Production

March 28, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – Egg Farmers of Canada and the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) recently announced the release of a revised Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Layers. Canada’s codes of practice are nationally developed guidelines for the care and handling of farm animals. They serve as the foundation for ensuring that farm animals are cared for using sound management and welfare practices that promote animal health and wellbeing. Codes are used as educational tools, reference materials for regulations, and the foundation for industry animal care assessment programs. “Canada’s more than 1,000 egg farmers are deeply committed to and strive for continuous improvements when it comes to the care and well-being of their hens,” said Roger Pelissero, chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada. “Egg Farmers of Canada is a long-time supporter of the National Farm Animal Care Council. We value the leadership of the code committee and their dedication to evidence-based standards that serve as a key building block to our national animal care program,” he added. NFACC’s code development process is a uniquely consensus-based, multi-stakeholder approach that ensures credibility and transparency through scientific rigour, stakeholder collaboration, and consistency. Updates to the layer code were led by a 17-person code committee comprised of egg farmers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, researchers, transporters, egg processors, veterinarians and government representatives. Aiding in their work was a five-person scientific committee that included research and veterinary expertise in laying hen behaviour, health and welfare. A public comment period was held in the summer of 2016 to allow the public and all stakeholders to provide input. “The new code provides progressive standards for hen welfare in Canada,” said poultry welfare expert Dr. Ian Duncan, who represented the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies on the code committee. “We worked diligently for almost four years to secure these important new welfare commitments.” Canada’s codes of practice are a powerful tool for meeting rising consumer, marketplace and societal expectations relative to farm animal welfare. Codes support responsible animal care practices and keep everyone involved in farm animal care and handling on the same page. “The code of practice is an important tool for egg farmers across the country,” explains Glen Jennings, egg farmer and chair of the code development committee. “The new code is the result of four years of in-depth scientific evaluation and rigorous discussion. The outcome balances hen welfare, behaviour and health in a manner that is sustainable and achievable by farmers.” The new layer code is available online at www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/poultry-layers.
Last year marked a spectacular achievement for the Canadian egg industry. “It was the 10th consecutive year of growth in retail sales of eggs,” says Bonnie Cohen, Egg Farmers of Canada’s (EFC’s) long-time director of marketing and nutrition. “In addition, our end-of-year data for 2016 shows that retail sales increased 5.6 per cent over 2015, which translates to an increase of 16.8 million dozen.”
Jan. 5, 2017 - New research conducted by the University of Adelaide shows there is no greater risk of Salmonella contamination in the production of free-range eggs due to hot summer weather, compared with other seasons.Despite a higher number of cases of Salmonella poisoning from eggs and egg products during the hot summer months, researchers at the University's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences say the egg production process itself is not to blame for the increase in cases.The findings are further evidence that the hygiene around egg handling in the supply chain and in household and restaurant kitchens is critical to reducing food poisoning from eggs.Researchers conducted a study of four Australian commercial free range egg farms, with the results now published online ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology."Eggs and egg products have been associated with an increased risk of Salmonella contamination. Because the use of free-range eggs by consumers is on the rise, we felt it was important to better understand the risk factors at the production stage," says lead author Kapil Chousalkar, from the school of animal and veterinary sciences at the University's Roseworthy campus."Birds raised in the free range production system could potentially be exposed to weather extremes, and the free range environment is not as easily controlled as in cage egg production. Therefore, it has been assumed that hot weather has a role to play in the potential contamination of eggs at the site of free range egg production."Our results show that the types and levels of Salmonella found in and around free range egg farms, and on the eggs themselves, is highly variable, often dependant on the specific husbandry and management practices employed by each farm. However, we found that there was no direct association between hot weather and increased prevalence of Salmonella at the production stage, even when data was collected in the hottest month of February," Chousalkar says."This helps to reinforce a simple health safety message: that it's important for people to wash their hands before and after handling eggs, whether at home, in a restaurant, or while working in the supply chain."The bacteria Salmonella Typhimurium – the most common cause of Salmonella poisoning from eggs and egg products in Australia – was the second highest type of Salmonella found at free range egg production farms. The most prevalent, Salmonella Mbandaka, is generally not associated with egg or egg product-related food poisoning cases in Australia.As well as renewing calls for people to practice good hand hygiene when using eggs, Chousalkar says there is a need for nationwide standards and uniform practices on the surveillance of egg contamination and safety."Currently, each of the states has their own food safety and surveillance programs. Because of its implications for public health, we believe the incidence of Salmonella contamination needs to be monitored in a standard way across all farms," he adds.
Dr. Elijah Kiarie is a newly appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Bio–sciences at the University of Guelph. Dr. Kiarie has recently secured partial funding for two research projects and will be investigating the optimal feed structure for pullets. His research will be designed to investigate optimal feed structure (by using oat hulls and limestone particle size) for enhanced gut and skeletal development in pullets and subsequent effects on egg production, hen bone health and integrity and livability.Oat hullsModern layer diets have been refined to improve intake and efficiency. The implications of these strategies are diets with low fiber and overall structure.  Poultry require a certain amount of fiber for optimal development and physiology of the gastrointestinal tract. Low fiber diets have negative consequences on the development and functioning of the gut, particularly the gizzard. Addition of insoluble fiber could be a practical solution of increasing diet structure.  In an interview, Dr. Kiarie explained the problem at hand. “It remains unknown whether it is beneficial to introduce fiber at the rearing phase or laying phase, or indeed both phases,” he said.   “Modern pullets have a propensity to reduce intake at the onset of lay. Stimulation of gut development at the pullet phase may lead to birds with improved appetite for satisfactory laying phase performance,” he said. “This may be particularly strategic for alternative housing where the birds may have increased nutrient requirements over and above normal maintenance and still meeting the requirements for egg production.”Diets will be designed with oat hulls to create feed structure and fed to pullets throughout the grow-out period. During the laying phase, birds will be maintained on diets with or without the addition of oat hull. Gut and skeletal development will be evaluated during the grow-out phase and egg production and quality will be measured during the laying phase.  Limestone particle sizeProper skeletal development is essential for high levels of egg production in all poultry housing systems.  “Studies to improve skeletal health often focus on manipulating the birds’ environment and nutrition during the layer phase.  Unfortunately, at this phase it might already be too late to improve bone quality,” Dr. Kiarie explained.  “Earlier interventions by stimulating bone development at pullet stage could lead to a bird with sound skeletal structure for satisfactory laying phase performance in alternative housing.”  “Pullets undergo fast bone formation during rearing, and nutritional strategies during this phase could have a major impact on bone quality and skeletal integrity of hens,” he added.  The proposed research will evaluate the effect of limestone particle size on pullet skeletal development and subsequent effects on layer performance, bone health and integrity in hens housed in conventional and furnished cages.  Dr. Kiarie said the limestone particle size will be used as a method of manipulating the calcium supply form to create feed structure. Diets differing in limestone particle sizes will be formulated and fed to pullets throughout the grow-out period. During the laying phase, bird diets will be maintained in conventional and furnished cage housing systems. Skeletal development will be evaluated during the grow-out phase.  Egg production and quality and bone health and integrity will be measured during the laying phase.   “The long term objective is to explore nutritional means to improve gut health and function, skeletal integrity and feed utilization in pullets and layers,” said Dr. Kiarie in describing the anticipated outcomes of these studies. “Research results will be directly transferred into practice through partnerships with feed manufacturers and allied industries that serve the Canadian egg producers.”Components of this research will be funded by the Egg Farmers of Ontario,  Egg Farmers of Canada, and the Canadian Poultry Research Council.
Fortune magazine in September took a deep dive into the cage-free egg movement, chronicling how McDonald’s made its decision to go cage-free and the company’s prospects for being able to follow through on its pledge.McDonald’s announcement a year ago spurred a tidal wave through the food industry. Around 200 companies, including every major fast food chain and many major brands, have said they will go cage-free. Most of them target 2025 for completing the transition.The Fortune article cites results from Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) research that examined three different hen housing systems – conventional cage, enriched colony and cage-free – and concluded there are positive and negative trade-offs with each.Food beat writer Beth Kowitt cites that the CSES study considered the housing systems as a whole – worker health, animal health, food affordability, food safety and environmental impact, while activist groups focus solely on animal welfare. An excerpt: In the end, science wasn’t the deciding factor. The study intentionally excluded one component – consumer sentiment – and that turned out to be the most important of all. The phrase “enriched cage” means nothing to the average person. So if McDonald’s had shifted to that option, it wouldn’t get any credit from consumers. “Science was telling us enriched, but when talking with the consumer, they had no clue what enriched was,” says Hugues Labrecque, who runs the egg business that serves McDonald’s at Cargill. Once that became clear, cage-free became the inevitable consensus.In a Forbes op-ed, contributor Steve Banker, who covers logistics and supply chain management, cites the Fortune article and analyzes what will have to happen in the marketplace in order for McDonald’s to meet its cage-free commitment by 2025. He concludes, “McDonald’s shows us that companies have a chance to do ‘good,’ where ‘good’ is defined in a way that resonates with their customer base….”In a Forbes article back in May, “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert noted there currently is no United States Department of Agriculture legal definition for “cage-free” and that, “…transparency of what the term actually means will anger many as they discover their imagery of a happy-go-lucky hen running through the field is far from the truth.”People with strong feelings about hen housing tend to bypass scientific studies such as that conducted by CSES. Food companies want to give customers what they want regardless of the science.There are a number of barriers to consumers integrating scientific information into their decision-making process. The influence of group values, confirmation bias, scientific illiteracy, the tribal nature of online communication and other factors all pose challenges to successfully introducing technical information into the social conversation about food and agriculture.Many of the barriers can be overcome by following the formula developed through CFI’s research. Establishing shared values opens the door for technical information to be introduced into the conversation. It begins by first identifying and then communicating values from a credible messenger.  Only then can incorporating technical information be viewed as trustworthy, building on a message platform that encourages informed decision-making.Building trust is a process. Authentic transparency and continued engagement will encourage objective evaluation of scientific information that supports informed decision-making. Encouraging informed decision-making requires meeting people in the communities where the discussions are taking place, acknowledging their scepticism and committing to long-term engagement.The Center for Food IntegrityCFI is a not-for-profit organization whose members and project partners represent the diversity of today’s food system, from farmers and food companies to universities, non-governmental organizations to retailers and food processors.Visit foodintegrity.org for more information.
Nov 3., 2016 - Smart Earth Seeds has recently announced that Omega-3 boosting Camelina meal has been approved for listing in Schedule 4 of the Feeds Act in Canada as feedstuff for laying hens. Smart Earth Seeds t has been working to develop Camelina as a novel rotational oilseed crop in Western Canada. Thanks to the efforts of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Livestock Research and Extension Branch and the University of Saskatchewan, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has approved the inclusion of 10 per cent Camelina cake in feed for egg-laying hens. "This is another major step for Camelina production in Canada," says Jack Grushcow, founder and CEO of Smart Earth Seeds. "This latest approval makes the crop production economics for Camelina even more attractive. The more local markets we can develop for Camelina meal the greater the opportunity to process locally and provide regional economic development."CFIA previously approved cold-pressed, non-solvent extracted Camelina meal for broiler chickens at up to 12 per cent inclusion. Another application is going forward to approve the inclusion of Camelina in dairy cattle rations. "This is good news for Canadian poultry producers, this approval ensures Canadian producers can benefit from access to a high quality protein that also contains significant quantities of Omega-3 oil," says Rex Newkirk, chair in feed processing technology at the University of Saskatchewan."Increasing Camelina cake inclusions in layers' feed resulted in a dose-related increase in polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids and a superior balance of Omega-3:Omega-6 fatty acids in table eggs," adds Matt Oryschak and Eduardo Beltranena, who led the layer trials at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.Camelina is a diversifying oilseed crop that offers greater disease and drought tolerance. It can be grown with low inputs on marginal land while providing valuable crop rotation benefits. Camelina cake is rich in protein, fibre and α-linolenic acid and its inclusion in feed for broiler chickens and laying hens will help produce value-added, healthier poultry products for Canadians.
