Both Monica Kunze and Melissa Sinnige describe their visit to each other’s farms during the summer of 2013 as “amazing.” The teens spent time at each family’s operations in August as part of the Canadian Broiler Hatching Egg Producers Association (CBHEPA) Student Exchange Program.
This initiative – along with two others aimed at inspiring and supporting excellence in the next generation of farmers and researchers – have been running successfully for many years. “We fully expect to maintain them for years to come,” says CBHEPA chair Brian Bilkes. “It’s important to look ahead to the next generation and encourage them to get involved with our industry.”
Each year, the Student Exchange Program provides travel costs for two high school students from different regions of Canada (the children of broiler hatching egg producers) to visit each other and experience a new environment for a week or more. “It’s all about helping young Canadians gain a better understanding of the opportunities available in the hatching egg industry,” says Bilkes. “The visit opens their eyes to different practices and how challenges such as biosecurity are handled in other parts of the country. These future farmers see how they can learn from each other and be open to sharing ideas.” The selection of the first participant is made at random from the applications received, and the second participant is selected to match the age and interests of the first.
2013 EXCHANGE REVEALS ALTERNATE METHODS
This year, Monica Kunze from southern British Columbia was first to visit Melissa Sinnige in southern Ontario. “Our farms are similar in size, but the quota system is different in the two provinces,” Monica explains.
“We also have a different egg collection system. We have tables and we bring buggies to each table for each type of egg, and they have a conveyor to a central area with a semi-automatic sorting system.” Kunze notes another difference between the farms relating to how the egg trays are filled. “The Sinniges fill them from the bottom up because of the heat of the eggs rises and warms those above them,” she says.
“They’ve talked about doing that here in B.C. but we’ve never done it – and now I’m making my Dad do that because it’s a good idea.”
SEEING THE COUNTRY
“They check the eggs constantly for cleanliness, and that’s a really good thing,” she says of the Sinniges’ hatchery. “It made me think that we should have some kind of system that measures how many broken, cracked and small eggs are coming into our hatchery and have a way of rewarding those farmers who deliver better eggs.” Kunze also noticed biosecurity differences. “We’re good at biosecurity in B.C., but there is always room for improvement, as there is in every province,” she observes. “We can all learn from each other’s biosecurity practices.”
Kunze also enjoyed a visit to one of the dairy farms in the area around the Sinnige farm in southern Ontario. “It was nice to see that because I work on a dairy farm,” she says. “We also went to Niagara Falls, which was a really neat experience.”
THE OTHER PERSPECTIVE
Reflecting on the whole trip, she says, “I had a really good time. It gives you a chance to see agriculture in another part of Canada. The landscape is so different. And Melissa is now a really good friend.”
Melissa Sinnige was also impressed, when she visited the Kunze farm shortly after, with the landscape. “The mountains were just amazing,” she says. “It looks so much different.”
“The way they have their barn set up is interesting,” she says, regarding the differences between her family’s and the Kunzes’ operation. “In where the chickens are, they have slats on the outside, and in our barn, they’re down the middle. They have four different belts for egg transport and we have two.” She also notes on the biosecurity side, “They sprayed their boots before they went into the chicken area of the barn and we use a footbath, which is in the main entrance.” The Kunzes took the girls to Vancouver and Whistler so Melissa could experience being in the mountains close up. “It was so much fun,” she says. “Monica and her family are awesome and I’d recommend this program to anyone.”
Under the CBHEPA Broiler Breeder Research Grant program, one or two university students (a senior undergraduate or a graduate student) get the opportunity to perform a short-term broiler breeder research project. CBHEPA offers a grant to support the project and/or a presentation of the results at an international congress.
In terms of project selection, CBHEPA provides a list of broiler hatching egg industry research priorities including low production of young breeders, alternatives to antibiotics, general control of Salmonella, Salmonella vaccination program evaluation, breeder feed restriction, euthanasia methods and male mortality/longevity. They are also open to project ideas on early mortality of breeder hens, environmental research, white-chick syndrome, or dark-meat utilization. The last research grant was awarded to support a student from the University of Alberta for a project entitled: The effects of storing broiler breeder eggs for 4 and 14 days on the percentage of cell death which could affect hatchability.
Finally, under its Young Farmer program, the CBHEPA sends a young farmer to a primary breeder in the United States. “It enables the selected producer to learn some of the amazing things going on in the poultry industry,” says Bilkes.
Applicants for this program should have less than 15 years’ experience in the hatching egg industry at their own operation or working at their parents’ operation. Participants are asked to share what they learned and accomplished during the program in a written report.
Ryan Kleinsasser, who manages his Hutterite colony’s breeder farm near Steinbach, Man., travelled to the Aviagen headquarters in Huntsville, Ala., this summer. “It was a very valuable experience,” he says. “We discussed strategies to address the different challenges that are coming in the future.” The Aviagen nutritionists also gave him some ideas to try. “We had an ongoing issue with performance related to having ammonia in the barn,” he explains. “Of course, we need to vent more when ammonia levels are higher, but the birds get colder and the Aviagen staff suggested that we needed to provide more feed, more calories, at those times.”
Kleinsasser says each day presented a different learning experience, and that Aviagen was very open and supportive. “I learned so much,” he says. “We are going to be building a new barn and it was amazing to see the options. I learned about everything from nutrition to rodent control to biosecurity. It was also really interesting to see a lot of Alabama.”
“It is vital that we interest youth in what we are doing,” Bilkes concludes. “Without the younger generation and their interest in broiler breeders, we can’t pass along the legacy that we inherited from our forefathers and -mothers. The future is with the next generation and we expect to continue to invest in our young people and keep these programs going. The young people that get involved with the programs come back with new energy and interest and we hope they can be ambassadors for our industry during their entire careers.”
For more details on any of these programs, contact Nicole Duval at Canadian Hatching Egg Producers (CHEP) by calling 613-232-5241, or via e-mail at
The Canadian Broiler Hatching Egg Producers Association offers programs that stimulate learning and networking among young people in this sector
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