In early March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) announced that a commercial flock of breeder chickens in Tennessee tested positive for highly pathogenic avian flu, or HPAI. Since then, USDA-APHIS has revealed another case of the same H7N9 virus at a second Tennessee farm, and Alabama agriculture officials announced an outbreak of suspected low-pathogenic avian flu affecting three premises in that state.
In addition, low-pathogenic avian flu was reported in a Wisconsin turkey flock and a Kentucky broiler breeder flock, and routine surveillance has found the presence of low-pathogenic avian flu in wild waterfowl in various states.
The pathogenicity of a virus refers to its ability to produce disease. Some H5 or H7 viruses have the capacity to mutate into "high-path" strains under certain conditions, according to Eva Wallner-Pendleton, senior research associate and avian pathologist in Penn State's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory.
"Low-path AI viruses can go undiagnosed because they often produce very little illness or death," she said. "The time needed to mutate into high-path viruses varies considerably from weeks to months, or it can occur rapidly."
Infection with North American strains of low-pathogenic avian flu is a common natural occurrence in wild birds, such as ducks and geese, which usually show few or no symptoms, Wallner-Pendleton explained.
"But if these strains get into a poultry flock, they can mutate and become highly pathogenic, causing significant mortality," she said.
She noted that poultry flocks infected with low-pathogenic H5 or H7 avian flu subtypes often will be culled to stop the spread of the virus and to keep it from becoming more virulent.
The recent Tennessee outbreak occurred within the Mississippi flyway, which is one of four paths taken by wild birds when migrating in the spring and fall in North America. During the 2014-15 outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian flu that led to the loss of about 50 million turkeys and laying hens in the Midwest, the Atlantic flyway – which connects with the Mississippi flyway – was the only migratory flyway not affected.
"In Tennessee, one of the affected poultry houses was near a pond, which may have attracted wild waterfowl," Wallner-Pendleton said. "In cool, wet weather, bird droppings can contain viable virus for a long time, and the pathogen can be spread to poultry flocks on people's shoes or on vehicle tires and so forth. So a key biosecurity recommendation is to prevent any contact between waterfowl and domestic poultry and to take steps to ensure that the virus is not introduced into a poultry house on clothing or equipment."
Gregory Martin, a Penn State Extension poultry science educator based in Lancaster County, pointed out that state and federal agriculture officials are strongly urge producers to develop an HPAI flock plan and augment it with a comprehensive biosecurity plan.
"These plans may be required for producers to receive indemnification for any losses resulting from an avian flu outbreak," he said.
To assist producers in developing a biosecurity plan, Martin said, Penn State poultry scientists and veterinarians have developed a plan template that can be customized for various types of flocks.
This is the first confirmation of avian influenza in domestic poultry in Georgia.
The virus was identified during routine pre-sale screening for the commercial facility and was confirmed as H7 avian influenza by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Ia. As a precaution, the affected flock has been depopulated. Officials are testing and monitoring other flocks within the surveillance area and no other flocks have tested positive or experienced any clinical signs.
The announcement follows similar confirmations from Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee in recent weeks. The Georgia case is considered a presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza because the flock did not show any signs of illness. While LPAI is different from HPAI, control measures are under way as a precautionary measure. Wild birds are the source of the virus. Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild birds, and can infect wild migratory birds without causing illness.
“Poultry is the top sector of our number one industry, agriculture, and we are committed to protecting the livelihoods of the many farm families that are dependent on it,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black. “In order to successfully do that, it is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity.”
The official order prohibiting poultry exhibitions and the assembling of poultry to be sold issued by the state veterinarian’s office on March 16, 2017, remains in effect. The order prohibits all poultry exhibitions, sales at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, live bird markets, flea markets, and auctions. The order also prohibits the concentration, collection or assembly of poultry of all types, including wild waterfowl from one or more premises for purposes of sale. Shipments of eggs or baby chicks from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), Avian Influenza Clean, approved facilities are not affected by this order.
Kentucky State Veterinarian Robert C. Stout said the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the presence of H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza in samples taken from the Christian County premises.
The virus exposure at the premises was initially detected by the Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville while conducting a routine pre-slaughter test last week. Dr. Stout said there were no clinical signs of disease in the birds. The affected premises are under quarantine, and the flock of approximately 22,000 hens was depopulated as a precautionary measure, Dr. Stout said.
“Dr. Stout and his staff have extensive experience and expertise in animal disease control and eradication,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “They have an excellent working relationship with the Kentucky Poultry Federation and the poultry industry. They are uniquely qualified to contain this outbreak so our domestic customers and international trading partners can remain confident in Kentucky poultry.”
Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) may cause no disease or mild illness. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) can cause severe disease with high mortality.
The Office of the Kentucky State Veterinarian and its partners in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) are conducting surveillance on flocks within a six-mile radius of the index farm, Dr. Stout said. The company that operates the farm is conducting additional surveillance testing on other commercial facilities it operates within that area.