  David Brock never thought he would be a chicken farmer. After finishing school and working as an agriculture representative for several years, he fulfilled his dream of owning 1,000 acres and raising pigs in Staffa, Ont. But 20 years later, and with two sons interested in farming, David was looking towards providing income stability for multiple families and used his astute business skills to analyze the poultry industry. In September of 1997 he purchased Maple Leaf Food’s corporate broiler breeder operations in nearby Monkton and Palmerston and incorporated Four Corners Poultry. With the purchase came more than 20 employees and out-of-date facilities. Overwhelmed, he brought on board his son Jamie (then only 21 years old), who used his organizational skills to get the farm on track and assist with employee and labour issues. Son Mark, having a great interest in crops and technology, managed the family’s land base in Staffa, began a progressive cropping operation and slowly set about incorporating manure from the breeder operation. As production manager Don Haasnoot told Canadian Poultry, David is a “strategic, forward-thinking” owner and his vision was to bring the breeder operation back to the Staffa land base. David admits he spends a long time thinking about how the future should be shaped and says business owners need to realize that “big changes can’t be made all at once, they must be calculated.” He’s used this philosophy over the past 14 years to slowly build new production barns at the Staffa site while ensuring the farm is financially viable, and most importantly, sustainable. Understanding that energy costs will continue to rise, David has ensured the new facilities take advantage of the latest technology and efficiencies. Four Corners now grows its own pullets and boasts a smaller spiker facility built to provide an internal supply of males and enhance biosecurity. The family also invested in having a natural gas line extended to the Staffa site to eliminate propane use and the biosecurity risk of propane trucks travelling to the farm. Natural gas, now used to fuel a corn dryer, run several farm service vehicles and heat the barns, has saved the operation 35 per cent in energy costs. Because the area in which their farm is situated is rather unique, having sinkholes (open cracks in the bedrock that allow surface drainage to enter the underground aquifer), the Brocks are “very conscious” of environmental responsibility. Although it’s unknown whether the aquifer is the one that supplies drinking water for the area, and they work with the Ausable-Bayfield Conservation Authority on monitoring and have a test well on the property. Wash-down and clean-out procedures have been enhanced to reduce water use and every facility has very large grass buffer strips to absorb runoff. Long before the poultry operation was a consideration, David had purchased 50 acres of woodlot and created tree shelterbelts on the crop land to prevent erosion. The land is systematically tiled to prevent flooding and reduce runoff and Mark utilizes GPS and historical farm data to ensure that manure spreading is effective and has minimized or eliminated the use of potash and nitrogen inputs. To reduce disease risk and increase biosecurity, Jamie not only developed new washout procedures but also implemented the use of a Biovator (he now sells them) to render deadstock and cull eggs. These strategies helped reduce the hazards associated with visiting multiple sites. He also implemented the use of manure sheds at the Staffa and Monkton sites. Since becoming a self-grower, Four Corners Poultry has been Salmonella-free and works continually to maintain this status. Along with an intensive cleaning/disinfection program and attention to flock husbandry, rodent and fly control are key areas.   Although “we couldn’t afford it at the time,” Jamie says, the operation began employing rodent services several years ago and has recently begun using parasitic wasps instead of chemicals to control flies to further reduce Salmonella risk. As a grower for Cargill’s, the supplier to McDonald’s restaurants, the Brock family is keenly aware of consumer food safety concerns. They strive to practise antibiotic-free management, which is achieved through a Coccidiosis vaccination program and careful attention to brooding management, particularly on litter moisture levels in the first two weeks of placement. Blood testing by hatchery technicians and environmental swabbing pre-placement further guide brooding management. As an employer of 20 full-time staff, Four Corners takes health and safety and training seriously, providing ongoing training and modern personal protective  equipment (including respirators). David has been a board director for the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission (OBHECC) for the past six years and was heavily involved with OBHECC’s revamped cost-of-production formula, a strategy established so that the industry “doesn’t become stale” and income stability for producers is maintained. Now that the farm is nearly where he and his family want it to be, he says “we can do even more sustainability projects.”      
October 30, 2014 - Cody Polley has been appointed as breeder specialist with the Cobb World Technical Support Team.  Polley has wide wide experience of managing pedigree and grandparent farms for Cobb-Vantress, and is a graduate of the University of Arkansas.  After graduation he worked in turkey production and then joined Cobb in 1998, and within two years became breeder manager at one of company’s pedigree farms.   He progressed to managing the Cobb pedigree complex at Grand Meadows in Oklahoma and went on to manage other pedigree complexes in Kentucky and most recently Three Springs in Oklahoma.  He also spent two years as grandparent production manager in Kentucky responsible for 38 contract producers in four of the state counties. “We are excited to have Cody join our World Technical Support Team,” said Dr Steve Bolden, Director of the team.  “Our customers in the Asia/Pacific region will value his extensive knowledge as he assists them in getting the most genetic potential from our products.”    
The continually increasing growth rate of modern broilers allows each new generation to reach market weight approximately half-a-day faster each year.1  Despite changes in the rate of growth of broiler stocks, the target growth profiles used in broiler breeder feed restriction programs have changed little in past 30 years.2 As the growth potential of broilers continues to increase, the degree of feed restriction required to manage parent stock body weight gains has created a more competitive feeding environment. Whereas the poultry breeding companies have worked to maintain or even increase rates of egg production and hatchability, achieving these potential results at the broiler breeder farm level on a consistent has been challenging.3 Production of viable chicks ultimately defines success in a broiler breeder operation. Strategic use of feed ingredients and effective feed delivery contribute heavily to this success. The hen diet can be changed in ways that increase embryo viability, support development of the immune system, and at times even influence broiler yield. As these effects can change with hen age, it is important to understand some of the more influential maternal nutritional effects on the broiler offspring. The nutrient composition of the egg is affected by maternal nutrition, body composition, age and strain. These traits, as well as incubation conditions, can affect chick well-being, growth, and immune function. This paper examines some of the key attributes of maternal nutrition and management that can affect broiler chick quality and growth. Selecting for Growth Affects Body CompositionFrom the perspective of parent stock managers, modern broiler strains are simply too good at depositing breast muscle. With a propensity to deposit muscle rather than fat, there may not be enough energy stored in the body to mobilize in times of energetic shortage, and as a result broiler breeder hens may have difficulty with early chick quality and long-term maintenance of lay. Carcass fat in feed restricted birds at sexual maturity averages between 12.5 and 15 per cent of their body weight and has been trending downwards.4,5 Apparent reductions in fat content in current stocks are likely a reflection of the increased muscling that has occurred. How do we grow the bird at an appropriate rate while ensuring the carcass stores are present to support long-term egg production without letting egg size get out of hand? The bird used to be a lot more forgiving. The use of non-traditional feed allocation profiles has shown the large impact of current feeding level on ovarian morphology parameters. Current feeding level can be more important than body weight in its influence on egg production. Thus, there is potential to use feed to manipulate body composition to optimize egg and chick production. Managing Lifetime NutritionBy the time sexual maturation begins, managing nutrient intake of the bird is a combination of current feeding level within the context of previous feed allocation decisions. Because current broiler breeder stocks are less able to store fat and grow more muscle when overfed, what the bird consumes today has a much greater impact on productivity than it used to. There is less of a buffering effect from fat stores, and the bird must rely more on protein stores and on dietary nutrients. If the energy needs of the birds have been met today, the right signals proceed between the gut, the brain, and the reproductive organs to maintain a high rate of productivity. When too much is fed, additional nutrients are first shunted towards growth. When not enough is fed, cuts to reproduction now tend to be first on the list. In previous trials we have noted that at the end of lay (approximately 60 wk of age) there is less fat and ovary mass in birds carrying a higher proportion of breast muscle. However, while examining this relationship more closely in a recent study, we noted that while breast muscle weight was negatively correlated with abdominal fatpad weight (r = -0.735; P < 0.0001), neither were correlated with ovary weight (Renema, unpublished data). In this study comparing various dietary energy:protein ratios, we found that birds were able to shift the balance  from skeletal muscle to egg production to some extent. While the hen can use both carcass fat and protein as energy sources, the metabolic priority is to maintain protein, and hens will catabolize their own muscle tissue only as a last resort.  A bird with more carcass fat is better equipped to tolerate day-to-day changes in feed availability. Ekmay et al. (2010) worked with isotope-labeled lysine and found that while early in lay there is a high reliance on skeletal muscle turnover for egg formation, later in lay the reliance on dietary protein increases. In contrast, fat to support yolk formation comes primarily from lipid synthesis early in lay, but shifts to a more even division between lipid synthesis, dietary lipids and tissue fat later in lay.6 Support of the ovary appeared to be more closely tied to dietary energy level during the laying phase, with both ovary and liver weights being higher when a higher energy ration was fed (Renema, unpublished data). A bird with more carcass fat could be better equipped to tolerate day-to-day changes in feed availability. In the broiler breeder research program at the University of Alberta we have recently confirmed that feeding in the pullet phase has a more long-term effect on productivity than previously thought. Basically, feeding program, feed restriction program, and how we follow the body weight targets in the growing phase all have a greater affect on final carcass composition at the end of egg production than the diets fed during the egg production period have. This is partly because muscle deposition is ‘set’ when they are young and frame size is ‘set’ as soon as the reproductive hormones begin to increase during sexual maturation, and these both have carry-over effect into the breeder phase. In addition, we have found that the change in energy:protein ratio during the transition between rearing and breeding phase can also affect long-term breeding success. It is possible to hurt long-term egg production and even broiler offspring yield based on choice of pullet and layer diets. Moraes et al. (University of Alberta, unpublished data), reported that if the energy:protein ratio decreased between the rearing and breeding phases, broiler offspring yield was negatively affected. As an example, moving from a higher energy ration in the rearing period to a lower energy ration during the breeder period, which results in a drop in the energy to protein ratio, also hurts broiler offspring breast muscle yield and overall carcass yield by approximately 1% (19.8% vs. 20.9% breast muscle) when compared to treatments where the energy:protein ratio remained the same or increased between the rearing and breeder diets (Moraes, unpublished data). The bottom line recommendation is not to overfeed protein when transitioning from rearing to lay. Low protein in the layer ration may affect gene expression related to breast muscle development in the offspring. This is known as an epigenetic effect. Rao et al. (2009) reported that offspring of Langshan breeders fed 10% vs. 15% CP diets had heavier breast muscle by 4 wk of age. Offspring of the 10% CP hens had an up-regulated expression of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I) and type 1 insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-IR) mRNA in the breast muscle. IGF-I is a regulator of bird metabolism and muscle development and increased expression of IGF-I will result in increased breast muscle.8 Our observation that pullet phase nutrition had more influence on broiler offspring than the nutrition during the laying phase (Moraes, unpublished) supports the idea that there may be an epigenetic effect. Who Benefits from High Flock Uniformity?Good body weight uniformity in the pullet flock is one of the ways we can increase the predictability of the response of the pullet flock to both photostimulation and the slightly more aggressive feed changes associated with the sexual maturation period. While not perfect due to the existence of plenty of bird:bird variability in feed intake and growth patterns, uniformity can help to ensure we are over- or under-feeding as few birds as possible as egg production starts and subsequently when post-peak feed reductions are imposed. The bird:bird weight variability can have a behavioural component, with some birds eating more aggressively than others, and an energetic efficiency component. Small birds in particular are often found to be less energetically efficient. Less efficient hens have a higher regulatory thermogenesis, resulting in the loss of more energy as heat.9 If these less efficient birds also get behind in body weight compared to their flock-mates, they will often also mature later, and with less robust ovarian development than their larger flock-mates. What happens to the ovary development and egg production traits of the outlier pullets if their growth profile is allowed to continue in parallel to the target flock body weight curve? To test this we randomly divided pullets from all over the flock body weight distribution onto BW target profiles either at target or 150 g above or below target. For the offspring, the biggest impact of modifying BW targets was with egg size and subsequent chick size. No egg production traits were affected and all broiler trait differences could be explained by the treatment affects on egg size (Renema, unpublished data). A common assumption regarding flock body weight management is that productivity will be maximized if body weight uniformity is high – with the ideal case being that all birds had the exact same body weight. To test this, we maintained a group of broiler breeder pullets on a common feed allocation, or individually managed birds from 16 wk of age to all be at the target body weight. Body weights of individually managed birds had a very good uniformity (CV=1.9%) from 20 to 60 wk of age compared to the group-fed birds (CV=5.4%). With the larger birds, egg size will be an issue. Decreasing body weight of heavier pullets from 16 wk to reach the target weight did not significantly affect their egg production. However, a very pronounced effect was found when underweight pullets were forced to the target. These birds produced as much 15 total eggs more than control underweight hens (Figure 1). The problem, for Canadians at least, was that 11 of these 15 eggs were lighter than 52 g – the threshold for incubation. It is clear that improving the body weight profile of underweight birds have the potential to significantly improve broiler breeder productivity.   