From the editor: Poultry innovation on display

Brett Ruffell
October 02, 2018
By

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

Disappointed with how other bedding options were performing, he started using peat moss about a year ago. The idea of using it for broilers was so novel he had to travel to the Netherlands just to get a firsthand look at another poultry farmer using it. As you’ll read on page 38 and see on our website, Kuntze says his experiment has improved barn conditions and delivered bird health and welfare benefits.

Then there’s Cindy “Egg Farmerette” Huitema. If you frequent our website you’re likely familiar with her fascinating blog where she chronicled her family’s conversion from conventional layer housing to an enriched system. A year later the new barn is up and running and her blog has, unfortunately, concluded.

I got a sneak peak at the state-of-the-art facility, a tour you can watch on our website, and was blown away. Now, in our alternating housing supplement Phasing Out Conventional, a special guide for egg producers included with this issue, she looks back on the experience and shares her key takeaways for others planning a similar barn conversion.

Yet another farm I visited this summer was Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) chairman Roger Pelissero’s layer operation in West Lincoln, Ont. I was there for an important announcement of global significance.

Since 2007, Canadian Poultry has been documenting the development of Hypereye, a made-in-Canada egg scanning technology that identifies fertility and gender in-ovo. The first-of-its-kind tool, which Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) and Livestock Research Innovation Corporation are partnering on, promises to drastically improve animal welfare and hatchery efficiency.

And it’s getting closer to market every day, as researchers fine-tune the device. “We’re running at about 90 per cent accuracy on the gender side and probably 98 per cent on the fertile side,” Pelissero reveals. “The gender side we want to get up to the 98-99 per cent area.”

A financial commitment the feds pronounced at the EFC exec’s barn this summer should help them get there. Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay was on hand to announce the government was providing $844,000 to EFO for the initiative. “This tool has the potential to transform the industry,” MacAulay said in announcing the funding. “It would save millions of dollars in energy costs by cutting waste.”

There was an underlying theme to the event. With supply management under prolonged attack during NAFTA renegotiations (The Donald is not a fan), the minister said the investment was partly to show the government’s commitment to the system. “We have consistently demonstrated our strong support and defense of supply management,” said the former dairy farmer. “As I’ve said many times and I’ll say again, it’s a model for the world.”

Will the Liberals stay true to their word? We’ll soon find out. I’m writing this column shortly after talks surpassed the Trump-imposed NAFTA deadline.

And the president is still targeting supply management, threatening to impose tariffs on other sectors if he doesn’t get concessions.

Pelissero says home-grown innovations like Hypereye provide strong cases for Canada standing firm. “I think it’s a powerful story about how supply management contributes to better animal welfare,” the producer says of the scanning technology.

“[The system] allows us to look at innovation and research. We’re not afraid to spend dollars because we’re able to make a fair return.”

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