“The health of poultry is critically important at this time,” said Dr. Frazier. “With three investigations of avian influenza in north Alabama on three separate premises we feel that the stop movement order is the most effective way to implement biosecurity for all poultry in our state.”
The first two investigations were on two separate premises in north Alabama. One flock of chickens at a commercial breeder operation located in Lauderdale County, Ala. was found to be suspect for avian influenza. No significant mortality in the flock was reported. The other premise was a backyard flock in Madison County, Ala. Samples from both premises have been sent to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, and are being tested to determine presence of the virus.
The most recent investigation began following routine surveillance while executing Alabama’s HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan. USDA poultry technicians collected samples at the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro located in Jackson County, Ala. on March 12. Samples collected were suspect and those samples are on the way to the USDA lab in Ames, Iowa.
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) on a joint incident response.
This suspected strain of avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply. No affected poultry entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.
“Following the 2015 avian influenza outbreak in the Midwest, planning, preparation, and extensive biosecurity efforts were escalated in Alabama. Industry, growers, state and federal agencies and other stakeholders have worked hard to maintain a level of readiness,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan. “Our staff is committed to staying actively involved in the avian influenza situation until any threats are addressed.”
The objective in vaccinating chickens against Campylobacter is to reduce intestinal colonization and contamination of chicken meat products. Existing experimental vaccines are not able to induce a sufficiently strong immune response, and provide no or little of protection against Campylobacter colonization. There is no commercially available vaccine against Campylobacter for chickens despite many attempts to develop one.
A collaborative project between the laboratories of Prof. Shayan Sharif and Prof. Mario Monterio from the University of Guelph was initiated to try to develop an effective vaccine against Campylobacter in chickens. A prototype vaccine consisting of capsular carbohydrates of C. jejuni conjugated with a carrier (CPSconj) developed by Prof. Monterio, formed the basis of the vaccine development in the current study. Prof. Mopnterios’ CPSconj carrier has previously shown efficacy in a primate model. The efficacy of vaccination for reducing C. jejuni colonization of chicken intestinal tissues was assessed. Three administered doses of the prepared CPSconj vaccine resulted in a detectable antibody response in 75 per cent of specific pathogen free birds. Whereas vaccination of commercial broiler chicks resulted in a detectable antibody response in 33 per cent of orally challenged birds. Overall, the in vivo findings show CPSconj vaccinated birds had significantly lower numbers of C. jejuni in intestinal tissue when compared to non-vaccinated birds.
The study went on to identify an immune response enhancer which is termed an “adjuvant”, with the specific capacity to induce immune responses in cells of the chicken intestine for inclusion in the prototype vaccine or as a stand-alone prophylactic compound. In vitro studies demonstrated that adjuvant CpG-ODN elicited the highest activation of cell signaling molecules prevalent in immune responses and was therefore selected as the optimum mucosal vaccine adjuvant. To target the selected adjuvant to the intestine of chickens and ensure slow release of the adjuvant at the site of infection, a delivery system based on encapsulating the adjuvant into specific nanoparticles was employed. Results demonstrated that CpG-ODN administration reduced bacterial burden in the intestine and encapsulation of the CpG-ODN resulted in a greater decrease of bacterial burden in the chicken intestine.
Overall, Dr. Sharif and his research team have demonstrated that it is possible to employ a subunit vaccine for reducing Campylobacter jejuni in chickens. Additionally, the research team has provided evidence for CpG-ODN as a stand-alone anti-bacterial prophylactic strategy. Dr. Sharif and his research team will continue to explore better ways for control of Campylobacter jejuni through the use of vaccines, immune stimulants and probiotics.
September 1, 2016 - The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI) in a wild mallard duck from a state wildlife refuge near Fairbanks, Alaska. READ MORE
Decades ago when the scientific community had concerns about bacterial resistance to antibiotics, the agricultural industry started to produce antibiotic-free (ABF)flocks. Generally speaking, all chicken is antibiotic-free, because there are no antibiotic residues in the meat due to the withdrawal periods in broiler production. So in the U.S., “antibiotic-free” is not allowed to be used on a label but may be found in marketing materials not regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In recent years, the term “raised without antibiotics” (RWA) is widely used for the flocks that are raised without the use of products classified as antibiotics for animal health maintenance, disease prevention or treatment of disease. However, it can mean different things depending on the country in which you are producing chickens. Table 1 below shows the different meaning of an RWA flock in Canada, U.S. and Europe.
In Canada, absolutely no antibiotics, ionophores, or chemical coccidiostats are allowed in RWA production, whereas in the U.S., chemical coccidiostats are allowed for RWA flocks. This poses even more challenges for Canadian RWA producers.
There are many factors that can affect broiler flock performance ranging from nutrition and health status of breeder flocks, hatchery operations, chick quality, nutrition and water quality to flock management. To successfully grow RWA flocks, one should not only provide good management and environmental conditions as for regular broiler flocks, but should create superior conditions such as reducing stocking density, increasing downtime between crops, acidifying litter, and providing high quality water. Nutritionally, well balanced rations formulated with high quality ingredients are crucial for RWA flocks.