Figure 1. Total egg production of hens of a High, Standard, or Low initial BW (at 16 wk of age) following a standard, group feed allocation or individual feed allocations to hold each bird right on the flock BW target. Only Low birds were significantly affected by the feeding treatment, with the additional feed provided to the Low-Individual birds triggering increased egg production. The increased egg production results for the low efficiency birds fits with hormone profile work of underweight pullets during sexual maturation. In this work, pullets beginning 20% lighter than the flock mean will mature more slowly than standard pullets or 20% heavy pullets unless they are given a 20% boost in their feed allocation. Plasma estradiol-17b concentrations demonstrated that ovary development in the overfed small pullets was proceeding like that of their standard and high weight counterparts. Feeding the entire flock at a higher level would result in overfeeding in the Standard and High weight birds.10 At some point the practice of sorting small birds into a separate area and feeding them either without competition from larger birds or possibly at a higher level may become cost-effective to consider. From a management perspective, correcting the body weight profile of higher weight birds has no impact on flock productivity while correcting the weight of the underweight pullets did have a positive impact on overall productivity -- provided the mean body weight of the population is under control, i.e. close to the body weight target. To truly see the impact of a tight uniformity, a treatment like this should be started at a much younger age to eliminate biases that might be introduced by early growth profile. Careful attention to feeder space and even initiating a sorting program during the pullet phase can help generate a group of birds with uniform BW going into the breeder house. With females maturing within a shorter age range today, there may be fewer issues with male intimidation of females that are not yet receptive to mating. This can contribute to a more stable, long-term sexual behavior in the flock. A flock that has high body weight uniformity values coming into lay may not continue this way. Within a hen population some hens lose weight in time – often as a result of a high rate of lay, while some gain weight due to a poor rate of lay. However, other groups exist within the population that can both gain weight and produce large numbers of eggs, or do the opposite (Renema and Zuidhof, unpublished data). As a result, the average weight birds at the end of lay include the best layers of the most energetically efficient birds (lost weight), the worst layers of the least energetically efficient birds (gained weight), and the average layers of the average efficiency birds (remained average weight throughout). As a result of this variability, later in the egg production period it is much easier to interpret the relationship between male size, appearance and reproductive effectiveness than it is for the females. How has Genetic Change Impacted Flock Management?Egg Size: Genetic selection programs in table egg stocks compared to broiler stocks have affected reproductive traits differently. In laying hens, earlier maturation and higher rates of lay have led to potential skeletal issues due to the challenge of maintaining support for shell formation. While increasing egg size with age is an issue in both laying and broiler breeder stocks, in table egg production this is much easier to manage using nutritional tools. Unfortunately in broiler breeders, once you move beyond methionine and start reducing various combinations of choline, folic acid, and vitamin B12 that can work well in laying hens), you are reducing micro-ingredients essential for broiler hatchability.11 A general uneasiness to commit to a defined post-peak feed withdrawal program in broiler breeder flocks could be largely responsible for current issues with large egg size in older broiler breeder flocks. Issues with late egg weight within the breeding companies may not be the same as what is faced on commercial farms. Under conditions of overfeeding, egg weight was much more responsive in commercial strain crosses than in pure lines (Figure 2).   Figure 2. Egg weight of pure lines (1 to 4) or of commercial and experimental strain crosses (5 to 8) fed a standard ration (R) or overfed 20% from placement in the layer barn (OF) The egg can be affected very quickly by fluctuations in feed intake. There is a short term effect of changes to feeding level on egg size, for example. The albumen content reacts to changes in energy intake immediately, while yolk size is slower to respond. Unfortunately, the yolk tends to only trend upwards in size. A reduction in rate of lay means the hen has more yolk material available to spread across fewer yolks, thereby increasing egg size. As a result, the most effective approach to controlling egg size is still to maintain as high as possible a rate of lay later in production. In contrast to table egg laying hens, broiler breeder hens lay at a lower rate and have a higher body mass – both of which contribute to less stress on calcium supplied by the diet or skeleton. The shell quality issues that have appeared in some flocks after 40 to 45 wk of age can typically be easily remedied by the supply of some large particle calcium. There may be a feed formulation or diet density trigger in flocks where shell issues appear. We have recently begun to see examples of shell quality issues confined to specific feeding treatments with no obvious reason for the shell quality differences among groups. Can feed restriction be relaxed and birds allowed a less restrictive growth profile? In a comparison of a range of both pure lines and commercial lines, providing 20% extra feed reduced productivity and shell quality (Table 1). On average, egg production was reduced by 12.5 eggs (8.3%) under these conditions. This is in contrast to underfed birds, which we have shown will cease egg production all together with just a 9% drop in feed allocation (86% vs. 63% of birds still in production at 65 wk in Control and -9% groups) (Renema, unpublished). In time of energetic stress, reproduction is one of the first things the bird will sacrifice – instead diverting nutrients to maintenance and survival.   A flock can transition from being on the target body weight profile to overweight over just a few weeks time – often as the birds reach peak production and ‘overshoot’ the weight targets. As the birds are transitioned from feed increases during sexual maturation to post-peak feed decreases, they grow more energetically efficient. This same phenomenon occurs during the transition onto feed restriction from full feeding in the first few weeks after breeder chick placement. As these hens are able to utilize the feed more efficiently in the short term, the initial feed withdrawals may not be as effective as hoped, leading to the hens getting too heavy.     In warm environments, overweight birds can be the result of not compensating for the higher barn temperature with a lower feed allocation. As long as the feed is formulated to ensure adequate supply of the micro-ingredients on a daily basis, focusing on a body weight target rather than a feeding program can help ensure body weight does not become excessive. Lighting: The majority of research on daylength and light intensity has occurred in laying hens.  At current commercial light intensity levels, we have not been able to demonstrate any significant effects on reproductive traits. Concerns with high light intensity in broiler breeder barns has so far proven to be of little consequence. However, the results we have seen demonstrate that ovary development is affected in extreme cases (particularly low light intensity), demonstrating that these effects should continue to be monitored. New LED lighting systems have the potential to be produced with very specific blends of light wavelengths. New lights are being produced that have claims of encouraging more efficient growth, for example. This is presumably achieved in part through behavioral modification, as evidenced by anecdotal reports of ‘calmer flocks’. Some red light will always be necessary to support reproduction since these wavelength have the greatest ability to penetrate through the feathers and skull to the light-sensitive neurons associated with gonadotrophin producing neurons. Too much red light has anecdotally been shown to cause undesirable behaviour aviary-housed laying hens, demonstrating it is important to work with companies familiar with how their products have been tested in agricultural environments. Fertility: Assessing flock fertility comes down to one main theme – if you don’t have mating, you won’t get fertile eggs. A good female flock can come out just average for chick production if the males have been ineffectively managed.  While there are some nutritional components to male fertility (antioxidants and minerals like Zinc, Choline and Selenium that contribute to both sperm production and sperm survival in the female reproductive tract), reproductive behavior of the flock must be managed appropriately to maintain long-term flock fertility. Heavy birds are an issue, as it can impact physical traits such as footpad condition and cause pain. If the male is sore, the last thing it wants to do is mate, and if it is mating it will be much less successful at it. Rapid declines in flock fertility are often due to insufficient bodyweight control. Hocking et al. (2002) reported that feed restricted and overfed hens have similar fertility when provided a similar semen source, but overfed hens have a reduced hatchability due to an increase in late embryonic death. Duration of fertility (measured by monitoring fertility in consecutive eggs) is also reduced under conditions of overfeeding.13 Nutritionally, too much protein is bad for yolk membrane strength and embryo survival. Underfeeding hens, while being potentially detrimental to rate of lay, does not appear to hurt fertility or hatchability. Many aspects of mating and dominance behavior cross the boundaries of breed. We can learn a lot from table egg laying hens reproduction and even from wild poultry species. Female preferences for dominant males can be problematic in flocks with heavy males. Modern broiler stocks have been selected for a shorter, wider-legged stance to support rapid broiler growth. In the breeder, shifts in body conformation have the potential to affect how well the male and female are able to make sexual contact during the act of mating in heavy flocks. The behaviour of these birds suggests they think it was a completed mating when no semen transfer occurred. As this likely affects mostly older, heavily muscled males, this could become a criterion for male culling. Unlike underweight males who may express less sexual behavior due to decreased testicular mass and testosterone production, these large males are often still perfectly functional, and only serve to disrupt mating activity of subordinate males. Flock fertility results don’t show which males are working and which ones are lame, too big, or just sore enough in the feet and leg joints to not want to bother to mate. Managing flock fertility requires spending time observing flock mating activity and assessing all males for potential culling. The best males in the younger flock could be the ones causing the most trouble in the older flock if they are not able to complete matings. ConclusionsThe broiler breeder of tomorrow will require a higher degree of precision in its feeding. Increasing vigilance is needed in the areas of feed composition and maintaining consistent body weight gains through careful decisions about how much and how often to change feed allocations. Extra attention to detail can make it possible to change body weight targets, but make sure the intended consequences actually do occur rather than negative unintended consequences. Effective management of these flocks needs to ensure managers are able to deliver the right nutrition to the bird WHEN they need it. Using this approach can enhance late egg production, control egg size and contribute to improved embryo survival and even broiler yield traits. The ability to think of daily nutritional decisions in a broiler breeder operation within the context of the entire life history of the flock will become a more important aspect of broiler breeder management and feeding. References 1. Havenstein, G. B., Ferket, P. R., and Qureshi, M. A. (2003). Poultry Science 82:1500-1508. 2. Renema, R. A., Rustad, M. E. and Robinson, F. E. (2007a). World’s Poultry Science Journal 63:457-472. 3. Laughlin, K. F. 2009. ‘Breeder management: How did we get here?’ pp 10—25 in: Biology of Breeding Poultry. Poultry Science Series Vol. 29. P. M. Hocking ed. CABI. Wallingford 4. Renema, R. A.,  Robinson, F. E. and Zuidhof, M. J. (2007b). Poultry Science, 86: 2267-2277. 5. Yu, M.W., Robinson, F.E., Charles, R.G. and Weingardt, R. (1992b). Poultry Science, 71: 1750-1761. 6. Ekmay, R. D., Salas, C., England, J., and Coon, C. N. (2010). Poultry Science 88(Suppl 1): 84.   7. Rao, K., J. Xie, X. Yang, L. Chen, R. Grossmann, and R. Zhao. 2009. British Journal of Nutritions, 102:848-857. 8. Duclos, M. J. 2005. Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology,  56:25-35 (Suppl. 3). 9. Gabarrou, J.F., Geraert, P.A., Francois, N., Guillaumin, S., Picard M. and Bordas, A. (1998). British Poultry Science, 39: 79-89. 10. Renema, R. A., and Robinson, F. E. (2004). World’s Poultry Science Journal, 60: 511-525. Goerzen, P. R., Julsrud, W. L., and Robinson, F. E. (1996). Poultry Science 75:962-965. 11 Keshavarz, K. (2003). Poultry Scien 82:1407-1414 12. Hocking, P. M., Bernard, R., and Robertson, G. W. (2002). British Poultry Science 43:94-103.
