the auger approach will also be examined.

A third student gets the “night shift,” says Widowski. She will be looking at how well the birds are using the perches, and how the perches are being used. Widowski is interested in answering some previously unanswered questions, for example: Are the birds conservative in perching? Is it the same birds perching? Is there a specific spot that they always go to? Eventually, says Widowski, she will be comparing the bone strength of the keel and leg bones in perchers versus non-perchers.

Also of interest are activity patterns — the birds have a lot more space, but do they use it, and how? She will also be looking at the pattern of time the eggs are being laid. She says that depending on the strain of hen (the birds in the current study are Lohmann), some will lay their eggs in more compressed or wider windows of time, which will in turn affect the competition and pressure on the nesting area at certain times of the day. If the window of time is compressed, “it’s like a big family wanting to use the bathroom at the same time,” she says.

Parameters such as egg production and feed intake are being measured and will be compared to birds housed in conventional cages located in another room at the Arkell research station.

Research methodology is near completion for the aviary system, and later this spring chicks will be placed into the Portal Rearing System. Widowski says she will be examining how pullets raised in this system adjust to the aviary. Once in the aviary, she plans to look at how load-bearing exercise and the opportunity to fly increase bone strength.
Widowski regularly updates EFC’s research committee and board of directors on the progress of the research. Cox says that results from the research will be summarized and communicated to producers either through the provincial boards or directly from EFC by way of a mailing or Internet posting.

Open House
Clark Ag Systems Ltd. hosted an open house at the University of Guelph’s Arkell poultry research station in September 2011 to allow producers and industry representatives to see the Farmer Automatic Portal Rearing System, Loggia system and Layer ECO system. Dr. Tina Widowski and representatives from Clark and Farmer Automatic were on hand to answer questions and show attendees how the systems operate.

To view videos of the Layer Cage ECO and Loggia systems, visit (see this article under “current issue”) or YouTube (put “TheClarkCompanies” in the search bar).

May 1, 2012 - The 2012 WPSA Canada Branch student travel awards (valued at up to $500 per student) are intended to offset some of the costs associated with student travel to the 2012 World's Poultry Congress in Salvador, Brazil.  Any full-time student (graduate or undergraduate) registered at a Canadian University, and confirmed to be presenting an oral or poster presentation at the Congress is eligible.

To apply, students should submit:

  • a brief cover letter outlining the importance of attending this meeting to their professional development,
  • a copy of the extended abstract submitted to the Congress.  The student should provide confirmation that the abstract has been accepted for presentation, and whether the presentation will be in oral or poster format.

Applications will be evaluated on the quality of the abstract and the cover letter. Adjudication of the award will be conducted by representatives of government, industry and academia.  The number of awards is dependent upon the amount of donations received.  Notification of the awards will be made by June 15, 2012.

Deadline to apply is May 18, 2012.  Please send applications via email to Dr. Doug Korver at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

May 1, 2012 - The International Poultry Expo has a new website, which went live today. The redesigned website focuses on relevant attendee and exhibitor information and features a video on the new International Production & Process Expo (IPPE), the co-location of IPE, IFE, and AMI’s IME in 2013. New information on events and education programs, which will be held throughout the week of the Expo, will be added to the website as they become available. Be sure to check back often for updates.
The International Poultry Expo, as part of the International Production & Processing Expo, is scheduled Tuesday through Thursday, January 29 - 31, 2013 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The IPPE will highlight the latest technology, equipment, and services used in the production and processing of poultry, feed, and meat products.  IPPE will be one of the 50 largest tradeshows in the United States, and the entire tradeshow is expected to include more than 1,000 exhibitors and 20 acres of exhibition space.
For more information about the new website, go to

April 25, 2012 — The Government of Canada announced today that it has added low pathogenicity H5 and H7 avian influenza viruses to the list of reportable diseases.

Effective immediately, all suspected or confirmed cases of low pathogenicity H5 and H7, as well as all highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses, must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Most avian influenza viruses are low pathogenicity and typically cause few or no visible signs of illness in infected birds. However, H5 and H7 viruses have the potential to mutate into a highly pathogenic form and cause high mortality in domestic poultry. 

The amended Reportable Diseases Regulations formalize Canada's current approach to controlling avian influenza in domestic poultry but do not significantly change what the CFIA does to respond to disease outbreaks.

When reportable avian influenza viruses are found in domestic poultry, the CFIA works with industry and provincial and territorial government partners to contain and eradicate the disease, and to re-establish Canada's disease-free status as soon as possible.

The CFIA monitors domestic poultry for highly pathogenic avian influenza, as well as low pathogenicity H5 and H7 viruses, under the Canadian Notifiable Avian Influenza Surveillance Program (CanNAISS). CanNAISS is a joint initiative of the government, industry and farmers, and meets World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards. In addition, the CFIA participates in Canada's Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey, which tracks avian influenza viruses circulating in the wild that could be of concern to the poultry industry. 

For more information on avian influenza, visit the CFIA website at 

Additional information on the regulatory amendment is available at

April 13, 2012 - Earlier this week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is taking three steps to protect public health and promote the judicious use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals.

The agency has recommended a phasing out of medically important drugs in agricultural production, as well as for veterinarians to have more oversight on the therapeutic uses of these drugs and how they are used in feed (ie. a prescription will be required). It is has also drafted a guidance document to assist drug companies in voluntarily removing production uses of antibiotics from their FDA-approved product labels; adding, where appropriate, scientifically-supported disease prevention, control, and treatment uses; and changing the marketing status to include veterinary oversight.