A great flock starts with good quality chicks, and chick quality is even more important for broiler RWA production due to the lack of antibiotic protection. The feeding and management of broiler breeders can play an important part in the offspring’s health and performance. The breeder farms should follow strict biosecurity protocols, and breeders should receive a well-balanced and nutritionally adequate diet. Eggs should be handled in a professional manner and stored in ideal conditions.
Hatcheries should follow a strict biosecurity program, with regimented cleaning and disinfection procedures. Chick boxes and hatcher trays have to be washed with correct temperatures. Good maintenance of hatching temperature and ventilation equipment is critical, as it has been shown that stress from late stage over-heating may result in leg problems and performance issues. Transport can be stressful for chicks. The temperature should be tightly regulated in the compartments with proper ventilation. To ensure uniform chick quality, there should be no over-heating in some areas while dead spots exist in others.
Unlike RWA producers in the U.S., Canadian RWA producers cannot use chemicals to control coccidiosis, so the only option is vaccination. Coccidiosis control is key for successful RWA production, because it impacts intestinal integrity, gut health and is correlated to the risk of necrotic enteritis. Uniform vaccine application and uptake are essential for successful protection from a coccidiosis vaccine. The stocking density for the first seven days should be controlled at a half square foot per chick (or 465 cm2/bird), and litter moisture kept higher than normal at 30 to 35 per cent. The higher density and litter moisture will encourage oocyst sporulation and the opportunity to re-infect each other from their droppings. Thus, the immunity to coccidiosis will be developed earlier, and the flock will be better protected from coccidiosis.
Stocking density after 10 days of age is also one of the most important factors that affect RWA flock performance. A minimum density of one square foot per bird is ideal. When the density is reduced, birds have more water line and feeder space, less competition for feed and water, better litter conditions and fewer pathogen challenges.
For RWA broiler production, the litter quality is crucial. The wetter the litter, the more likely it will promote the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria and moulds. Wet litter is also the primary cause of ammonia emissions, one of the most serious performance and environmental factors affecting broiler production today. Controlling litter moisture is the most important step in avoiding ammonia problems. There are many factors that can affect litter conditions, such as leaking water lines, various diseases, improper rations, and ventilation.
Ventilation removes combustion waste by brooders, ammonia, and moisture produced by birds while continually replenishing oxygen. Broiler genetics keep improving, and broilers grow faster every year, so their demand for oxygen is increasing all the time while their output of moisture is also increasing. Thus, producers should not use the ventilation rate of 10 years ago to grow today’s birds. Adequate and effective ventilation is critical for litter management and coccidiosis control, especially for RWA production.
Producers should check and manage watering systems to prevent leaks that would increase litter moisture. Furthermore, producers should adjust drinker height and water pressure as birds grow to avoid excessive water wastage into the litter.
Chick growth rate should be moderately controlled to avoid fast weight gain. This is particularly important in a flock that is 10 to 30 days of age, when there is more challenge from coccidiosis, thus a higher risk of necrotic enteritis. Producers should modify the lighting program, by slightly increasing dark hours to nine or even 10 hours, in order to improve the health condition and immunity of the birds. This modification is even more necessary for RWA flocks than for regular flocks.
Nutrition for RWA flocks
Sound nutrition starts with a good selection of high-quality ingredients. Composition of feed ingredients should be consistent, and all grains should be free from toxin contamination. This is critical for the first four weeks of age. Nutritionally, all ingredients should be highly digestible, since the nondigested portions might enhance unwanted microbial growth and increase the chance for necrotic enteritis. The maximum inclusion rate for some ingredients such as wheat and corn distiller grains must be closely monitored, if not eliminated. There is evidence that suggests a strong relationship between higher inclusions of these ingredients with necrotic enteritis. Some reports suggest that animal protein may increase the risk for necrotic enteritis. It is generally accepted that lower crude protein levels should be fed to RWA flocks, because higher protein may increase the chance for necrotic enteritis. Mineral balance is vital for RWA rations. Mineral levels that are either too high or too low will not only affect broiler body weight gain and feed conversion ratio (FCR), but also impact litter quality, gut health, and hence flock performance.
With reduced growth and high-quality ingredients, the RWA feeds can cost more than the regular feeds. Together with a higher FCR for RWA flocks, it will result in a higher feed cost per kilogram of body weight gain.
Alternative feed additives
Over the last few decades, there has been a lot of research to explore alternatives for antibiotics in broiler production. Generally, these alternatives are categorized into feed enzymes, phytogenic additives, probiotics, prebiotics and symbiotics (a probiotic and prebiotic combination). Feed enzymes which help improve the digestion and nutrient utilization, and in some cases improve gut health, are widely used by nutritionists in both regular feeds and RWA feeds.