 13. Goerzen, P.R., Julsrud, W.L., and Robinson F.E. (1996). Poultry Science 75:962-965
Dec. 17, 2013, Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has released its Salmonella Action Plan that outlines the steps it will take to address the most pressing problem it faces - Salmonella in meat and poultry products. An estimated 1.3 million illnesses can be attributed to Salmonella every year. “Far too many Americans are sickened by Salmonella every year. The aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella Action Plan will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer.” said the under secretary for food safety, Elisabeth Hagen. The Salmonella Action Plan is the agency’s strategy to best address the threat of Salmonella in meat and poultry products. The plan identifies modernizing the outdated poultry slaughter inspection system as a top priority. By focusing inspectors’ duties solely on food safety, at least 5,000 illnesses can be prevented each year.   Enhancing Salmonella sampling and testing programs is also part of this comprehensive effort,  ensuring that these programs factor in the latest scientific information available and account for emerging trends in foodborne illness. Inspectors will also be empowered with the tools necessary to expeditiously pinpoint problems. With more information about a plant’s performance history and with better methods for assessing in-plant conditions, inspectors will be better positioned to detect Salmonella earlier, before it can cause an outbreak. In addition, the plan outlines several actions FSIS will take to drive innovations that will lower Salmonella contamination rates, including establishing new performance standards; developing new strategies for inspection and throughout the full farm-to-table continuum; addressing all potential sources of Salmonella; and focusing the Agency’s education and outreach tools on Salmonella. These efforts will build upon the work that USDA has done over the past several years. In 2011, USDA strengthened the performance standards for Salmonella in poultry with a goal of significantly reducing illnesses by 20,000 per year.  And through the Salmonella Initiative Program, plants are now using processing techniques designed to directly reduce Salmonella in raw meat and poultry.  Thanks to these innovative technologies and tough policies, Salmonella rates in young chickens have dropped over 75 percent since 2006. For more information about the new Salmonella Action Plan, visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/salmonella.
Sept. 17, 2013, Guelph, ON - Farm Credit Canada (FCC) will provide $260,000 through the FCC AgriSpirit Fund to 26 community groups in Ontario to support capital projects that will help improve quality of life for rural residents. Over the past 10 years, AgriSpirit has helped to fund 787 rural community projects across Canada."At FCC we believe in giving back to the communities we serve. Congratulations to this year's recipients. We look forward to seeing the successful completion of these projects," says Barry Smith, FCC Vice-President, Western Ontario Operations.The FCC AgriSpirit Fund awards rural community groups between $5,000 and $25,000 for community improvement projects such as recreation and community centres, libraries, and emergency services training facilities. All projects are based in communities with populations lower than 150,000.Selected groups must complete their projects by December 31, 2015.Nationally, 866 applications were received for FCC AgriSpirit funding this year – a clear indication that rural Canadians are passionate about their communities. Over the past 10 years, more than $7.5 million in funding has been given to AgriSpirit projects in rural communities across Canada.Next year's application period runs from will open in spring 2014. Registered charities and non-profit organizations interested in funding this year are encouraged to visit www.agrispirit.ca for more information, including eligibility requirements and to apply online.
Mar. 19, 2013, Ottawa, ON - Competitors from across Canada will have the opportunity to win a trip of a lifetime to attend the International Farm Management Congress in Poland July 2013, all expenses paid, to learn international agricultural management best practices and be part of the Canadian delegation. "We know first-hand that being part of IFMA (International Farm Management Association) is a life-changing experience," says Heather Watson, FMC Executive Director "and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to offer this experience to fellow Canadians and help build the Canadian delegation in Poland." To enter this amazing contest, contestants must produce a video, one minute or less, that demonstrates: Canadian Farmers Managing for Success! Farm Management Canada must receive the completed application form and video submission no later than May 24th, 2013. The names of the winners will be announced in June 2013. The selected winners will win an all-expenses paid trip to attend the International Farm Management Congress in Poland this summer. While in Poland, winners will report from the Congress by being active on Twitter. Upon return, the winner is required to write two articles to share insights on their experience and entice participation for IFMA 2015 in Canada. Winners may also be called upon to speak at FMC and industry events. FMC and generous sponsors have partnered to be able to run this competition and provide Canadian farmers with this unique opportunity. FMC wishes to thank our first confirmed sponsor, FBC for their generous involvement in the contest and encourage many more to come on board. For more information regarding how to apply and full contest rules, please visit www.fmc-gac.com. About the International Farm Management Congress The International Farm Management Congress takes place every second year in locations all over the world. The 2013 Congress is in Poland at Warsaw's University of Life Sciences (www.ifma19.org). Farmers, advisors, academia, policy makers, researchers, and anyone with a keen interest in farm business management gather to share best practices on the world stage.
With public pressure on the Dutch agricultural sector to address issues related to environmental sustainability and animal welfare, industry stakeholders came together to design a new broiler production concept called Windstreek. The concept not only addresses public concerns, but also improves economics at the farm level.
According to Statistics Canada (StatsCan), over the last several decades, the per capita consumption of animal protein in Canada has changed dramatically. Figure 1 shows the consumption of three different meats from 1980 to 2014.
September 14, 2016 - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has announced an investment of $690,000 to Éleveurs de volailles du Québec (ÉVQ) to help the Quebec poultry industry reduce the preventive use of antibiotics. Under this project, the Poultry Research Chair at the University of Montreal's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine will assess various alternative strategies and their effects on flock performance. The latest research into anti-microbial resistance (AMR) builds on a previous project, also funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and will seek solutions that can be applied across the entire poultry industry. This contribution has been made through the AgriInnovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a five-year, $698 million initiative. AAFC supports the development and adoption of industry-led initiatives regarding biosecurity and animal care to support the prudent use of antimicrobials. Pierre-Luc Leblanc, President, Les Éleveurs de volailles du Québec said in a release “the Quebec poultry industry is committed to developing cutting-edge farming methods while maintaining strict, rigorous animal welfare standards. Flock health and the quality of consumer products are top priorities. Working with the Poultry Research Chair, we are taking the necessary steps to preserve and enhance these priority areas by building on research and development."
In the poultry industry we discuss cost/profit/loss in terms of hundredths of pennies.  Those same pennies in a year equate to millions of dollars.   Properly evaluating any input — such as breed choice, equipment or feed additives -- at the broiler level can only be done with a properly designed commercial broiler trial within your complex. Basing decisions on data collected from another complex or research is only a part of the story.  In many cases it’s the beginning of the story, but can lead you down the wrong path for too long if not tested within your complex using your own system. It might be tempting to follow the path of another complex, but more often than not there are nuances within your complex that will impact the end result.  Most of the time you only have part of the other complex’s success story.  You don’t have the same inputs or outputs. A difference in live operations (inputs) and product mix (outputs) can greatly influence the profit/loss that might be generated by following the same path within your own complex.  You need to write your own story to make the best decisions for your complex.  That story is best told through a commercial trial. The value attached to the decisions made based on the commercial trial results warrant a properly designed, communicated and executed trial.   A properly designed trial takes as many variables out of the equation as possible, except those you are comparing.  For instance if you are testing different breeds, you want to have a farm with: Identical houses in equipment and design Two houses per treatment Same breeder flock ages Same hatchery and set date Same light, ventilation, feed and water programs If there is a variable that could have influenced your data there will always be questions and concerns regarding the validity of the trial.  The reason for at least two houses per treatment is that it allows you to choose one house from each treatment that closely mimics the other treatment in regards to mortality, morbidity and growing conditions.  This takes out more of the variables that may have occurred during the growing cycle.  Some of those variables that have been witnessed during the growing cycle are: running out of feed in one or more houses; environmental conditions; and chick quality It is also recommended to repeat the trial or multiple trials for the same reason, but this is not always practical.  Multiple trials help make the end picture clearer. A properly communicated trial involves including many departments within your complex in a planning discussion weeks in advance.  Having every department on board before the birds are set in the machines will result in the best outcome.  Departments that need to be involved include: breeder department; hatchery; feed mill and delivery; broiler department; live haul; processing plant; and government institutions. Communication about the trial will help minimize one of the biggest variables to a trial -- human error.  Assign a trial point person or persons to follow the trial through the process.  All departments need to take ownership and understand the importance of the trial results. A properly executed trial generates the quality data needed to make the right decision.  Typically the data needed is from live as well as plant performance.  To obtain accurate live data you should select a random sample of birds from one house for each treatment, as discussed previously, the day before processing.   The weight samples should be kept separate by sex, and collected from three areas of the house: Back, Middle and Front.  Either record individual weights, or use scales with the capability to calculate the standard deviation.  Once you have your mean (average) and standard deviation for body weight (by sex), you can fill in the boxes that define the weight category cut-offs on either side of the mean (middle) weight (See image page 22).  You will need to find the appropriate number of males and females for each weight range seen in the histogram below.  In the end, you will have four males and four females that are between 1 and 2 standard deviations below the average weight, eight males and eight females that are between the average weight and 1 standard deviation below the average, etc.. These birds should be tagged and followed the following day to the plant.  At the plant the birds should be reweighed and this individual plant weight will be your live weight.  The birds should then be sent through your processing plant.  This allows for you to see what the treatments will achieve in your operation.  Typically, the carcasses would be removed from the line just before the chiller to take the variable of water uptake out of the equation. The next step is to have a person that is well trained to debone the carcass and to collect the individual parts with the correct bird tag.  Another person will need to record the weight for each individual deboned or whole part for each tag/band number.  The data generated by your complex can then be analyzed. Once you have the results from the well-executed trial, you can start working on the economics to help in your decision.  The economic model should help you answer questions on how the inputs you are testing influenced your bottom line.  These are some of the factors your economic model needs to consider: Will the change result in more/less housing needs? How did the change influence live performance? (FCR, mortality, growth rates How did the change influence processing performance? (Meat quality, yield, condemdation) Will the change result in updating your system? (Hatchery, feed mill, processing plant) Take into account all the departments involved in the trial itself.  Sometimes decisions may result in a positive for one department and a negative for another department.  If you answer how each of those departments will be affected, your goal will have been met - the scenario that results in the most hundredths of pennies for your complex. A link is provided below on how Cobb recommends performing a commercial yield trial: http://www.cobb-vantress.com/academy/videos/video/cobb-commercial-yield-testing-2012
March 8, 2016 - When you go to a restaurant for an expensive dinner, you expect that you’re going to get exactly what you ordered. But what if the restaurant or its supplier substituted your sword fish for a cheaper product like tilapia and didn’t tell you? The products might be similar in taste and appearance, leaving you misled about what you really paid for. The same problem can exist in poultry. Consumers and importers expecting to purchase fresh chicken raised by Canadian farmers could potentially be deceived into buying meat from older laying hens (called spent fowl) that are a by-product of egg production. While birds called broiler chickens are raised for meat consumption and are the product most frequently found in meat counters, spent hens will also be processed once their egg laying productivity declines. Their meat, which can be tougher and stronger tasting, is used for processed products like soups, patties, nuggets, or deli meats. More seriously, though, meat from spent fowl could pose a risk to someone with a severe allergy to eggs if it was improperly labelled. Broiler meat entering Canada is subject to import controls and tariffs, but those limits don’t exist for spent fowl, resulting in a high potential for deception. And until recently, there hasn’t been a DNA test that could differentiate between the two. It’s a problem believed to reduce the Canadian chicken industry’s contribution to the Canadian economy by an estimated $500 million annually in lost sales, jobs, and GDP contributions. Now there’s a potential solution thanks to a Canadian DNA-based analytical company called Sterisense. Geoff Lumby is the owner and president of Sterisense. Sterisense had already been working on DNA testing of products for grocery stores and restaurants when, in 2012, after meeting with Canadian meat processors, Lumby was asked if he thought a spent fowl test was possible. He embarked on a successful partnership with researchers at the Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensics Centre (NRDPFC) at Trent University to do just that. And while the project is still being tested, the results are encouraging. Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) and Canadian meat processors have been urging for years that the problem of mislabelled poultry meat should be addressed and are optimistic that this test could be the solution. Lumby, Trent scientists, CFC and other industry representatives have met with federal government representatives to demonstrate their findings and are now working toward a deeper validation of the testing. That will include working with legitimate American companies on blind samplings to ensure that the test accurately and reliably distinguishes between the two types of meat. Yves Ruel is CFC’s Manager of Trade and Policy and says that the next challenge will be to determine how the testing is implemented. “It’s a technology that both the industry and consumers are really interested in,” adds Lumby. “The tests will remove all risks of buying fraudulent product and give consumers added reassurance that what they’re paying for is what they’re getting.”