Earlier this month, a court ruling in New York stated that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) must re-open its investigation into whether penicillin and tetracycline, two widely used antibiotics, are loosing their effectiveness in humans because of their use to promote growth in chickens, pigs and cattle.

For more information, read the FDA Press Announcement.


April 13, 2012 - The Government of Canada has announced an investment of more than $600,000 to the Atlantic Poultry Research Institute (APRI) to conduct feed and health research. 

The announcement was made yesterday by Member of Parliament Scott Armstrong (Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley), on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.  Armstrong says that this investment in research will keep Atlantic poultry producers competitive by ensuring they continue to improve upon their quality products in order to "meet the demands of today's health conscious consumer."

The investments are being made in six different projects to further research into better nutrients and improved disease resistance for the region's poultry sector, while benefiting consumers across the country. The funding includes support for projects that will identify ways to increase omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants in chickens and eggs, as well as assess ways to improve flock health and reduce disease.

Nova Scotia is contributing $220,000 for these projects from its Technology Development Program, which supports the development and adaptation of new and leading agricultural technologies and knowledge that will enhance the competitive position of Nova Scotia's agriculture and agri-food industry. "The Government of Nova Scotia is investing in these projects to support scientific research that will improve the poultry sector's adaptability, competitiveness and innovation," said John MacDonell, Nova Scotia's Minister of Agriculture.

There are 235 chicken, turkey and egg farmers who produce high-quality products for consumers across Atlantic Canada and who generate cash receipts worth $259 million (2010) at the farm gate.

"The poultry sector sees the value of conducting applied research that will contribute to improved animal and human health," said Derek Anderson, CEO of APRI. "APRI is an Atlantic-wide institute that has successfully leveraged funds from the industry and from government to further its applied research needs, which in turn are identified with input from each of the Atlantic province poultry marketing boards."

These investments are supporting six research projects, including:

  • Identifying healthy, cost-effective alternatives to traditional feed, such as omega-rich crab meal, canola seeds and cold-pressed canola oil;
  • Developing a new approach to vaccination; and
  • Finding an alternative to antibiotics that will ensure the health of chickens while meeting the needs of today's safety-conscious consumer.

The investments, delivered through the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP), are being provided by all four regional CAAP councils in the Atlantic region, led by Agri-Futures Nova Scotia. For more information on CAAP, please visit

This investment supports the following six projects:

1. Nutritive Evaluation of Cold-Pressed Meals for Broiler Chickens

Poultry diets are typically composed primarily of corn or wheat and soybean meal and/or canola meal. This project aims to evaluate cost-effective alternatives to traditional feed ingredients to provide poultry producers as well as feed manufacturers with information for them to make business decisions toward sustainability in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

CAAP Investment: $191,743

2. Utilization of Crab Meal to Optimize Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acid Enrichment of Eggs from Hens of Different Genetic Background

Results of this study will aim to identify an effective and economical method for enriching eggs with antioxidants and long chain omega-3 fatty acids, allowing the egg industry to add value to their product and remain competitive in the marketplace. In addition, results of this trial will investigate the impact of genetic source on incorporation of omega-3 fatty acids and will allow for selection of laying strains best suited for the production of omega-3 enriched eggs.

CAAP Investment: $52,000

3. The Efficacy of Yellow Seeded Full-fat Canola Seeds and a Cold-pressed Meal for Laying Hens

The production of yellow-seeded canola is increasing in Eastern Canada. In addition to feeding as an intact full-fat seed, meals produced by cold-pressing that retains 6-20 per cent of the oil, may provide an alternative method of inclusion into laying hens' diets. Both of these feed ingredients provide high- energy fat that negates the need for supplemental fat in the diet. This study aims to identify the optimum inclusion of the proposed canola products, which will provide optimum production performance of the hens along with omega-3 eggs. The development of nutrient-enriched eggs through the use of least-cost diets would provide egg producers with an economic means of advancement within an increasingly competitive marketplace.

CAAP Investment: $128,356

4. Efficacy of Lysozyme as an Alternative to Antibiotics for Broiler Chickens

With increasing public concerns about antibiotic resistance of pathogenic bacteria there is increasing interest in finding alternatives to antibiotics for use in poultry. This research is aimed at determining the effect of lysozyme on the growth performance and intestinal microflora of broiler chickens grown under optimal and suboptimal conditions and to determine the optimal periods during the growth cycle in which to include lysozyme in the diets to obtain optimal growth performance. Production research is needed to evaluate the production performance of broiler chickens fed potential antibiotic alternatives and commercial antibiotics. Determining the critical periods during the growth cycle of broiler chickens for which lysozyme may have the greatest impact on intestinal microbial populations and resulting growth and feed efficiency would have an economic impact for the producer through decreased feed costs and potentially improved livability of chicks.

CAAP Investment: $148,314

5. Evaluation of Simple Sugars and Short Chain Fatty Acids on Early Chick Growth and Intestinal Development

Atlantic regional commercial chicken operations have been observing suboptimal early growth performance of chicks. Typical poultry diets use cereal grains (mainly corn, wheat and soybean meal) and fats (vegetable, poultry grease or restaurant grease) as ingredients to supply energy in poultry rations. Due to the chicks' decreased ability to digest a high proportion of these energy sources for up to 10 days of age because of an underdeveloped gastrointestinal tract, there is opportunity to stimulate the gut to increase earlier development and a higher rate of absorption of diet nutrients. Any innovative technology or nutrition used during this time to enhance chick development and muscle growth would allow the potential progress in growth performance to reach the real genetic potential. Production research is required to evaluate readily available and cost-effective alternative ingredients that may improve chick performance and growth and reduce cost of production for broiler producers.