Phytogenic additives (herbs, spices, essential oils or extracts) that originate from plants have been used in human food and medicine for thousands of years. Among these phytogenic products, essential oils have received considerable attention. Their active ingredients such as carvacrol, thymol, eugenol, alicin and cinnamaldehyde have been evaluated extensively as alternatives for antibiotics to improve animal health and performance. Some phytogenic products have direct antimicrobial effects, and other products show their effects on immune-regulation.
Probiotics are also called direct fed microbial (DFM) in the U.S. The mode of action is to compete for available receptor sites and nutrients with pathogens, and produce or secrete metabolites (such as short chain fatty acids and bacterocin), thus changing the gut microflora and bird performance.
Prebiotics are feed components that are not digested by host animals but selectively promote beneficial bacterial growth, hence improving animal performance. In this category, some commonly used products are mannan-oliglosaccharides (MOS) and fructo- oliglosaccharides (FOS).
There has been considerable research done to investigate the effects of these alternative products on animal performance and health. Yet, the responses are quite variable due to the purity and concentration of these products, how they interact with flock management and health conditions, as well as the nutritional status of the birds.
To date, there is no silver bullet as an alternative to antibiotics. In conclusion, a decent RWA flock relies on the following factors:
- Good quality chicks that come from a healthy breeder flock and well managed hatchery;
- A successful coccidiosis vaccination program with higher stocking density and higher litter moisture for the first 10 days;
- Sound management practices with an emphasis on improving ventilation and reducing litter moisture;
- An RWA ration formulated with highly digestible ingredients and optimized mineral levels;
- Moderately reduced growth by providing more dark hours.
The rapid escalation in cage-free sourcing announcements from fast-food and quick serve restaurants in recent months has become concerning. The words “cage-free” have become a marketing gimmick, and less a about the welfare of laying hens.
Opponents of animal agriculture will look upon this tidal wave as a win for animal welfare, and continually claim that these restaurant chains are answering consumer concerns over hen housing. But, I suspect that most food businesses are, for the most part, bowing to pressure placed on them from animal activist groups.
Releasing a cage-free commitment announcement has essentially become an insurance policy for a company against having its name associated with disturbing undercover videos or other forms of negative press and social media backlash.
Until recently, this battle hasn’t affected individual farmers in Canada to a great extent. It’s provided an opportunity for some to expand or transition and supply what is still considered a niche market. However, when major grocery store chains follow suit, the entire egg industry is going to be affected — and so is the average consumer.
Restaurant and foodservice providers can make blanket statements about sourcing one type of egg because it’s too complicated for them to offer, for example, a breakfast sandwich made with either an egg that’s cage-free, conventional, organic, enriched or free-range housing – it’s confusing and a logistical nightmare for their supply chains. Whether a consumer is actively choosing a particular restaurant because the eggs are cage-free or not is a moot point when virtually every chain offers the same egg option. For a consumer, the decision of where to eat becomes a matter of convenience, price, and taste.
However, the grocery store is still where a consumer can make a conscious decision on what type of egg to buy. But that may change. In mid-March grocery members of the Retail Council of Canada(RCC), including Loblaw Companies Limited, Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc., and Wal-Mart Canada Corp., announced they are “voluntarily committing to the objective of purchasing cage-free eggs by the end of 2025” (see page 6).
No longer is the cage-free issue a way for a company to differentiate itself within a competitive marketplace, it’s now on a path to become the majority. There’s no doubt that cage-free housing offers improved animal welfare compared to conventional housing, however a multi-year intensive study by the Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) determined that when all factors of sustainability were examined, including important parameters such as food affordability and environmental impact, cage-free systems did not reign supreme. The CSES study determined that enriched colony housing offered the best for the hen, farmer and consumer – yet it’s a system that is rarely mentioned by restaurants and retailers.
The Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) hope to change this. It’s not about pitting one system against another – it’s about providing the consumer and retailers with choices, and keeping eggs an affordable source of high-quality protein.
There’s still time to turn the tide – but it’s going to be a battle the Canadian egg industry will be fighting for the next several years at least.
Concern over the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in livestock has been growing steadily, with consumer and healthcare groups pressuring livestock producers and food retailers to commit to raising animals without their use.
May 4,2016- Aviagen has announced the release of MyFlock,™ an app that gives breeder managers instant access to everything they need to take care of their birds and flocks throughout the production cycle.
Available to all Aviagen customers in the U.S. and Canada, MyFlock offers convenient flock management tips and tools from mobile devices. MyFlock is a portable version of Aviagen’s standard flock management guides, offering customers an immediate and interactive pathway to the latest Aviagen advice and performance standards. From their smart phones and tablets, Aviagen customers can consult step-by-step task schedules, as well as critical advice and information regarding flock management. And, an interactive calendar lets them set reminders of daily activities needed to care for birds and optimize performance. When users are connected to the internet, MyFlock’s data is synchronized, automatically updating to the latest flock information. Therefore, through the sync function, customers have easy and uninterrupted access to the latest versions of Aviagen’s online flock management documents, even from areas with no cellular service.