Water management is one of the most crucial components in a top-performing broiler flock.  Broilers have advanced to grow faster, become larger with more breast meat, eat more feed at younger ages and be far more efficient than their predecessors, increasing their demand for water.  The modern broiler house is also equipped with cooling equipment that utilizes large amounts of water during hot weather.  All this has put more emphasis on the need for ample water supply and storage so birds can perform successfully.  Chance Bryant focuses on water flow rates and water temperature – factors that sometimes get overlooked.   How much water does a broiler need?  How much will a bird drink every day?  These questions are often asked by producers and are very appropriate in achieving high performance, as water consumption and feed consumption are highly correlated (Table 1).  In high performing flocks, at around 21 C, modern broilers on average will consume 1.8 to two times more water than feed, in weight.  Consumption is dependent on house temperature.  In hot climates, flocks can consume up to five times in weight the amount of feed they intake. Water consumption will vary depending on environmental temperature, feed quality and bird health.   Water consumption increases by six per cent for every increase in 1 C between 20-32 C. Water consumption increases by five per cent for every increase in 1 C between 32-38 C. Feed consumption decreases by 1.23 per cent for every increase in 1 C above 20 C Any substantial change in water usage should be investigated as this may indicate a water leak, health challenge or feed issue.  A drop in water consumption is often the first indicator of a flock problem. To evaluate flock performance properly we need to know how much water birds are consuming every day.  More advanced water meters record not only ‘daily’ consumption attainable, but enable an understanding of consumption at critical times of the day and critical times during the flock – both very relevant in assuring proper water intake.   These critical times can include feed changes, turning birds out from the brood area to three quarters or full house, transitioning from power ventilation to tunnel, field vaccinations, etc.  If you monitor consumption during these periods, you can better understand if flocks are being properly managed. WATER VOLUME AND ADEQUATE FLOWMany of today’s high performance broilers are being raised in housing built for the broiler of the past.  Unfortunately these houses are undersized, with inadequate plumbing and pipe sizing that struggles to keep up with the needs of modern high-performing and fast growth rate broilers. Worsening this situation can be the demand of cool cell systems, which often require twice as much water as the birds drink. With an inadequate plumbing system or pipe sizing water may be diverted from drinkers to the cooling system which will restrict water supply to the birds and so lower feed consumption.  Many broiler farms have multiple houses with large numbers of birds in each house.  Often, the lights come on at the same time in every house and without adequate water volume and flow rates some houses can experience a shortage of water during these high peak periods. All of these factors can decrease weight, increase FCR, create uniformity issues and place undue stress on birds, which can lead to an unhealthy flock. There are many options used to ensure water volume/flow will meet bird needs at high peak demand times.  Digital water meters connected to the house controller can monitor water consumption not only on a 24-hour basis but also in allotted time increments during the day. This information can help determine if our water system is keeping up at critical ‘high demand’ times, as when the lights come on after a dark period.  Knowing this can be very helpful in tracking down performance issues on a farm, especially one with big, multi-houses. WATER TEMPERATUREAs well as water quality and availability, the temperature of the water that birds are drinking needs to be considered.  During the first few days of brooding, consumption rates are low and the water flow through the system is minimal.  In a modern broiler house with very efficient heating systems the water temperature can easily exceed 35 C. This water temperature is not as palatable to chicks and can lead to low intake and poor performance.  Excessively warm water can also contribute to increased bacterial growth within the drinker system which can lead to higher bacterial infection within the flock. The ideal water temperature should be around 10-14 C coming from the source. Water consumed by the birds should never be allowed to increase above 30 C.  If this occurs the drinking system should be flushed periodically to maintain cooler, fresher water. SUMMARYWater is one of the crucial aspects of broiler flock management.  Understanding and managing water in broilers — providing them with fresh, clean, ample water when they need it — will help to achieve success flock after flock.   Chance Bryant ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), is technical manager - North America west region for Cobb-Vantress.
Do turkeys respond the same way as broilers to transportation? That’s the question professional engineer Trever Crowe has been investigating at the University of Saskatchewan (UofS). “Animal welfare is the greatest impetus for our work,” Crowe told the audience at the Poultry Industry Council 2016 Research Day in Guelph, Ont., with his work focusing on the transportation of turkeys to market. The turkey industry is facing increased demands from regulatory agencies and consumers but current broiler data may not be directly applicable to turkeys.” Travelling TurkeysCrowe’s objective was to investigate the response of turkey hen and tom physiology, behaviour and meat quality to different temperatures and humidity levels during simulated transport.Crowe, the associate dean in the College of Graduate Studies and Research at the UofS and a faculty member in the department of mechanical engineering, was the principal investigator, along with his research assistant, Catherine Vermette, graduate student Zoe Henrikson, and a platoon of other casual workers helping to collect the data. Environmental simulationResearchers mimicked a typical farm-rearing environment at a barn on campus with 120 12-week old turkey hens and 120 16-week old turkey toms, growing them for a week with ad lib feed and water under 16 hours of light. After reaching market age the birds were crated and exposed to simulated transportation conditions where they were randomly assigned to one of five treatments: two warm treatments at 28 C with 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, two moderate treatments at 20 C with 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, and one cold treatment at -18 C, all at a stocking density of approximately 83 kg/m2. Crated birds were placed inside a pre-conditioned environmental chamber for eight hours under these experimental conditions before being processed at a mini slaughter plant set up at the university’s College of Engineering. Experimental measures included live shrink; core body temperature; behavioural observations during exposure such as sitting, standing, huddling, shivering, panting, pecking, ptiloerection and preening; blood glucose levels before and after exposure; heterophil/lymphocyte ratio and the meat quality – the pH and colour of the breast and thigh. HypothesisIn terms of meat quality, Crowe hypothesized that warm exposure would result in pale, soft, exudative (PSE) meat, demonstrating a decline in pH and subsequent water holding capacity that results in tougher, paler meat. He also expected that cold exposure would result in dark, firm, dry (DFD) meat, due to an increase in muscle pH. There was the potential that meat exposed to cold would provide a larger yield, reduced drip and cook loss, with improved texture and taste scores.ResultsThe results indicate that toms tolerate the cold better than hens but hens did better in the warmer conditions. For cold transport at -18 C, hen live shrink was greater, core body temperature tended to be lower, thermo-regulatory behaviours such as huddling, shivering, ptiloerection increased, both breast and thigh pH tended to increase and became darker when compared to both treatments at 20 C. Under the same cold conditions the blood glucose of toms had a tendency to decrease, thermo-regulatory behaviours increased and thigh pH increased. Comparing warm transport conditions, the opposite was true. Crowe found overall, that hens were less susceptible to the effects of warm transport than toms. Comparing both 28 C treatments to 20 C treatments at 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, hen live shrink was greater and thermo-regulatory behaviours such as panting increased at 28 C. For toms live shrink increased, core body temperature increased, thermo-regulatory behaviours increased and breast pH increased under 28 C treatment compared to 20 C. Research conditionsCrowe suggested that the exposure conditions were not extreme enough to cause consistent and widespread physiological changes but that changes in core body temperature indicate birds were possibly beginning to reach the limit of their thermal coping abilities. Crowe pointed out that the research was conducted under ideal conditions, with all birds healthy and dry. Turkey physiology and behaviour were affected to a greater degree than meat quality measures; meat quality was not compromised and defects did not occur in cold or warm transported hens or toms.Crowe suggested that the large size of turkeys relative to broilers and size differences between hens and toms likely account for some of the variation in results and make it difficult to extrapolate work done with broilers to turkeys. As he says, turkeys are not just big chickens. Funding PartnersThis work with turkeys was one of the Growing Forward II projects sponsored by Turkey Farmers of Canada and Agriculture Canada.  Crowe is now looking ahead to do similar work with end-of-cycle hens in a collaborative project with Karen Schwean-Lardner and he has also explored the possibility of similar work with broilers.  There are no immediate plans to extend this work on turkeys, although there are other turkey-related projects ongoing at the UofS.
  While chefs and dieticians encourage the consumption of turkey and turkey products with nutritional information and delicious recipes, geneticists work away at the other end of the production chain, trying to create a better bird for a global market. The consumer may never have to worry about how to stuff a 60-pound turkey in their oven for Thanksgiving, but at our current rate of progress, it’s not out of line to suggest that the farmer can expect to turn out a 20-week tom of that size for further processing markets, while still needing to produce a smaller table bird with different and possibly unique characteristics. It’s a challenging task. Paige Rohlf is the research and development manager for Aviagen Turkeys Inc., where she manages the breeding program, selects pedigree lines, and implements new technology and selection techniques. As she explained to the audience at the 2015 PIC Innovations Conference, it takes up to four years for anything at the pedigree level to filter back into the farm level commercial bird and have an effect on the industry. “It still takes time,” Rohlf said. “It’s very important that we have feedback.” At the pedigree level, everyone is your customer. What’s working? What’s not working? Where is the industry going? What are the domestic and global trends? What does our Canadian bird look like now? AAFC monitors domestic turkey meat production by bird size: over 40 per cent of domestic Canadian turkey meat production is comprised of heavy birds – those weighing more than 11 kilograms – and mature turkeys. Turkey breasts coming from these large birds are used for deli products or turkey breast roasts, while the dark meat or meat from mature birds will end up as turkey kielbasa or pepperoni, turkey bacon, or turkey burgers and franks. The remaining birds that hit the market are less than 11 kilograms, with 75 per cent sold at retail as whole birds and the rest sold as parts. Our seasonal market parallels that of the U.S. with nearly 80 per cent of whole birds ending up on our Christmas or Thanksgiving tables. Globally, Aviagen is keeping its eye on current increased production in North Africa and Russia, and potential for increasing markets with importing countries such as Mexico, the EU, China, South Africa and Russia. In terms of consumption, Asia presents a real opportunity: South Central and Eastern Asia will be dependent on importing meat because the population is growing faster than production can support. In Taiwan, turkey is a working man’s meal, as it is more affordable for restaurants to purchase whole turkeys and boil them down to serve over rice than it is to purchase broilers. But it’s not just volume that must be contemplated when trying to define a “better bird.” The industry is also faced with factors such as increasing competition for land, water and resources, as well as an evolving consumer, making genetic decisions more challenging. In the EU, the industry has started labeling the carbon footprint on food. Rohlf predicts this trend will come our way. It’s hard to calculate but it makes people feel good to buy a product with claims of a lower carbon footprint. Add to this consumer concerns about fertilizer and pesticide use, housing and management systems, raising birds organically or with restricted antibiotics, and layered on top of changes from a whole bird market for making bigger birds and more eggs to a resource management perspective, all while keeping turkey competitive with broilers and pork. On the production side, think about where we raise the birds. It’s different all around the world, but over the past 70 years, there has been a global trend to raise them indoors, which Rohlf points to as a big step in the right direction in terms of survival. The bird we see is the result of genetics expressed in that environment. There are a lot more inputs we can now measure every day: their weight, feed conversion and health. We can control their environment, their feed, their water and their lighting, but how much can we control their genetics? What we can control by genetic selection is determined by the heritability of the trait – a highly heritable trait allows faster progress. For example, growth rate is highly heritable: a heavy tom mated with a heavy hen will have heavy offspring; the environment doesn’t matter as much. But it’s not all just as simple as weighing a bird. Feed efficiency is less heritable; reproduction traits, fitness or survival, and livability are much more influenced by the environment, therefore it is harder to make improvements in these traits and we have to rely on technology to collect information to make selection decisions. When it comes to nutrition, Rohlf then raises the question, how do we feed the birds to realize their full genetic potential? “This is where the challenges are.” While large companies have their own in-house nutritionists and feed companies generally know how to feed turkeys, there are no recent published standards (the last was in 1994). Since then, U.S. heavy toms have gotten 10 pounds heavier. Are we breeding for growth rate or breast meat yield? As the saying goes, the last bit of feed is the most efficient: the birds need to gain weight for maintenance, then they put on additional weight, then the feed goes to the breast. How do the birds use different feeds for maintenance? For growth? For breast meat production? Some in-house research is indicating protein levels can be reduced as long as amino acids are balanced, while alternative feedstuffs and fillers offer different amino acid spectrums over the traditional corn and soybean diet. More research is needed to determine how the birds utilize amino acids, or use new feeds such as dried distiller’s grains, or how probiotics will affect genetic potential.   Rohlf is excited about a new genetic opportunity with satellite cells. These myoblasts – baby muscle cells – are determined before a bird hatches but defined after the bird is hatched. Can we make more breast meat by promoting feed intake in the first few days after hatch to stimulate these satellite cells? Genetic programs have so far focused on efficiency, growth and fitness. For this year, Rohlf expects an improvement of 0.34 per cent in breast meat yield as per cent of live weight in toms at 20 weeks of age, continuing a steady pace of improvement. She also predicts four points of improvement in feed conversion for toms at 45 pounds (20.4 kg), from 2.45 to 2.41 pounds of feed per pound of gain. In weight, toms at 20 weeks of age will be 0.70 pounds (320 g) heavier this year. Aviagen Turkeys’ breeding goal also includes several measures of fitness, including walking ability and livability. These traits receive similar emphasis in selection as the growth and efficiency traits.      