CAAP Investment: $72,509

6. Vaccination Response in Layers Fed Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Marine Sources

Inconsistent immune response to vaccination is a concern for Atlantic Canadian pullet producers, resulting in birds with poor disease resistance and increased expenses due to revaccination. The results of this study can provide a cost-effective and easily incorporated method of improving vaccination response, thereby improving the health, welfare and productivity of commercial chickens.

CAAP Investment: $15,000

April 13, 2012 -A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that Canada supports the supply management system for dairy and poultry farmers, and it is not willing to negotiate the issue as a "precondition" to join talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). 

Full commentary from the Ottawa Citizen.

March 22, 2012 - An investment of $320,000 to develop a national standard for the transport of farm animals was announced today by the Government of Canada.

The investment has been given to the Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) to develop a certification program that will  lead to training for livestock and poultry transporters throughout Canada. The Government is supporting an industry-led initiative to develop national standards for the safe and humane transport of farm animals to help address public concerns and ensure that the sector remains competitive in both domestic and international markets.
The Association is working with a coalition of farm animal groups, the National Farm Animal Care Council, and other provincial councils towards a national multi-species transporter certification program. The program will be consistent with regulations governing the transport of animals and will address public concerns over the humane and safe transport of farm animals.
This investment is provided under the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP), a five-year (2009-14) initiative that helps the agricultural sector adapt and remain competitive in a global marketplace.
More information on CAAP is available at

March 16, 2012 - Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) is once again giving individuals an opportunity to become Ontario's newest egg farmer by applying to the 2012 New Entrant Quota Loan Pool (NEQLP) today until May 15, 2012.

The program was introduced at EFO's 46th Annual Meeting in March 2011. The first recipients of the NEQLP, Michael and Gwen Van Gurp, were introduced at the November 2011 Councillor's and Delegates Workshop in Mississauga.

"We are once again pleased to offer this opportunity," said EFO Chair Carolynne Griffith. "The program was well received last year and we look forward to welcoming Ontario's newest egg farmer."

In order to be eligible for EFO's 2012 New Entrant Quota Loan Pool, an applicant must:

  • Be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant;
  • Be a permanent resident of Ontario;
  • Not have held quota, currently or in the past, of any type in the supply-managed sector (egg, pullet, chicken, turkey, dairy or hatching eggs);
  • Successful applicants will be required to purchase quota based on a 1:2 ratio;
  • Priority will be given to persons between the ages of 18 and 45.

"We gained tremendous insight throughout the process last year." observed Griffith. "We anticipate an equally successful response from the community."

Applicants who meet the above criteria will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of well-respected and knowledgeable industry representatives and EFO will act as a resource for the committee. Committee members are selected by EFO and may include:

  • An Accountant;
  • A Financial Representative;
  • An OMAFRA staff person;
  • A non-Director egg farmer and
  • A representative from Junior Farmers Association of Ontario

To apply, interested individuals must complete and submit an application form (available through EFO) along with a $113.00 non-refundable fee. Applicants are encouraged to submit a Business Plan with their application. Successful applicants will be required to purchase quota based on a 1:2 ratio (1 unit purchased, 2 loaned). Applications will be accepted immediately up to and including May 15, 2012.

2012 New Entrant Program Fact Sheet

The New Entrant Quota Loan Pool (NEQLP) is a program for new entrants to the Ontario egg industry introduced in March 2011 by Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO). This is the second year of the program.

To foster the opportunity for individuals to join the Ontario egg industry and make it easier for them to do so.

Applications will be accepted immediately up to and including May 15, 2012.

How does it work?
EFO will allocate a total of 50,000 units of egg quota, over a 10-year period into the NEQLP. Each year, up to 5,000 units of egg quota will be loaned to the successful applicant(s). This quota will be loaned based on a 1:2 ratio (1 unit purchased, 2 loaned). After 10 years, the loaned quota will be returned into EFO's NEQLP in five installments (20% each).

Who's eligible?
In order to be considered for EFO's NEQLP, an applicant must:

  • Be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant;
  • Be a permanent resident of Ontario;
  • Not hold quota of any type in the supply-managed sector (egg, pullet, chicken, turkey, dairy, or hatching eggs);
  • Not have held quota, currently or in the past, of any type in the supply-managed sector;
  • Priority will be given to persons between the ages of 18 and 45.

How to apply?
Interested individuals must complete and submit an application form (available through EFO) along with a $113.00 non-refundable fee. Applicants are also encouraged to submit a Business Plan with their application.

How are recipients chosen?
Eligible applications will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of well-respected and knowledgeable industry representatives with EFO acting as a resource to them. The selection committee's recommendation will be presented to EFO's Board of Directors for final decision. All applicants will be notified of the outcome. Applications not accepted become null and void and applicants must re-apply to be considered in future years.

How does the recipient obtain loaned quota?
Once chosen, EFO will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the successful applicant(s) to sign. The MOU will outline the conditions for obtaining the loaned quota. Also successful applicant(s) will provide an Agreement to Purchase the determined units of quota based on the 1:2 ratio. Upon execution of the MOU and Agreement to Purchase, EFO will loan (based on 1:2 ratio) and allocate quota to recipient. Production must begin within 18 months of being selected.

Applications may be submitted beginning March 16, 2012 up to and including May 15, 2012.