At no charge to customers, MyFlock can be downloaded to Android and Apple iOS phones and tablets from any Apple or Google Play store. MyFlock’s simple-to-use, intuitive interface means productivity isn’t slowed down by an initial learning curve.
Every year, we strive to bring innovative solutions to every facet of the poultry industry, including genetics. As birds continue to evolve, so too must our management practices.
In 2016, pullets, hens and broilers are vastly different genetically than they were 30 years ago. Today’s birds want to grow faster. They are more feed efficient. And these traits are passed down through breeding stock.
When comparing benchmarks such as average daily gains (ADG), weight at 42 days of age and meat on carcass, broilers in 2010 were roughly 50 per cent larger than they were in 1980.
Yet many of the standard management practices we use today originated in the 1980s. Those same rules simply don’t apply today.
The following tips on how to manage 21st century birds are important for everyone throughout the complete production line – from grandparent (GP) to processing and everything in between.
New Housing Parameters
As we have seen progression in poultry genetics, housing has also needed to change to accommodate a more efficient and larger bird.
In older facilities, everything was manual. They were smaller in capacity, more labour intensive, less efficient and the birds weren’t kept as comfortable. Today, houses are controlled exclusively with computers – managing the ventilation, temperature, feed lines, water and lights – allowing birds to realize their full genetic potential.
And as demand increased, farms grew and houses often contained more birds or total pounds. Manual systems could not have kept up with today’s ventilation systems, which include bigger, more efficient fans, complex air inlet systems and controllers with multiple settings to account for changes in temperature throughout the year.
Ultimately, it comes down to creating the best environment for birds. The better the birds’ environment, the better the end product will be. Therefore, making investments in housing updates or additions now will pay for itself in the long run.
While broilers have nearly doubled in size over the last 30 years, breeding stock weight standards have changed very little. The only way to achieve those weights is through extremely precise management techniques.
All birds want to be broilers by nature and want to eat and grow. It is our job to restrict the pullet/hen weight to a similar weight as 20 to 30 years ago so they will still produce eggs. With genetic improvements weighted heavily toward broiler production, it’s harder and harder to keep the pullet/hen from trying to grow too quickly.
More Feeder Space
In pullets/hens/broilers, uniformity is key to efficient production and having healthy flocks. Yet, because today’s birds convert feed more efficiently and grow faster, they need proper feeding space more than ever before.
Giving pullets and hens adequate feeder space – ideally, having available 11.5 – 15 cm per bird (4.5 – 5.5 in.) on chain system and 12 to 14 birds per pan on pan system – ensures that birds eat the same amount at the same time. Managing the intake, spacing and timing reduces competition for food, resulting in better uniformity and feed efficiency.
Because broilers are growing more quickly, getting feed management correct from the start is more important than ever. In 1967, brooding (the first seven days) equated to only 11 per cent of the bird’s total 63-day lifespan that it took to achieve 4.4 pounds. Today, brooding is 21 per cent of the bird’s total grow-out of 33 days to achieve 4.4 pounds. With a shorter lifespan, there simply isn’t time to correct mistakes made in that first week.
Water Needs Have Increased
Today’s 35-day old broiler is more like a 50-day old broiler 30 years ago. We’ve already examined several ways this impacts the birds’ needs, and water is no different. Birds need more water because they are developing more quickly. Broilers drink at a ratio of 2 to 1 in relation to water to feed consumption. Thus, if water is restricted, the birds will not eat the needed feed to grow properly. When the lights first come on, it is an extremely high demand time for water. Monitor house meters during the first two hours after the lights come on to ensure all houses are getting
For pullets and hens, the need for water spikes right after feeding. Water systems should be able to provide approximately 11 to 12 gallons per 1,000 birds for the three hours following feeding. However, antiquated systems cannot keep up with this volume and only provide birds with about five to six gallons per 1,000 birds. That’s only half of their actual need. For newer houses or retrofitted water systems, plumbing needs to be able to handle the peak volume during feeding, not just the overall flow throughout the day.
The results of insufficient water are dire in pullets/hens:
- Increased possibilities of choking birds.
- Difficulty achieving the proper weight.
- Extended cleanup time of feed intake.
- Excessive slat eggs, because birds stay at the feeder/water longer and don’t go to the nest in time.
- Reduced peak egg productions.
Complex Ventilation Systems
We cannot ventilate houses the way we did years ago because of the growth of the bird. Modern ventilation systems have numerous components to provide the optimal environment. They monitor the levels of ammonia, carbon monoxide (CO2), and dust inside the house. They control the temperature as well as relative humidity (RH), which keep the birds comfortable and the litter dry.
To create the best environment for birds, it’s crucial to first understand basic principles of ventilation.
- Static Pressure (SP) – For every .01 of SP air is thrown ~61 cm (2 ft.)
- Relative Humidity (RH) – For every 11.1 C (20 F) the temperature increases, RH decreases by 50 per cent.