March 10, 2016 - Chick Master is introducing a new tracking tool to monitor eggshell temperature in real time. The new tool, called Tempo, is now available with Chick Master’s Maestro Hatchery Management System on all Avida Symphony setters. The information provided by Tempo can aid hatcheries to improve chick quality. The current needs of the industry demand better tools to obtain maximum hatch results. Chick Master’s proven Maestro System is an intelligent management system that ensures communication, data monitoring and control of incubation and ventilation equipment to maximize hatchery performance. Robert Holzer, president of Chick Master said, “One of the key factors influencing high quality chick development is proper embryo temperature during the incubation period. Tempo now adds a new dimension by providing the user the ability to monitor egg shell temperature in each zone in the most uniform single stage setter today.” Tempo provides precise eggshell temperature data via a Resistance Temperature Detector (RTD) which is used in healthcare services and medical research where precise accuracy is required. The temperature readings are not affected by the radiating heat that surrounds the targeted egg providing more precise temperature information allowing the user to better evaluate and monitor optimal embryo development. Information provided by Tempo can be viewed as a graph on the Maestro Hatchery Management System or as a real time value on the machine’s touch screen. This feature will enable the user to modify the step program for factors including breeder flock age, egg size, fertility and season of the year to ensure proper temperature during the entire incubation process.
 UGA poultry science developed the Chkminvent app, a poultry house moisture removal and ventilation calculator intended to provide users with an estimated minimum ventilation rate required to remove the specified daily amount of moisture from a poultry house. Photo by Mike Czarick University of Georgia poultry housing experts have released the state’s first app to help poultry farmers determine how much they should ventilate their houses during cold weather. With thousands of birds living in a single house, keeping the air warm and fresh without spending a fortune on fuel during the winter can be one of the toughest challenges for broiler producers. The new app – called CHKMINVENT – is meant to simplify this process, said Mike Czarick, a poultry housing engineer at UGA’s Department of Poultry Science. “In the summertime, ventilation is fairly straightforward,” he said. “The more air they can move through the house, the better off their birds will be. In the winter, there is so much more at stake. Ventilate too much and you will have excessive energy costs and stressed birds. Ventilate too little you will have poor air quality and wet litter, which can lead to poor performance and health.” The app, available through Apple’s App Store, allows farmers to enter variables, such as the outside temperature, the amount of water the chickens consume, the temperature inside the house and the size of the poultry house’s fans. It then calculates how long farmers need to run their fans in order to remove excess moisture from the house and keep the chickens at a comfortable temperature. “The app gives people a starting point as to how much fresh air they need to bring in to control house air quality and litter moisture,” Czarick said. “It’s not intended to provide a precise minimum ventilation rate. It’s going to take adjusting, but this at least gives a scientifically based place to start.” For more information about the CHKMINVENT app, search for it on Apple’s App Store. For now, the app is only available for iPhone, but the team may develop versions for other operating systems based on demand for this initial version.   Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.          
  Incubation temperatures for egg embryos may need to be adjusted depending on the age of the broiler breeder flock and the strain of bird.  A study completed by Prof. Doug Korver at the University of Alberta shows that embryos from older flocks produce more of their own heat and if they overheat, embryonic metabolism actually slows down, which can affect early chick quality. “The metabolism of broiler chickens has changed substantially as they’ve been selected for growth rate and breast meat yield, but incubation time has not,” explains Korver. “Modern embryos tend to produce more heat, and as breeder birds get older, they lay bigger eggs with the potential to produce more heat.” Korver’s small but intensive study involved two modern commercial strains of broilers, Ross 308 and Ross 708. Embryos from young breeder birds (26-34 weeks old), mid-production breeders (35-45 weeks old), and older breeder flocks (age 46-55 weeks) were incubated at four different temperature settings: 36C, 36.5C, 37C and 37.5C. “Because the smaller embryos from younger breeder flocks produce less heat, they may need additional warmth in the incubator, whereas embryos from older flocks may need to be pulled from the hatcher sooner,” explains Korver. The optimum incubator temperature was found to be 37C; at higher temperatures, the Ross 708 embryos reduced their metabolism to try to avoid overheating, although this wasn’t the case with the Ross 308 strain. “Chick quality measures like weight and residual yolk sack weight were optimized at 37C,” he says. “In general, we tend to see lower growth rates and poorer performance with higher residual yolk sack weights.” The study results show that as genetic selection continues, it may become more necessary to target hatcher management based on the age of the breeder birds. Currently, however, most of the industry uses multi-stage hatchers with embryos from different ages of breeder birds and from different bird strains all going through together, which can make it challenging to tailor incubation conditions for a specific group of eggs. “As the industry moves to single stage hatchers, it will become more feasible to target incubation to different batches of eggs,” says Korver.      
November 13, 2014 -  Chore-Time Group, a  division of CTB, Inc. recently announced its plans to expand its manufacturing operations at its headquarters in Milford, Indiana.          Chore-Time will invest $7.11 million to construct and equip a 45,000-square-foot (4,180-square-meter) addition to its existing 350,000-square-foot (32,500-square-meter) facility in Milford.  The addition, which is expected to be operational by the middle of next year, will allow Chore-Time to increase its manufacturing operations and add storage to support growth in global demand for Chore-Time’s poultry, egg and pig production systems.The last expansion to Chore-Time’s Milford operation was in 1994, though CTB has had other expansion projects in Milford in recent years, including an expansion to CTB’s Brock Grain Systems division plant in 2007 and the purchase of a manufacturing and office facility for CTB’s PigTek Americas division in 2012.  Chore-Time also has facilities in Alabama, the Netherlands and Poland.
Supplementing poultry rations with trace minerals like copper, zinc and manganese can help improve flock health and profitability.
In November 2016, poultry producers from around the world gathered to hear Erik Helmink, marketing director at HatchTech, share his expertise on antibiotic-free poultry production at EuroTier, the world’s largest livestock production trade fair.
Uniformity of body weight within a breeder flock remains a key challenge faced by the hatching egg industry. Broiler breeders are genetically selected for increased growth rates, which is associated with an increased appetite. Reproduction in broiler breeders is impeded unless their growth is constrained, which has resulted in the implementation of feed restriction strategies that may not allow for co-ordination of nutrient requirement and nutrient supply in non-uniform flocks.
February 24, 2017, Lethbridge, Alta – When it comes to successful brooding, it is not one size fits all. The Lethbridge Quality Brooding Workshop will explore what works and what doesn’t when it comes to maximizing flock growth, health, and welfare. This practical workshop takes place near Lethbridge on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. The workshop will be led by instructors who understand the importance of links between bird health, biology, and barn results. They will discuss ideal barn preparation, the key components of brooding management, identifying sick birds, the flock health and economic impact of a decision to cull specific birds, and more! Participants will go into the barn to discuss barn preparation and tools to measure environmental conditions; hear first-hand accounts of what works and doesn’t work in the field; and learn to assess external chick quality and how this relates to internal conditions of chicks.  The program will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at a farm located just east of Lethbridge. Registration is $60 per person and includes lunch. Additional registrants from the same farm will be charged $50 each. Please contact the Alberta Chicken Producers office at 780-488-2125 to register. There are a limited number of spots available, so register early to avoid disappointment. If you would be interested in participating in a future Edmonton-area Quality Brooding Workshop, please contact the office. Interested parties will be placed on a contact list. If there is early interest, officials will plan for this workshop to take place shortly after the Lethbridge workshop.
As the broiler breeder industry has evolved, there has been considerable change in equipment. A large percentage of production houses have moved from manual egg collection to mechanical systems based on a community nest or an individual, single-hole system.When mechanical nests were first introduced, many people began referring to them as ‘automatic’ nests.  While the term technically applies to mechanical nests, they still require a lot of human involvement to operate efficiently.Key to achieving outstanding performance with mechanical nests is the proper training and rearing of the females. This should start in the pullet barn, by placing slat sections, or perches, to help get the birds used to going up on to the slats.  The training should continue in the laying barn by routinely walking the birds to encourage them to move on to the slats and towards the nests.  The females should also be in the right condition at lighting and carrying the proper amount of fleshing and fat reserve, to help them come into production with the correct nesting behavior.Most mechanical nests are placed on slat sections, which play an important role in how the nests perform.  Make sure slat areas are not too tall; 20-25 cm (8-10 inches) is a good height.  Anything taller will discourage birds from jumping up from the scratch area, and a step or ramp would be useful in helping the birds move up on to the slat.The nests should be down and open for the females to enter one week before the expected first egg.  This will be approximately one week after light stimulation, which gives the pullets an opportunity to explore the nests and become comfortable using them.  Close the nests at night to help keep the nest pads clean, which will also prevent the eggs from becoming contaminated. This becomes even more important as we move into an era of antibiotic-free broiler production.    Three areas of nest maintenance that have a huge impact are the nest pad, the curtain and the nest belt itself.  Nest pads must be clean, because if dirty, a bird may be less likely to use that nest box.  Secondly, if it is used, the egg laid on that pad will most likely be contaminated.  As well, nest pads installed at the wrong angle will cause issues.  If the angle of the nest pad is not great enough, the eggs will not roll out of the nest box properly.  If the angle is too much, it will discourage hens from using that nest box.On center belt nests, if the curtain that separates the nest box and the egg belt is missing or curled up where the hen can see the egg belt moving, hens are discouraged from utilizing the nest box.  If multiple nests are affected, you will soon see many of the hens laying their eggs outside the nest.Egg belts should always be kept clean and in good repair.  A belt that is not clean will often have an odour that the hens do not like and will keep them from using the nests. If the edges of the belts become frayed, the edges can rub the hen while the belt is running and cause her to leave the nest.Producers should have a consistent program for running egg belts.  It is best not to run the belts until you see 10 to 15 eggs.  When starting the belt, run it slowly late in the afternoon.  A rapidly moving belt creates excessive vibration, which scares the birds out of their nests. By slowing down the speed of the egg belt, you are less likely to scare the birds out of the nests. Once the daily production reaches 5 per cent, run the belts at noon and again later in the day, around 5 p.m.  When production reaches 20 per cent, go to more frequent gatherings.  A good rule of thumb is to gather eggs at 8 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.  This will help acclimatize the birds to the sound and vibration of the belt.  Multiple, consistent gatherings can prevent eggs from building up on the belt and also allow for an accurate daily count of egg production. It is very important to accurately calculate and plan the nest space required.  With a community style nest, a good rule is no more than 48 birds per meter of nest space.  With a single-hole nest, allow for a maximum of 5 hens per hole, which will give the hens enough space to lay their eggs in the nest.Other considerations1.    Correct equipment layout: With a community nest system: have a mix of feed lines in the scratch area and on the slats Water lines approximately 60 cm (24 inches) from the nest entrance, and adequate spacing between water and feed lines to allow the birds to comfortably use them With individual nest systems,  have an adequate landing area from the front edge of the slat to the nest of 35-40 cm (14 -16 inches).   The distance from the back of the nest to the feeder and the feed to the drinker line should be at least 45-60 cm (18-24 inches), and the height from the slat to the bottom of the feeder should be 20-22 cm (8-9 inches) 2.    Ventilation: High temperatures on the slats can stop the hens going into the nest Improper inlet pressure can cause air to enter the nest at a rate that causes a draft, forcing the hen out of the nest 3.    Light intensity and distribution: A minimum of 60 lux (6 FC) at bird level is desired, but an approximate six-fold increase in intensity from the brightest spot in rearing to the darkest spot in laying is needed No more than a 20 per cent difference in intensity across the barn Close attention to these details will help achieve a high-performing flock producing clean, high quality eggs.