For further information:
Harry Pelissero
General Manager
Eggs Farmers of Ontario

March 16, 2012 - VAL-CO®has introduced a Community Nest with new winchable slats providing easy-to-clean, comfortable and easily-accessed nesting for hens.

Designed around the natural behavior of hens, VAL-CO’s Community Nest is an inviting and practical nest that provides an ideal location in a barn for hens to lay their eggs.

The new winchable slat design, unique to VAL-CO, is a key feature in improving hygiene while saving considerable time and labor in cleaning the nest and recovering drier, higher-quality manure. Waterproof PVC foam board is also used in the nesting area, which creates a more bird-friendly environment, helps ease the cleaning process and improves productivity. Because the Community Nest is easier to clean, it is less likely than conventional designs to harbor disease or parasites.

“The nesting area is comfortable, protected and well ventilated, so it’s very attractive for egg laying,” said Sean Francey, VAL-CO Product Manager. “Combined with the welfare-friendly expeller, these features increase egg production and reduce brooding.”

The Community Nest is made with durable components and designed for easy assembly. The nest is suitable for either a high-rise or floor-mounted installation, and is available in center-belt configurations with new winchable or standard slat packages to suit each customer’s poultry environment.

“The design of the VAL-CO Community Nest makes a big difference in terms of overall cleanliness, less maintenance and keeping hens producing good-quality eggs,” remarked Quarryville, Pennsylvania poultry grower John Harnish.

The VAL-CO Community Nest meets American Humane Society standards for cage-free egg production, with hens having open access to nesting and space for roaming.

March 16, 2012 - Poultry pioneers Joe Hudson, CEO of Burnbrae Farms Ltd. and John E. Janzen, a champion for the creation of a marketing board for Ontario chicken, will be recognized for their contributions, along with three other inductees, at the Hall of Fame Gallery, Country Heritage Park in Milton, Ontario June 10, 2012.

Joe Hudson

Sponsored by the Egg Farmers of Ontario, Mr. Hudson has been at the helm of Canada's largest integrated producer and marketer of egg and egg products for more than 60 years.

“Joe and his family are a truly remarkable example of a multi-generational farm family that have always been at the forefront of change in the egg industry,” says Carolynne Griffith, Chair, Egg Farmers of Ontario. “Starting with a small backyard flock as a school project and developing the business into what it is today is an outstanding accomplishment. To be recognized by the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame for his leadership, vision and commitment to the industry is well deserved.”

Hudson’s accomplishments are strong and significant in Ontario, and Canadian, agriculture. He’s been instrumental in planning and guiding Burnbrae Farms to its current position as a major influence in the Canadian egg industry. From the first laying barn built in Lyn, Ontario in 1952, to the establishment of layer hen, grading and breaking operations across Canada, Hudson has helped guide the family-owned and operated business to be recognized as the only company with vertically integrated egg operations throughout Canada.

“We are all truly proud of this special recognition and place in agricultural history that has been given to Dad,” says daughter Margaret Hudson, president, Burnbrae Farms. Margaret, along with her brother Ted, other family members and senior executives, manage all day-to-day operations of Burnbrae Farms. “Our father has carried on the strong family tradition that his grandfather set in motion when he came to Canada from Scotland in the late 1800s, and led the business through continuous improvements and vertical integration.”  

For 31 years, Hudson served as a director of the Ontario Egg Producers (now Egg Farmers of Ontario). He has consistently supported egg-related research at the University of Guelph, and serves as chair of the Hudson-Burnbrae Foundation that provides financial support to education and charitable organizations in Eastern Ontario. In 2001, Hudson was a recipient of the Golden Pencil Award, and in 2007 he was inducted into the “We Care Hall of Fame” – these are two very prestigious awards in the Canadian food industry.

John E. Janzen

Sponsored by the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, John E. Janzen worked relentlessly throughout his career to transform the Ontario and Canadian chicken production and marketing system. His efforts improved the quality, marketability and profitability of chicken and identified new growth opportunities for the chicken industry.

By the late 1950’s Ontario’s chicken producers and processors faced devastating financial losses. Overconstruction, over-production and a total lack of collective planning brought the industry to a near collapse. Seeing these challenges, John joined the voluntary Ontario Broiler Growers Association to campaign for a marketing board to regulate Ontario production. He and others eventually convinced William Stewart to grant Ontario chicken producers the legal authority to become a self-regulated marketing body. In 1965 the Ontario Broiler Chicken Producers Marketing Board became a reality and John Janzen became its first Secretary Manager, a post he held for 23 years. Within the first year, the Board slowed production increases so they better matched consumer demand, and established a precedent of supply management for other commodities including turkey and eggs. John and the Board subsequently developed policies and regulatory procedures to ensure that all chicken producers were registered and allotted quarterly marketing crop quotas. They identified new growth opportunities including large restaurant chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Once supply management was established in Ontario, John Janzen and his Board realized that unless all the provinces implemented similar legislation, then Ontario’s system was at risk. Furthermore, they were aware of what was happening in the U.S. where chicken production was largely controlled by huge integrators such as feed manufacturers resulting in the demise of independent chicken farmers. For four years, John worked to sell the provincial marketing approach through the Canadian Broiler Council where he was the Secretary Treasurer. Once each of the provinces had established its own marketing board, then John and the Council encouraged Eugene Whelan to create a national agency to regulate inter-provincial movement and national chicken imports. In 1979, the Canadian Chicken Marketing Agency (now Chicken Farmers of Canada) was established. John Janzen was the interim Secretary Treasurer of the new Agency for the next year of transition.