These are the three “must-haves” of minimum ventilation:
- Must have correct SP for your building
- Must have correct air inlet door opening
- Must then determine proper run time to control humidity in house
Getting any one of these components wrong could lead to unsuccessful ventilation. Always use the company-provided ventilation rate charts of your particular system, but consider factors such as outside temperature and RH to adjust as needed.
Stir fans are also a key piece in maintaining an even temperature throughout the house to break up stratification of hot and cooler air. This also keeps litter dry by controlling the moisture level throughout the house.
Greater Heat Stress
We have controls throughout the chicken house to monitor the temperature. However, that doesn’t take into consideration the temperature of the birds.
The most important factor is the bird’s core body temperature, especially during feeding time when birds are in such close proximity and prone to excitement.
For pullets and hens, managing temperature at feed time is crucial for proper feed intake, optimal performance and peak production. Be aware that birds are eating in areas of the house that typically aren’t monitored by the controller temperature sensors and are congregated tightly together during feeding, producing lots of BTU’s. Overheating at this time can cause excessive mortality, increased floor/slat eggs and poor performance. Ventilation/air flow should be increased during this time to manage bird temperature.
In broilers, we should pay special attention to bird temperature once they become fully feathered. Feathers act like an insulation and make it more difficult for birds to release excess heat. One misconception is that just because you grow small birds, over-heating isn’t a problem. The truth is that because you can place more small birds in any house, they actually produce more heat than larger birds that are less densely placed at the same respective age.
Over and over again, we see examples of ways that pullets, hens and broilers have dramatically evolved over the past 30 years. And with that we must constantly adapt and fine-tune our management practices – as well as the housing facilities – to meet the needs of these new, larger and more efficient birds. By providing birds with the optimal environment, we can better realize their genetic potential while maximizing performance and production.
As the baby chick grows and develops inside an egg, the yolk is the sole source of nutrients to support its development. Just prior to hatch, the residual yolk is moved into the chick’s body where it functions as a temporary nutrient source for the baby chick for up to 4 days after hatch. Even with this residual yolk functioning as a nutrient source, it is critical to give chicks access to feed and water as soon as possible after hatching as this will serve to stimulate the growth and development of the digestive system.
Once chicks are placed in the barn, and they have access to feed and water, they undergo a very sudden change in the source of their nutrient supply. Chicks must transition from using the energy and nutrients supplied solely by the yolk to those supplied predominantly by plant-based carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals formulated in to commercial feed. As soon as the chick consumes the first crumble of feed a very rapid change in regards to the growth and development of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) begins. This accelerated development is significantly affected by the presence or absence of food. It has been reported that the size of the small intestine increases by an amazing 600 per cent within the first seven days of life post-hatch. The changes in the GIT include the development of crypts which serve to increase the surface area of the intestine. In addition, there is a large increase in the number and size of villi lining the intestine. There is also a very rapid development of enzymes as soon as chicks have access to feed. Feed intake will trigger the production and secretion of enzymes which are required to facilitate the break down and enhance the digestibility of the ingredients in the feed. If birds are not given access to feed and water after hatch, the development and secretion of these enzymes will not occur.
There are a few key strategies that producers can use to help birds transition to feed and water as soon as possible. First, feed should be placed on paper prior to placement so that it is easily found by the chicks when they arrive in the barn. A good guideline is to have approximately 70 to 100 grams per chick placed on paper and the pans should be flooded. When birds arrive, it is very important that they are placed on the paper and close to the feed and water lines. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for chicks to find the feed and water. A good measure to determine whether or not chicks have got off to a good start is to look at crop fill. To do this, randomly pick approximately 50 chicks and softly feel their crop. If they have had a meal, their crop will be full and plump. It should be easy to feel feed inside the crop when it is full. 24 hours after placement, crop fill should be 95-100 per cent indicating that the chicks have successfully had a meal. Any delay in accessing feed will have a negative impact on body weight gains throughout the life cycle of the bird.
It is also important to ensure chicks have access to water. One can trigger the nipples by hand prior to chick arrival so that a water droplet is visible to them. The sparkle of the water droplet will attract the chicks to the water lines thereby improving the likelihood that they will find water quickly. It is also important to make sure that the drinker lines are at the correct height for the birds. This should be reviewed daily and adjusted as required.
Since the gut structures grow and change very rapidly once chicks have access to feed and water, the early development and growth will set the bird up for optimal gut conditions throughout its life. Having early access to feed and water as well as maintaining good gut health is key to optimizing growth, enhancing immunity and preventing pathogens from being able to thrive. When the chick hatches, the population of microflora in the GIT is essentially zero. The development of gut microflora will begin relatively quickly at hatch as the chicks explore their new environment and pick up bacteria from people, the environment and feed. Within 24 hours post hatch, the baby chick will have a thriving population of bacteria in its crop and parts of the small intestine. At 14 days, the population of microflora should be well established. It is important to maintain a good population of microbes in the gut in order to exclude harmful pathogens. Simply put, the “good guys” will keep the “bad guys” like Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Clostridium at bay. While the early access to feed will help the birds to establish a good population of microbes in the GIT, the type of feed ingredients we offer the chicks can also influence overall gut health and development. Nutritionists can use ingredients such as: enzymes, probiotics and essential oils to help maintain a healthy gut. The addition of enzymes will supplement the birds own enzymes and give them a boost to help break down the ingredients in the feed. Probiotics are a category of ingredients that introduce microbes to the bird though the feed which then boosts the population of “good guys” in the GIT. Populating the gut with good microbes will make it difficult for the bad ones to thrive because there is too much competition for the resources needed to grow and reproduce. Essential oils have been found to have some bactericidal properties while mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) have been found to have binding affinity for pathogens and essentially trick the pathogens into binding to them instead of the gut wall. Using these types of additives in feed is just another strategy that can be used to maintain good gut health.
