Canadian Poultry Magazine

PIC Update: Improving Productivity Through Research

By PIC   

Features Business & Policy Farm Business

Improving productivity through research

Tim Nelson, Executive Director, and Kimberly Sheppard, Research Co-ordinator


Researchers are working towards identifying and characterizing how
B. avium causes disease in turkeys.

Want to hear some wise words about feeding poultry to improve productivity? Well you can!


PIC is running an afternoon in May focusing on recent poultry nutrition research and its impact on production. The meeting will hear about the impact on poultry production of different feeds, management techniques and supplements and how they can be used to optimize growth, and improve bird health and other production traits.

The speaker list is impressive (Steve Leeson, Doug Korver and Rob Renema – just for starters) and the topics cover all sectors: layers, broilers, turkeys and breeders. This is cutting edge stuff of relevance to all poultry producers who are interested in the bottom line.

Ticket price includes hearing the speakers, a full copy of the proceedings, light buffet lunch and a wine and cheese afterwards (see box, below).


The first Ontario poultry industry Research and Education (R&E) strategy can be found on the PIC website. The first draft was made public to coincide with our 2008 call for project proposals, which was launched on Jan. 27. This is a dynamic document and we expect, with continued input from across industry, that there will be positive additions and changes over time.

PIC Research Day

Can you afford to miss this?

No, you can’t!
What does it cost? $30 (students with current card have free admission, but still need to register).
When is it on? May 15
The Arboretum, University of Guelph

Registration starts at 12 midday and we’ll break into a wine and cheese “Mix ’N’ Mingle” at 4 p.m. It’s an intense, high-impact afternoon.  For a map, more details and a registration form, see our website, call 519-837-0284, or e-mail .

For catering purposes, you will need to book.

Whilst the document has a sound focus on the practical producer issues of feeding poultry, productivity and disease management, there are some interesting forays into researching the changing market, trade and economic situation across the globe. This is complimented by a large section on meeting consumer demand. It’s obvious that those who helped pull the strategy together were clear about the fact that external influences, rising energy costs, alternative uses of feed, changing world diet, changing world production patterns, changing climate, etc., will have a direct impact on our industry at some level and that industry needs to be prepared for this.

Focusing closer to home, there is an entire section dedicated to building and maintaining the capacity of the Ontario poultry industry to ensure it remains a stable, secure and profitable industry for many years to come. 

The Board of PIC would like to thank all those involved in the development of the strategy and particularly the University of Guleph Office of Research, for their financial support. PIC invites any comments and feedback from people involved in the industry. If you haven’t got web access please contact PIC at 519-837-0284 for a copy.

PIC has pulled together a summary report for the first six months of our financial year.
The report gives an overview of PIC activities and a financial report to Dec. 31, 2007. You’ll also find a summary of research results for all projects funded by PIC since 2003 and a list of current research projects that are still works in progress. You can request a copy or simply download one from our website.

If you missed out on a fax or e-mail advising you of our call for 2008 proposals, please check the website for details. The call closes on Friday, March 28 – so there’s still time.

Dr. Max Hincke, just after a shave-a-thon fundraiser for pediatric cancer research.  Hincke has been studying the matrix proteins of the eggshell.

Max Hincke is currently a full professor and head of the anatomy division of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Ottawa.

He received his PhD (biochemistry) from the University of Alberta. His research program in hard tissue biology during the past 15 years has utilized the avian eggshell as a model system for biomineralization. Hincke’s group studies the matrix proteins of the eggshell, seeking to learn more about their function during eggshell formation by investigating the purified proteins, characterizing them by immunochemistry, and using molecular biology to clone and produce recombinant proteins. These studies have been pursued in collaboration with academic, government and industrial colleagues in Canada and Europe.

Identification of candidate components of a novel Bordetella avium vaccine to prevent turkey coryza

Dr. Andrew Preston, University of Bristol

Turkey coryza, is a respiratory tract disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella avium (B. avium). Symptoms usually last around two to three weeks, and the disease is normally cleared up by the bird’s immune system. However, the disease spreads quickly throughout a flock and causes poor weight gain and stunted growth, while at the same time making the birds more susceptible to other diseases. B. avium, which is very contagious, is also difficult to remove from production units. 

Antibiotics have variable success in controlling the disease; it is thought that, in general, antibiotics are merely treating secondary infections. Currently available vaccines are based on attenuated (weakened) B. avium and, although these have been shown to reduce the chances of infection, they have little effect on the severity of the disease. Very little is known about B. avium or the mechanics that it uses to infect turkeys, so in order to develop effective control strategies, we need to know more about the bacterium.

Dr. Andrew Preston, University of Bristol, together with Dr. John Prescott and graduate student Stewart Loker at the University of Guelph, have been working towards identifiying and characterizing the components of the bacterium (specifically genes), that allow it to infect turkeys, by analyzing the B. avium genome sequence. The list produced from this analysis was further refined by identifying genes that have the code for specific disease-causing components of the bacteria – components similar to virulence factors in other bacteria.  The ultimate goal of this research is to develop a novel, improved vaccine against B. avium infection.

Their findings? 
It was found that B. avium contains a number of genes that are predicted to enable the bacterium to grow fimbriae (tiny threads) on its cell surface. Fimbriae are used by bacteria to adhere to one another and to animal cells. They are, therefore, important factors in allowing the bacterium to establish infection. The role of these B. avium fimbriae in infection and in inducing immune responses was characterized. Fimbriae were found to indeed be present, and the presence of fimbriae was found to be temperature dependent.  

Further work is in progress on the role of the interaction between bacteria and turkeys, by infecting respiratory tissue in the lab and testing the involvement of fimbriae in the attachment of bacteria.  Overall, an important first step has been achieved in characterizing the mechanism by which B. avium causes disease.  To read more about this project, visit   and click on “Research Results.”

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