John Janzen’s perseverance in the achievement of a supply managed approach to chicken production, which allowed a fair return to producers and top quality, affordable chicken to consumers, was a major contribution to both the Ontario and Canadian chicken industries and to the rural and provincial economies.


Although animal rights groups are increasingly using “peaceful” tactics to influence animal welfare, law-breaking, non-peaceful tactics such as having members break into facilities and videotape the operation to “expose” rearing practices are still being employed.

But do these tactics break the law? In recent months, questions have been raised as to whether or not existing federal laws in the U.S., and laws being proposed in some states, enfringe upon the First-Amendent rights of animal rights activists.

A Jan. 13 article entitled “Where’s the legal line drawn in animal-rights activism?” in the Sacramento Bee, a California-based newspaper, reported that a new lawsuit filed by Minnesota activist Sarahjane Blum (the founder of and four other (unnamed) activists is challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2006. The activists’ lawyer says in the article that the “law reaches too broadly” and that it “violates the first amendment rights of those who want to protest how animals are treated.”

The Act states that animal rights advocates may be prosecuted if their actions cause the loss of real or personal property of an animal enterprise, or if they travel across state lines for the “purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise.” It was created in part to respond to “the greater scope of terrorist activity,” according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who championed the bill in the House. She said stricter penalties were needed to stop activism evolving into violence, for example, bombings of laboratories that use animals for research.

The lawsuit spearheaded by Blum contends passive tactics such as picketing could now be targeted for prosecution because companies could lose business or have to pay for things such as extra security. Blum says in the article that she is “stunned” that the important ethical work she has achieved (her website helped to persuade the California legislature to ban foie gras production in 2004) would be seen under the Act’s definition as an act of “terrorism.”

Although picketing companies or persuading consumers and government via web and ballot initiatives are clearly less invasive than direct acts of violence – such as the recent arson case at Harris Ranch, a large feedlot in California where activists torched 14 tractors and cattle-hauling trailers – it still affects the animal agriculture industry negatively. It also provides those who wish to see animal agriculture abolished a voice that is getting louder all
the time.

And lawyers are listening. It is not only the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act being challenged. A bill in Iowa that is awaiting Senate approval, and that will see those who are hired under false pretences at animal operations in order to film “gotcha” videos punished, has been challenged by Drake University law professors. In an opinion piece in the Des Moines Register last summer, it is argued that these videos “shoot the messenger” and that state lawmakers must realize First-Amendment rights prevent the government from banning video depictions even if it doesn’t like their message. The authors question what the animal agriculture industry is hiding, and argue people have a right to know what goes on inside the facilities where their food is raised.

It’s not only about welfare; food safety is also at issue. In November, McDonalds dropped Sparboe Farms as an egg supplier in the U.S. after a video depicting abuse and unsanitary conditions was released.

It will be interesting to see how promoting the animal rights message plays out under U.S. law. But who really benefits? I suspect it will be the lawyers.

December 22, 2011 - The Supreme Court of Canada has denied Nadeau Ferme Avicole Limitée's (Nadeau Poultry Farm Ltd.) right to appeal a decision from a lower court ruling which favoured its rival, Groupe Westco.

Nadeau (owned by Ontario-based Maple Lodge) began its fight with Groupe Westco in 2008, when nearly 80 per cent of it's chicken supply was redirected to a plant in Quebec.  Groupe Westco, which is comprised of several poultry farmers in N.B.,  was Nadeau's biggest supplier and decided to ship it's chickens to a processing plant owned by Olymel l.p. in Quebec instead of to the Nadeau plant, located in St. Francois de Madawaska. 

Groupe Westco subsequently formed a partnership with Olymel l.p. and is currently building a new processing plant in Clair, N.B., not far from Nadeau's plant.  Birds from the partnership are marketed under the brand name Sunnymel. 

Nadeau argued that under the supply management system in Canada, the chickens should remain in N.B. for processing, and the N.B. government agreed and tried to amend the Natural Products Act in that province with Bill 81.  However, N.B. Justice Lucie LaVigne of the Court of Queen's Bench dismissed the Bill, saying the province didn't have jurisdiction.

Nadeau then applied with a federal Competition Tribunal to prevent Groupe Westco from shipping it's birds to Quebec.  This application was rejected.

Nadeau then took its complaint to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal, which ruled that Groupe Westo had the right to have it's birds processed in Quebec.

The Supreme Court of Canada appeal was Nadeau's final option, ending a nearly four-year long battle over chicken in N.B. by Ontario and Quebec-based companies.  

Earlier this month, Nadeau announced that it was cutting 25 per cent of it's workforce.  In September 2009, the company laid-off 175 workers, which was nearly half of its workforce at the time.

Nadeau has been processing some chickens from Nova Scotia, however this supply will end when a new processing plant opens near Kentville in June 2012.  This new plant is joint venture between N.S. poultry farmers and Maple Lodge, Nadeau's parent company.   

The attacks on supply management in the media came fast and furious in November. With the announcement that the federal government was moving forward with its plan to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) Act and with its stance on protecting supply management relegating it to “observer” status in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, the attacks were inevitable.

That doesn’t mean all of the criticism is valid. What’s missing from the arguments is context. It’s easy for journalists to jump on the “if the feds get rid of the wheat board they are hypocrites for supporting supply management” bandwagon when they have no understanding of  what supply management is, or why it was created in the first place.