Early access to feed and water is necessary to promote good gut development and get chicks off to a good start. If
the flock gets on to feed and water quickly and there are no other factors (i.e. nutritional, environmental or
disease challenges), you can expect the 7 day body weight to be four or five times greater than the chicks starting weight at placement. Paying attention during early brooding and taking a few extra steps to ensure that chicks have access to good quality feed and ingredients will help the bird to grow efficiently throughout the grow out period and will payback in overall improved bird performance. n
Thank you to West Lincoln Farms Ltd. for allowing New Life Mills to photograph their birds for this article.
It has taken nearly 40 years for U.S. government nutritional guidelines to catch up to Canada. In February, the top nutrition expert panel in the U.S. lifted its warning about consuming cholesterol. The recommendation comes from the Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee.
In its regular five-year review of dietary guidelines the Advisory Committee recommended lifting restrictions on consuming cholesterol, saying it is “not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” This important recommendation will be considered by the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) as they develop the 2015 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
It’s a move that reverses nearly 50 years of U.S. government warnings about cholesterol-rich foods and whose guidelines influence millions of people. The recommendation validates what research and the egg industry have long been saying.
The announcement is also a significant win for the Canadian egg industry, who has battling cholesterol scare since the 1970s, when research studies began reporting that high-cholesterol foods, especially eggs, raise blood cholesterol levels leading to a higher risk for heart disease. And, as egg farmers know, when people began to think of an egg as a cholesterol time-bomb. That thinking took hold and by the 1980s and ‘90s, food manufacturers were labelling their products as “cholesterol free.” The change in the U.S. recommendation reflects a new evaluation of the existing data that show diets high in saturated or trans fat, not dietary cholesterol, are mostly responsible for increases in blood cholesterol levels.
Scientists have long concluded that the earlier link between eggs and blood cholesterol was largely exaggerated. Health Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation have recognized that dietary cholesterol has little impact on blood cholesterol in the general population. But in the U.S., government dietary guidelines continue to advise limiting egg consumption and other cholesterol containing foods. This advice has perpetuated the myth that eggs are bad for your heart.
In general, studies show that for healthy people with no history of heart disease, diabetes or high blood cholesterol, eating an average of one egg per day does not increase the long-term risk of heart disease. Some studies have shown the same to be true for double that intake. Sadly, the “eggs are bad” myth survives where the exact opposite may be true.
In fact, avoiding or restricting egg consumption due to cholesterol concerns may actually be harming not helping us. One large egg contains no trans fat, 70 calories, six grams of high-quality protein and five grams of total fat, most of which is the healthy, unsaturated type that lowers “bad” cholesterol. Ironically, eggs also provide benefits that may actually help to protect heart health. These include antioxidants like the vitamins A, D and E, carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as B vitamins like folate, B6 and B12. Egg yolks are a significant source of iron which, as with the iron in meat, is highly bioavailable. Iron together with folate and vitamin B12 are important for healthy blood.
Nutritionists who’ve commented on the new report say that health warnings about cholesterol all these years may have also caused people to shift to foods high in carbohydrates and sugar which are known to increase heart disease and obesity.
In a complete 180, eggs are now entering the “functional foods” category. A functional food is one that provides health benefits beyond its basic nutrient content. One recent study by a Purdue University nutrition researcher found that adding boiled eggs increases the carotenoid absorption from raw vegetables. Prof. Wayne Campbell, concluded that: “Americans under consume vegetables, and here we have a way to increase the nutritive value of veggies while also receiving the nutritional benefits of egg yolks.”
And according to new research from the University of Eastern Finland, egg consumption may actually lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. In some studies, high-cholesterol diets have been associated with risk of type 2 diabetes. That is why diabetics are still advised to limit their egg consumption. The Finland study found that men who ate approximately four eggs per week had a 37 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes than men who only ate approximately one egg per week.
Here’s the Point: It takes science to refute science and science takes time.
You’re not just a farmer; you are the voice of farming. There are people who want to hear your story. Are you ready to tell it?
Bern Tobin likes to tell stories. As a journalist and videographer, it’s what he does best, and he’s good at it. Now he’s added another skill to his resume: teaching farmers to tell their story through a training campaign called Speaking Up For Agriculture, started in 2014 by the Farm and Food Care Foundation.