Steve Lalonde, a chicken producer in Ormstown, Que., has been working in the chicken barn since he was 10 years old. He officially bought the farm from his dad in 1984, becoming the third generation to own the farm. The 80-acre farm is supplemented by an additional 140 acres he rents from a neighbour, which helps him and his wife, Loraine, produce several tons of organic popcorn each year. However, the heart of the farm is the 28,000 chickens that are raised on an eight-week rotational basis. “What I like about the chicken industry is how efficient the birds are and that chicken is one of the most popular meats on the market now,” says Lalonde. Over the last almost 40 years, Lalonde has seen lots of change on his farm, some by choice, and some less so. In June 2004, the Lalonde’s farm suffered a barn fire where they lost 13,000 two-week old birds, and rather than try to repair, they decided to rebuild the barn. “At the same time, we evaluated the whole chicken operation,” says Lalonde. Before the fire, they had two barns for chickens, but opted to close the second one because it didn’t meet the required standards and would have taken a significant amount of renovations to be up to par. Lalonde also saw this as an opportunity to have all the birds in one barn. They opted for a three-storey barn simply because the math didn’t add up. “There was not enough room in the yard for us to build a two-storey barn long enough for the number of birds we were going to keep,” says Lalonde. With the new barn, their bird count went up from 22,000 to 28,000. In the reconstruction, Lalonde also put in radiant floor heat on the first storey. “We felt that it would be easier for us in the future as we were in our 40s. If we were going to keep up with chicken production, we would be getting older and the clean out wouldn’t be as easy for us in 10 years or so,” says Lalonde. The radiant floor heat means the cement doesn’t sweat, it’s easier to clean out the barns, and Lalonde says the birds seem to enjoy it as well. “One thing we would have done differently is to add some conventional heat as the heated floor relies on the heat evaporating. While the floor is comfortable it is slow to heat the air on the first floor,” says Lalonde, “it also takes less bedding on the first floor as it acts as an insulator and keeps the heat from rising.” However, one of the biggest challenges in a three-storey barn was finding the right balconies for the catchers to stand on. “The first set were our own design and worked well but they soon became obsolete when the trailers used to transport the chickens changed,” says Lalonde. A custom re-design by an outside contractor solved that problem. Finding a way to easily access the middle door on the second storey was another challenge the contractor helped solve. The new barn is 40’x190’, plus a 10’ alley at the end. Each floor has five 18” fans, six 24” fans and four 36” fans. “I think would have added a couple more 36” fans but the ventilation is still adequate for the population of the barn,” says Lalonde. Since the new barn has been built, and even before, Lalonde has always done his best to monitor trends in the market, including antibiotic free birds. “We are very interested in producing antibiotic free birds but we need more information on this front,” says Lalonde. He says he is seeing conflicting reports about the economics. He is also concerned that if a treatment is required, the premium is lost and the added cost will come out of pocket. “With the quality of birds we have been getting lately, we have to treat at least two batches a year with antibiotics and I feel the financial risk is too high at the moment. As a small farm, I cannot afford to subsidize the abattoir,” says Lalonde. He explains that while he’s willing to take the risk, there is no clear gain or benefit and it will most likely end up costing him, rather than advancing, his business. While the market for antibiotics isn’t currently where it needs to be to benefit the small farm, Lalonde isn’t opposed to the notion in the future. Until then, his chicken farm is complemented by the popcorn business, and it works quite well. “We are able to use our own straw for the bedding (in the chicken barn), and the manure that the barn supplies is an excellent fertilizer for our fields,” says Lalonde. Lalonde started growing popcorn just over 10 years ago because it was his and his wife’s “snack of choice.” Since then, they have grown to now be selling seven to eight tons a year, with an ever-expanding market. He says having the popcorn business offers “added diversity of the farm operation.” They have added a grain cleaning facility to package their popcorn and to be able to clean their own grains for seeds. “This is a practice that works well on our organic farm. We like to be as self-sufficient as possible and this is just one way we do so,” says Lalonde. As their popcorn business grows, they plan to maintain the chicken farm until the moratorium on quota sales ends. While Lalonde enjoys the industry, he’s been involved in it for more than 36 years, and there may soon be the chance for someone else to take the reins.      
May 15, 2017, Alpharetta, GA - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recently approved the distribution of Selisseo®, the first pure source of organic selenium capable of meeting nutritional requirements in the Canadian market.The purity of the proprietary organoselenium-based product, which has been tested in numerous trials, has been shown to consistently deliver more selenium while increasing the availability of selenocysteine (SeCys), thus providing animals with high antioxidant capabilities.Selenium is an essential nutrient and powerful antioxidant that plays a critical role in metabolism, reproductive health and immunity by fighting oxidative stress.Organic selenium is more easily integrated into body metabolism than other currently available selenium sources such as inorganic selenium salts and selenium-enriched yeasts.For more information, visit: http://www.adisseo.com
When Canadian Poultry introduces new technologies for the farm, we often leave readers wondering “where are they now?” months or years later. Well, wonder no more. We’ve tracked several seemingly groundbreaking innovations and now we’re bringing you updates on how those innovations have panned out since we first presented them in our pages.
In January, new broiler producer Brent Pryce welcomed more than 20,000 birds (14,000 quota) into his brand new barn in Walton, Ont.“I grew up on a farm, with my grandfather starting with dairy and then cash crops and some pork and beef, and always wanted to get into farming,” Pryce says. “I worked towards this through starting up a few different businesses like road dust control, a rental business, vehicle undercoating, and then decided last summer to take the plunge to buy quota and build a barn.”Construction started in September 2016 and finished in December 2016.“Our sons, Russell and Clinton, are the reason Catherine and I did it, so that they can have a future in farming if they want it,” Pryce adds. “We’re starting with the goal of producing 2.2 kilogram birds, with four kilograms as the ultimate goal.”Pryce chose a cross-ventilation barn design with a heating system that’s brand new to North America – one he’s seen working well in other barns he’s visited. Pryce also believes it will help save on heating bills and electricity, which is quite costly in Ontario, and provide excellent humidity control.Weeden Environments was a main contractor for the project. Nathan Conley, the firm’s manager for Ontario and the northern United States, says the cross-ventilation design offers a lower building cost than longer and narrower tunnel barns. “Many of Brent’s neighbours and friends are very happy with their cross-ventilated buildings,” he says. “We recommended that two sides have modular side wall air inlets for consistent control over incoming air during minimum ventilation. The air from both sides travels up and along the ceiling [the warmest part of the barn] and therefore it’s conditioned before it reaches the birds and the litter. We then use stir fans to produce consistent temperatures throughout.”Conley says when warmer weather arrives, a continuous double baffle inlet on one side of the barn will be employed; this set-up creates the same amount of wind chill over the birds as continuous baffle on both sides of the barn. Val-Co HyperMax exhaust fans were chosen for the barn, which Conley says are high-performing and very energy efficient.A first in North America, the barn’s forced air propane heating and humidity control system is provided by Mabre. Mike Neutel, CEO of Neu Air Systems in Woodstock, Ont., says the systems are used all over the world. The set-up includes two 600,000 Btu Mabre propane furnaces with Reillo burners.“In poultry barns, typical heating systems are tube heaters and box forced air heaters,” Neutel says. “Some growers have these heaters vented to the outdoors and some vent the products of combustion in the barn.”He notes the contaminants contained in this air are very harmful to birds, and the exhaust also contains tons of moisture – 0.82 litres of water for every litre of liquid propane burned, and 0.65 litres of water for every litre of liquid natural gas.Mabre heating systems exit exhaust through chimneys while maintaining a high efficiency of 92 per cent, Neutel notes, while the forced air blowers provide excellent air circulation, which is key in maintaining proper humidity levels. A very even temperature, often within a degree throughout the entire barn, is achieved, but no draft is created. Return air going back to the furnace incorporates fresh outside air through a louver, while heating and mixing this air through an exchanger.   View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.canadianpoultrymag.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=11&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleriaf3f6e7f508 All of this, Neutel says, was important to Pryce. “[He] also commented during his decision process that the low ammonia levels will make it a safe environment for his children to manage the barn when they get older without having to worry about farmer lung,” Neutel adds. Mabre systems maintain humidity between 50 and 60 per cent, even with outside humidity levels of 90 per cent, which Neutel says keeps ammonia levels very low. Mabre is available with natural gas, propane, wood pellet and wood chip options. More than 200 wood pellet systems have been installed in Quebec poultry barns.In terms of how popular the cross-ventilation systems will become, Conley notes that in Ontario, producers are moving away from two and three-story barns for easier cleaning and to incorporate modular loading systems. “In the U.S., longer tunnel-ventilated barns are the norm, because the barns are larger and the temperatures higher,” he explains. “With this design – used there and around the world – the barn operates the same as a cross-ventilated barn, where air is brought in via sidewall inlets and exhausted out the sidewalls, but when hotter weather arrives, we gradually transition into tunnel to generate air speed down the length of the barn to create wind chill over the birds to cool them. I think that you’ll begin to see a trend of tunnel-ventilated buildings popping up over the next few years as we continue to see hotter, longer summers and the need to control heat stress becomes greater.”In late January, Pryce reported in on barn performance and his first flock, which had arrived three weeks prior. “So far, I’m really happy with the heat unit and the environment in there is great. Right now is when you see things start to slide a bit, but it’s the same as the first few days the chickens came in. Usually you don’t really take young kids in a barn, but I’m pretty comfortable with taking my young kids in. The carbon dioxide and humidity levels are bang on.”
As many of us have heard on the news recently, food security in Northern Canada is a serious problem. Most people in the Far North are completely reliant on food produced in the south. Food is generally very expensive, but fresh fruit and vegetables in particular cost three to four times what they would elsewhere. Numerous new greenhouse initiatives are underway to address the problem – most of them employing high-tech green energy solutions and extremely high levels of insulation.
Growing volumes of data are being collected throughout the food production chain. But although this data could present big opportunity for agriculture, it’s not being used to its full potential, according to the international sales director of a software company that specializes in the protein industry.     