Numerous articles have essentially rehashed the same critical views – that supply management is on the same level as the CWB and should, therefore, be treated equally; that the system results in increased costs to consumers; and that it is a barrier to trade talks. It doesn’t matter which media outlet started the roller-coaster ride that ensued; very few outlets actually did their homework.

As for the media’s criticism, let’s start with the CWB. As my esteemed colleague Jim Knisley points out in his column, critics forget that the CWB is a sole federal entity, whereas supply management is an agreement between the provinces and the federal government. If the federal government wanted to dismantle supply management on a national level, it would still exist on a provincial level. Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz says farmers want marketing freedom, and results from a CWB plebiscite show many of them do. The same cannot be said for farmers under supply management.

To say that supply management is the sole cause of the price disparity in dairy, poultry and eggs between Canada and the U.S. is simply naive. Time after time, the fact that the U.S. treasury subsidizes its country’s agricultural production via consumer taxes and thinly veiled consumer and energy support programs is left out of the discussion. If comparisons are to be made, let’s compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges.

When Canada declared its desire to join the TPP, it was blocked by the U.S. and New Zealand due to its refusal to decrease tariffs on imported dairy products. This led many to believe that trade opportunities with Asia would not be possible without giving up supply management. Not so, according to University of Waterloo professor Bruce Muirhead, who participated in a panel discussion on supply management on TV Ontario’s news program The Agenda. Muirhead said that in the globalization of trade, every country has something to protect and Canada will still be able to make trade deals with participating countries.

What gives such criticism of supply management momentum is the lack of understanding of the system, and its roots.

In this month’s issue, we’ve done our homework, and present a “look back” on the beginnings of supply management, and why it was formed, in order to arm you with information so that when the critics come calling, you can let them know how and why the system makes sense.

November 25, 2011 - Recently Ontario education station TVO featured a debate on "food and the market" on it's current issues program The Agenda. Four panelists – Maclean's national editor Andrew Coyne, Dairy Farmers of Canada board member Ron Versteeg, Larry Martin of the George Morris Centre and University of Waterloo history professor Bruce Muirhead – debate about supply management and international trade.

Click the following link to view the video:


Canada needs to give more attention to farmer health, and not just accidents.  While accident prevention is indeed important, health on the farm is not just about accidents. It encompasses fatigue, physical stress, obesity, occupational exposure to hazards, family and social demands, living in a rural area, which demands travelling long distances for health care and social events, and mental stress. Many of these “stressors” lead to chronic health conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease), which a farmer may not be aware he or she has, or may not be managing properly.

The issue of farmer health was the topic of a recent forum, “Better Farmer Health, Better Farm Business,” held by the Poultry Industry Council (PIC). The forum addressed the fact that chronic disease and mental stress in farmers do not always receive sufficient attention, and that more data is needed to determine how many farmers are afflicted and how health-care providers in rural communities can tackle these issues. 

Dean Anderson, chair of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA), says that although the organization can provide data on fatal accidents and major injuries, what is not as easily captured is the number of minor injuries (such as muscle strains) that can lead to chronic problems, and the prevalence of disease.

Rural physician Dr. Rob Annis, from the North Perth family health team in Listowel, Ont., noted that the vast area his Local Health Integrated Network serves has the highest rate of chronic disease of any area in the province. This area just happens to have the largest concentration of farms in the province. 

Is this just a coincidence? It’s hard to say because the data linking type of employment to various health issues is virtually non-existent. But if we look towards data collected by Australia, it’s likely not.

The keynote speaker at the forum was Prof. Sue Brumby, a registered nurse from the Deakin University School of Medicine in Australia. She noted that, in Australia many farms of similar size to those in Canada  are family-owned, and located in rural parts of the country. Australian farmers also have higher incidences of diabetes, psychological issues and exposure to occupational hazards than their urban counterparts.

Until she helped launch the “Sustainable Farm Families” program, Brumby said that the collaboration between health professionals and agriculture was poor. The program addresses health and well-being so that farmers can achieve better health and, consequently, a better business.  Participants were assessed for health risks, given training and advice on such topics as exercise, healthy eating, mental health and relaxation.  They were responsible for charting their progress in a “learning log.” The program is a collaborative effort between health professionals and local community services, and Brumby said it’s the “magic” of these interrelationships that really makes the program work.

The result? Two to three years later, data shows that participants had a significant reduction in the risk factors for disease, and were less stressed and depressed. It’s now known what risk factors are present for farmers and how to mitigate them. This allows for better awareness and training for health professionals serving rural areas.

Could a program like this work in Canada? Sure it could, but the usual suspect comes up: who will fund it? And as Dr. Annis noted, our health-care system was not designed to handle chronic disease preventive care, but only acute, immediate problems.

Rural health teams are becoming more aware of these issues, and farmers can help themselves by seeking help.  But what we really need is someone like Sue Brumby, who is dedicated enough to implement, and lead, a collaborative health program that will give us the statistics we need to foster real change. 

Sparks Eggs, the only independent egg grader and processor operating solely in Alberta, recently built what its president Meb Gilani believes is the largest free-run barn in Canada. With a capacity for 50,000 layers, the barn, near Westlock, was designed with labour efficiencies and the future in mind.

Gilani says the barn was a result of the “combined thinking” of Gilani, his son Muneer (the “long-term planner”) and Ken Severson, a former egg producer and Hy-Line International employee who has been Sparks’ business development manager for the last several years. Severson is also the facility’s namesake. Gilani says it “was only fair” to name it the Severson Free Run Barn to honour the energy and time Severson spent planning the facility. “He talked us into doing it right,” he says. “We also thought that if it was named after him, it would be run correctly,” he says with a laugh. 