Ten years ago, no farmer would sit for a day in a classroom to learn how to tell their story. “The world is different now,” Tobin told the audience at the Farm and Food Care AGM in May 2015. So far, over 170 farmers had done just that: dedicated a day to honing their presentation skills, learning what to say and how to say it with confidence.
It turns out that farmers are well positioned to tell their story to the general public. Statistics gathered by Farm & Food Care indicate that information from farmers ranks third in believability, after information from a university environmental science professor and an environmental engineer for environmental issues, and second after veterinarians for animal welfare issues.
It’s up to farmers to help the public shape their perception of agriculture, said Tobin, instead of allowing others to fill that void. Either they hear straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, or they tune in to Dr. Oz, activists or the mainstream media.
But what do you say? Who will listen? What happens when you are faced with difficult questions? Those are the kind of questions that the Speak Up For Agriculture training will answer, helping you to tell your own story.
Aaron Stevanus has taken the course. He did a mock presentation to the “Lions’ Club in Waterloo” - actually the audience at the AGM – to show what a presentation could look like. He took out the jargon and made a connection with the audience by inserting photos of his own farm and family in slide templates that were supplied as resources in the program. He didn’t have to worry about the format; he just had to fill in the blanks.
The young 4th generation farmer told us about the corn, soybean and wheat rotation, the bees that give them honey and pollinate the crops, and the CSA program that feeds 100 families that they run from their incorporated family farm. He joked that there wasn’t a slide big enough to show all of the crops that they grow. As a farmer in the Grand River Watershed, he talked about using to no-till cultivation, continuously evolving his land stewardship by rotating crops, using cover crops, and fertility testing the soil to ensure that it is “alive”.
“I love being a steward of the land,” Stevanus told us, sharing his passion and pride in creating a positive environment in which the fifth generation of his family could grow.
It was obvious that the Speak Up training agenda had given Stevanus the tools he needed to address a group: an understanding of the public perception of food and agriculture, templates and resources to back up his discussion points, and the confidence to tell his personal story to the public. The audience could be the local Lion’s Club, or a high school class, Municipal council or Chamber of Commerce, but whoever they were, he would be prepared.
What if the questions got tough? Tobin drew on his advice as a journalist to tackle that issue. He called the technique “blocking and bridging”, a technique often used by Steven Harper as a prime example. “It’s a great skill,” said Tobin, which involves turning the discussion back to familiar ground, speaking about what you know.
It helps to know your audience too. Polling has indicated that there are 11 percent of people at either end of the agricultural knowledge spectrum, firmly negative or positive, but it’s the 78 percent of people in the middle that form the most receptive audience. “Spend your energy in the middle,” said Tobin, ”there’s tremendous opportunity.”
Make that connection, said Tobin, and tell your story at the dentist’s office, on the bus, anywhere there is an opportunity to dispel myths and share facts. Many consumers are just looking for someone to trust. They’re just regular people with many of the same values. As he said, “It’s our industry, your business, and your children’s future.”
A recent study led by Dr. Jianping Wu of the University of Alberta has found antioxidants in raw egg yolk extracts. Antioxidants can improve public health by reducing the risk of chronic diseases like inflammation, diabetes, and cancer.
The Canadian egg industry contributes approximately $1.4 billion to the economy annually and that egg consumption is increasing. The industry continues to work proactively to develop eggs with additional nutritional and nutraceutical attributes.
“Research to explore the presence of health-promoting components in eggs is essential to reinforce the positive image of eggs,” explains Dr. Wu.
The objective of Wu’s study was to further characterize the presence of antioxidants in eggs and determine the effects of cooking and digestion on their formation and activities.
“Eggs are a protein-rich food commodity; it is very likely that antioxidant amino acids and peptides may be generated during gastrointestinal digestion to further enhance the antioxidant activity of eggs,” he explains.
The research commenced in 2012, and included quantifying and characterizing the total antioxidant activity of egg yolk extracts and determining the effects of cooking methods and subsequent simulated gastrointestinal digestion on the antioxidant activity of the eggs.
Results showed that free amino acid and carotenoids were the major antioxidants found in raw egg yolk, and that the free amino acid content of egg yolk is approximately 10-fold higher than that of egg white.
Cooking in general reduced antioxidant activity of the egg yolks, whereas simulated gastrointestinal digestion substantially increased the antioxidant activity by releasing free amino acids and peptides. The carotenoids remained stable after digestion.
Overall, the eggs antioxidant activity increased six to 10-fold after digestion.
“Peptides released from proteins are the major contributor to the increased antioxidant activity in cooked digested eggs,” says Wu. “These findings will have a significant impact on the current well-defined knowledge on egg nutrition and may give rise to a paradigm change in the nutritional evaluation of eggs.”
This research was funded by Egg Farmers of Canada, Alberta Egg Producers, Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta, Food for Health Initiative, Burnbrae Farms Limited, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Poultry Industry Council.
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