Looking at the industry in the long term, Gilani says he and Severson asked quite a few producers that supply the company with eggs if any of them would be interested in producing free-run eggs. Not finding any interest, the company decided to take it on themselves.  

In addition to considering animal welfare, biosecurity and cost efficiencies, the labour shortage in the province also played a significant role in choosing the design of the operation, says Severson. “We’re a small company with a large number of birds, so we were looking to decrease the manpower required to build and run the facility.”

Barn Design
Severson says the Sparks Eggs free-run facility is modelled after facilities he had heard about, and subsequently visited, in Montana that were constructed primarily using concrete.  

The barn floor and walls are constructed from poured-in-place concrete, which, although uncommon, has numerous benefits, says Severson. Concrete is more durable, has a longer life span, and greatly decreases the risk of contaminants entering the barn because it is highly rodent resistant, he says. Poured concrete, instead of blocks, does not have thermal breaks, so the barn has an “unbroken thermolayer” for increased energy efficiency. The 10-inch outer walls also contain two-inch-thick Styrofoam with an R28 value.

Infrared heating was chosen and this required the ceiling of the barn to be higher than average, he says. The roof is metal and is white to reflect as much of the sun’s rays as possible.  Despite this, there is some solar gain of heat in the summer months so insulation was placed under the roofing tin to keep incoming air as cool as possible.
Ventilation is achieved using chimney fans and inlets on the ceilings. The system was installed by Envirotech Ag Systems Inc. and sales manager William Vis says the Fancom chimney system has an air measurement system known as Exevent ™, which prevents over-ventilation when cold or windy conditions are present, thereby helping to reduce heating costs. The device further saves electrical costs because it can accurately take a fan’s rated capacity down to three per cent of its total, and if conditions are stable enough that a natural updraft can provide the required ventilation rate, the fan motor will shut off, he says.

The barn is divided into “bird” and “people” areas. There are three bird areas – two for the layers (one on the north side of the barn, the other on the south side), and one for pullets in the middle. The pullet-rearing area is its own structure and is fully enclosed by concrete walls, separating it from the layer areas. On each side where the pullet area meets a layer area are several small doors at floor level to allow the pullets to enter the laying area when they reach maturity. They decided to use this design, says Gilani, because it does not require additional labour or handling of the birds.

The people areas are on the east and west sides of the building and consist of hallways, a front office, two washrooms with showers, the egg-packing room and the cooler. Cameras have been set up in the layer areas so that the birds can be viewed on the computer in the front office by anyone, and there is a viewing window for observation of the pullets.

The Aviary
The pullets are raised in Vencomatic’s Jumpstart pullet-rearing system, and the layers are housed in the company’s Bolegg Terrace aviary, the first multi-tier aviary the company has installed in Canada. The layer and pullet areas can house up to 25,000 birds each, which allows for continuous production.


Each layer area has three rows of the Bolegg Terrace, and each is 300 feet long. Each row consists of three tiers, with the nest boxes on the second tier. Each tier has a manure belt underneath, and the birds have full access to the full floor area (i.e., underneath the system) in addition to the tiers. Shavings are laid in the aisles to provide a scratch area and partitions made of wire that run from floor to ceiling divide each layer area into three sections to prevent crowding and provide more management control, says Dave Waldner, manager of the farm.

The system is built for very few floor eggs and works best if the pullets are trained using an aviary training system such as the Jumpstart, says Waldner. The Jumpstart has winchable water and feed lines that can be raised incrementally as the birds’ age. When first placed, these lines are just above a “table” (also winchable) in the middle of the floor. At first the chicks are “caged in” to the system, which also consists of additional “tables” that are, at first, positioned vertically to form walls. As the birds age, sections of the wall can be lowered horizontally, offering different height platforms onto which the birds can jump.

Waldner, who has been working with layers most of his life, says the system is “very interesting” and “if you know how to grow a bird in a cage, you don’t know how to grow a bird in an aviary.” 

He’s learned “not to make more than one move at a time, as it takes the pullets about a day to catch up.” After the first week, the middle table is lifted and the lowest side tables come down, and the goal is to have the birds off the floor and onto the table areas when the lights go out, so that when moved into the layer aviary they lay eggs in the nests, not on the floor. It all works with lighting, he says. First, the lights at the sides of the room go out, which brings the birds towards the centre, and then the overhead lights dim, which gives the birds time to jump up and settle in, he says.

The first day he did this, he went to the viewing window with a flashlight and found that there were about 40 to 50 birds on the floor, but by the second day there was none. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it; it was amazing.”

Managing birds in an aviary takes “a lot more skill and attention,” Severson agrees. “You’re dealing with bird behaviour,” he says. He recommended using the Tetra Brown, a European breed with a calm disposition.
He too stresses lighting is key. “Don’t feed when the lights first come on in the morning, so that the birds can lay eggs without distraction,” he says. He says they have also learned to make sure that there is lots of feed left at the end of the day, to further encourage the hens to go to the nests to lay in the morning. 

All lights in the barn are LED lights from Vencomatic. The overhead lights on the ceiling are Glolamps, and the lighting under each tier is tube lighting with LED bulbs. “The entire barn is run on a 20-amp breaker,” says David Thompson, president of Vencomatic North America. The lights themselves only consume seven amps, and it only takes 110 volts to light the whole system, he says. They are on timers and dimmers, and are able to go from to zero to 100 per cent in progression, and then go down again, giving a true sunrise to sunset, he says.

Lighting is used to bring the hens off the floor at night, just as it is in the pullet barn. The lights are dimmed in a gradual progression in 20-minute intervals, beginning underneath the bottom tier and each successive tier, and finally the ceiling. The nests are closed about two hours prior to lights off, but Waldner says this can be manually overrun if some birds remain in the nest.

Severson says they have learned a lot from the first flock, which was placed in July.  The biggest challenge was “system” eggs – those laid outside of the nest– so you must be diligent and pick them up quickly in the beginning, he says.

“From a management perspective, training the pullets correctly to move up and down the system and keeping the most uniform environment with respect to temperature, lighting and distribution of equipment is critical to running a successful aviary,” says Vencomatic’s Thompson.

Each tier has a manure belt underneath, and the manure is collected and held in a manure shed separate from the barn. The pullet area does not have a manure belt, so it is truly “all in, all out.” When the pullets are moved into a laying area, the manure is removed using a tractor and pushed through a door onto the main manure conveyor belt.

The eggs are taken from the layer areas on belts into the egg room, where they can be packed. Employees working in the egg area have a separate entrance and have no access to the barn areas. 

Sparks Eggs held two open houses in August to show the barn. The first open house was for producers and industry representatives, while the second was for former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach and invited guests. Stelmach is also a past agriculture minister for the province and has known Gilani for many years.  “He is interested in innovation and wanted to see what we’ve done,” he says.

Gilani says there is a shortage of eggs in Alberta, so he is not deterred by the fact that the facility will produce more free-run eggs than the market requires, as they will be sold primarily as table eggs. “You can’t be shortsighted,” he says. “You have to look at the industry in the long term.”
To view a video of birds in the Bolegg Terrace, visit:



Much to no one’s surprise, the ban on the use of cages to house laying hens in the European Union (EU) will not be fully met by the mandated date of Jan. 1, 2012, as set out in the EU Welfare of Laying Hens Directive (1999/74/EC). 

This directive, outlined in 1999, allowed a considerable amount of time for egg producers in EU countries to phase out the use of so-called battery cages in favour of a more welfare-friendly form, the enriched cage. Germany has taken the directive one step further by only allowing colony-type cages after 2012.

Despite the generous timeline and reaffirmation by the European Commission that the deadline date was not to be extended, as many farmers had hoped, it is estimated that nearly one-third of EU hens will still be reared in non-compliant housing by the Jan. 1, 2012, deadline. So what went wrong?

The problem of non-compliance is multi-faceted, according to Patrick Cloudemans of Vencomatic, who spoke about the European road to housing layers in aviaries at the recent Poultry Service Industry Workshop (PSIW), held in Banff, Alta. Non-compliant farms are primarily located in the southern and eastern EU states (in particular, Spain, Italy and Poland). Much of the problem involves differences in culture; some  EU countries place a higher value on welfare than others. Cloudemans says that consumers in the northwest EU are more conscience-driven, whereas consumers in the southern and eastern countries are more influenced by price.

Price differentiation also exists for eggs produced in more welfare-friendly systems in the northwest, as consumers have shown they are willing to pay. These measures do not exist in other countries, so there is no incentive for producers to invest in new systems. Also, some of the countries that have few compliant producers have been greatly affected by the economic downturn, and banks are less willing to finance large investments.

Compliant countries such as the U.K. are alarmed by the volume of non-compliant eggs and have posed some valid questions. Most important of these: how, and will, compliance be monitored? With more than 400 million pounds invested in new rearing systems, U.K. poultry producers fear that eggs imported into the U.K. will undermine and distort the market. 

At an EU parliamentary meeting in Brussels in early October, a Reuters report said the EU health and consumer commissioner John Dalli indicated that countries missing the ban will face legal action. However, just what this “legal action” will involve is yet to be outlined, and compliant countries want the Commission to draft effective, strong measures to curb the potential for trade in illegal eggs. In an article from, Dalli is quoted as saying that the European Commission would allocate “limited resources” of its inspection services to “make the issue a priority.” He adds that a “political” solution must be found, and that he is pushing to contain eggs not produced according to the directive within the territory where they are produced, and restrict their use to processing. However, he does not know if this is allowable under EU rules. 

What, then, is “allowable”? According to what is laid out in the directive, member states are responsible for compliance. But nowhere do the words “penalty,” “punishment” or “fine” appear. Where is the incentive for member states to comply, if their producers still have a market and no penalty for non-compliance is clearly outlined?

Hand to hand transfers are no longer part of the transportation system for spent fowl in Ontario.

A modular transportation system has been developed for Maple Lodge that utilizes carts to move the birds from their cages to the trucks, Al Dam, the provincial poultry specialist at OMAFRA said at a Poultry Industry Council producer update in London.

Dam said the change, which took effect Feb. 13, improves animal welfare and has undergone several months of trials. Under the old system, the hens were carried to crates. Under the new system, a small trolley is rolled into the barn and the hens placed in plastic drawers on the trolley.

The trolley is eight drawers high and 48 inches deep, 18 inches wide and 78 inches tall and taller than a regular pullet cart. Each drawer is almost the same area as a chicken crate.

To accommodate the new system a staging area will be needed at the farm to ensure safety. A loaded cart and a man will weight about 1,000 lbs. so the loading dock must be able to handle the load.

Modified pullet trailers have been developed that will move the carts from the farm to Maple Lodge for processing. The modified trailers can carry 480 crates compared to a regular truck that carries 784 crates.

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