August 12, 2016 - New-Life Mills, the animal feed division of Parrish & Heimbecker Limited and P & H Eastern Grain Division have pooled resources to launch the new Science of Sustainable Agriculture Expo at this year’s Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock, Ont. from Sept. 13th-15th 2016. The exhibit will explore the elaborate connectedness of today’s agricultural world with sustainability in the forefront. The display at the Farm Show will be both educational for the inexperienced and eye-opening for the savvy farmer.   “It’s amazing how nearly every aspect of what we do in agriculture is connected on some level. We are among the most responsible of industries when it comes to ensuring nothing goes to waste,” says Sherry Slejska, marketing communications specialist, New-Life Mills. “To my knowledge, this will be the largest initiative P&H has ever started to show the community how deeply involved we are in helping them produce crops, market crops, transport crops and feed livestock through a spider web of interactions between Ontario’s livestock and cash crop growers as well as many other commercial players. We are involved in almost every step from fertilizing the crop to grinding it into flour and opening up their marketing opportunities to the world. Most farmers don’t realize that,“ advises Jeff Jacques (Sales Mgr Crop Inputs and Agronomy, Parrish & Heimbecker, Eastern Grain Div.).
May 9, 2017 – On May 11, 2017 at 10 AM, WATT Global Media will host a webinar discussing Avian Influenza (AI).Highly pathogenic AI outbreaks have occurred in commercial poultry operations on every continent except Antarctica in the last decade, including this year’s outbreaks in the U.S., Europe and Asia.The impact of these outbreaks has increased along with the size of the poultry industry. The outbreak in the U.S. in 2015 was the world’s most expensive resulting in a loss of around 50 million birds, and the current H7H9 outbreak in China has claimed over 100 human lives.Join a group of panelists from around the globe as they discuss steps that could be taken in the laboratory, on the farm and in the board room to better position the industry to deal with this ongoing challenge. READ MORE
Kevin Weeden was raised on a turkey farm just outside of New Hamburg, Ont. Back in the ‘60s, he remembers seeing the Hybrid turkey crews arrive and change their boots and clothing. Eventually he became Hybrid’s vice-president of sales and marketing, a position he held until 1995. And that, he said, gives him confidence when stating Hybrid is the best in the world at biosecurity.
They’re an ancient foe, a worthy opponent. For over 300 million years, we’ve been battling the bugs of infectious disease – but are we winning?
March 3, 2017, Delft, The Netherlands – Organic producers in Britain have gone high-tech in a bid to keep their poultry safe from avian influenza (bird flu). “The outbreak of avian influenza here in the UK back in December 2016 has caused untold stress to the poultry and egg sector,” explains Dan England, director of PestFix. “The advent of new Animal & Plant Health Authority (APHA) protocol allows free range birds outdoors, if they can be kept segregated from wild birds. With this rule, the laser technology for bird dispersal comes into its own. Because they are domesticated, the hens are unaffected by the laser.” One of the farms taking advantage of the technology is Orchard Eggs, based in West Sussex. “Our birds are housed across 50 acres of orchard and we want to do everything to keep them safe from infection,” says Daniel Hoeberichts, owner of Orchard Eggs. “Once we heard about [laser technology], it seemed like an ideal solution to complement all of our other biosecurity measures.” Automated lasers are method of repelling unwanted birds without causing harm to the wild birds, the chickens and the surrounding environment. The system being used at Orchard Eggs was developed by Bird Control Group, a Dutch company. The laser is silent and shows effectiveness of 90 to 100 per cent in bird dispersal at farms. This makes it a viable alternative to the expensive method of installing nets at the entire poultry farm.
Dec. 5, 2016 - It turns out birds have a flu season too. After years of studying the role of wild birds in outbreaks of avian influenza in domestic poultry flocks, one of Canada’s top public sector veterinarians says the bottom line is farmers need to take precaution in the fall. John Pasick is the national veterinary science authority for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and he says there’s an annual rhythm to infections. Much like humans tend to suffer more in the fall when kids return to the Petri dish of schools, birds spread disease in the fall during migration.“The main message from our research is for farmers to maintain good biosecurity measures in the fall when the birds are migrating,” Pasick said in a recent interview. “Pay close attention to every detail during that time because domestic flocks have little natural immunity to diseases.” | READ MORE.
Dec. 7, 2016 - Poultry across England, Scotland and Wales have been forced indoors as a precaution after announcements by the Chief Veterinary Officers of the countries of avian influenza prevention zones.The requirements aim to protect poultry from a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza which has been spreading around Europe recently. Housing birds is more of an issue for free range producers, but they will retain the ability to market their eggs as free range for the duration of the order. | READ MORE.
November 4, 2015 - On October 30 Chore-Time celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of its $7.1 million building expansion. Milford and county officials who helped cut the ribbon included Milford Town Council members Bob Cockburn and Doug Ruch, along with George Robertson from Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation, Bob Jackson, County Commissioner and Alyssa Lowe from the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce.  Also participating in the ribbon cutting were Dan Robinson, Brent Robinson and Dan Reynolds from Robinson Construction, company personnel from Chore-Time and CTB, and local media. The expansion features 45,000 square feet (4,180 square meters) of floor space, five new truck docks and a new truck drive along the north side of the Chore-Time plant.  Six new fabrication machines were purchased as part of the project along with a variety of material handling and assembly fixtures and warehouse racks.   The addition to Chore-Time’s existing facilities in Milford was designed to improve the flow of raw materials into the building and the efficiency of manufacturing processes and delivery performance. As the project progressed, Chore-Time added approximately 80 full-time employees to its ranks.  A celebration event for Chore-Time employees is planned later in 2015. The expansion project was announced in late 2014 with ground breaking taking place soon afterwards.  The new space brings Chore-Time’s total square footage in Milford to 395,000 square feet (36,700 square meters).   Employees, machinery and inventory moved into the new space in July and August, and the project is now essentially complete.  A few finishing touches, such as landscaping, are still planned. “This ribbon cutting marks the culmination of a wonderful team effort,” said Chris Stoler, Executive Vice president and General Manager for the Chore-Time Group. “I’d like to extend my thanks to all the Chore-Time team members who have worked so hard and demonstrated such great teamwork.” “The completion of the building compliments the efforts of the whole team to increase the efficiency of our customer fulfillment process,” he added.  “This effort will continue in the months and years ahead, as we strive to further optimize and enhance the way we supply products and services globally.  Our goal is continuous improvement in how we meet customer needs and support the growth in global demand for Chore-Time’s poultry, egg and pig production systems.” Jeff Miller, Operations Manager for Chore-Time, noted that the town of Milford, Kosciusko County and the State of Indiana contributed economic incentives to facilitate the Chore-Time expansion in Milford. He also thanked the team at Robinson Construction and the many others involved in the project. “The construction team worked through 63 days of snow and rain,” said Miller. “We appreciate the extra efforts that weather issues required.”   
  Residents throughout the Northwest Territories (NWT) are flocking to the Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) in Hay River to learn how to grow crops. The challenge is finding enough productive land in their communities to pursue agricultural endeavors. That’s where Hay River-based egg producer, Choice North Farms, and its plan to convert its poultry manure into compost could play a vital role to help develop productive soils in many northern communities. Kim Rapati, NFTI Operations Manager and former Hay River Regional Manager for an environmental advocacy group called Ecology North says that compost is a highly valued commodity in the North because there is so little arable land available in the region to pursue farming ventures in or near the region’s many small communities. Addition of compost to what she described as ‘young soils’ will provide community members with the opportunity to establish and develop their farming skills. “The composting venture was initiated by us,” says Kevin Wallington, Choice North Farms sales and marketing representative. “In past years, there had been studies done on old poultry sites to see if there was any feasibility in it. But I don’t think there was really a will on the industry side. It really has to be championed by industry to participate in a venture like this.” The farm houses about 117,000 laying hens producing about 37 million eggs and 3500 tonnes of manure per year near Hay River. It is working with Ecology North, the NWT government, federal government, NFTI and Town of Hay River on its composting venture. The plan is to start with a 160 cubic metre pilot scale site involving the use of about nine tonnes of manure this summer to test various mixing methods and outcomes, with the goal of developing a full scale site consisting of an area of about 18,000 cubic metres as a commercial composting operation hopefully by next summer. Choice North Farms is owned and managed by Glen Wallington, and his son, Michael. They own part of the operation, and manage another part for a separate egg producer, but all under one roof. They started producing eggs under the Choice North Farms label about three years ago and are among the largest egg producers in NWT as well as being a supporter of the ‘Polar Egg’ initiative. Since 2012, the Polar Egg Company has been certified to grade eggs locally so that not all eggs are shipped to southern markets but also supplied for human consumption in retail stores in the North. Kevin Wallington is also Glen’s son, as well as sales and marketing director for Polar Egg. At present, their raw manure is collected on plastic conveyor belts and removed from the barns daily, representing about one dump truck load per day that is transported to a designated landfill area 22 kilometers from the barns. The objective of the composting project is to mix raw poultry manure with waste paper and wood. The paper and wood are necessary as part of the conversion process to produce compost. Because of that, Kevin says they are in discussions with governments such as the City of Yellowknife and Town of Hay River, as well as industries dealing with waste paper, such as paper shredding companies and the Yellowknife newspaper, to discuss possible alliances in the composting venture. The concept is to establish an open-turned windrow system where the manure, paper and wood are piled into five metre wide by three metre tall windrows. At full scale operation, 3420 tonnes of poultry manure generated by the egg farm will be combined with 2800 tonnes of paper and 500 tonnes of wood to produce about 3400 cubic metres of compost annually. One of the benefits of composting is that through biological activity, it reduces the volume of the raw materials, and produces a marketable, pathogen and weed-free compost that can be used as a soil amendment in a variety of growing environments. Either a wheel loader or pile turner could be used to turn the piles as needed to improve air flow and encourage the conversion process. Not only does Choice North Farms want to convert their current production of manure, but also to use the thousands of tonnes of poultry manure that they have accumulated in their nearby landfill over the past 15 years. “This project is a benefit to us because if we didn’t compost, then effectively the landfill becomes a liability for us,” says Kevin. “Some of those pits are fairly deep and I don’t think you’d have to dig too low below the surface to find that it is fairly fresh after it’s been there for some time.” He adds that there are no issues with the landfill currently, “but I know that the government is excited about our project because the North is full of stories where people just walked away from things.” Wallington says that the egg producer had no experience with composting and that is a major benefit that Ecology North has brought to the partnership, providing the technical know-how needed to launch a composting venture. Savings in diverting paper waste from the Hay River landfill to the poultry farm composting site is estimated at almost 14,000 cubic metres of space, and at $150 per cubic metre, that is a savings of just over $2 million per year. The project costs of establishing the site were estimated at about $350,000, with additional capital costs of $459,000 and annual operating costs of nearly $136,000. To recover those costs, it is estimated that there is the potential to generate just over $235,000 per year in compost sales at $70 per tonne, with the sales and marketing handled by Choice North Farms. The egg producer has been speaking to the NWT government for a couple of years about acquiring a fresh parcel of land for the composting site, separate from its existing manure management landfill. It is located about 300 metres from the stockpiled manure in the landfill for easy access. From a technical standpoint, poultry manure is high in nitrogen and phosphorus and requires the addition of carbon for the overall composting process to work. Choice North Farms is relying on the mentorship and experience provided by Ecology North and is also working with a laboratory in Yellowknife to establish the proper mix to produce high quality compost as an end product. Rapati says that despite the sub-arctic temperatures in northern Canada, it is possible to produce high quality compost, but it takes longer because the air temperature does not stay warm for as long as areas further south. The temperature in the windrows is required to achieve at least 55 degrees Celsius for 15 days and turned five times to ensure that the conversion is complete. Producing compost is more of a time management process in the North adapted to suit local conditions. Rapati says the conversion to marketable compost could probably be managed in one season. The frequency of turning and adding moisture to the piles depends on air temperature, airflow and moisture content readings to encourage uniform conversion is taking place within the piles. One advantage of composting in the North is that it has the space to conduct open-windrow composting and because of its sparse population, there are few if any odor complaints. Kevin says Choice North Farms is excited about the opportunity and eager to get started. “This is going to be business-driven, probably supported by various organizations, including the government,” says Kevin. “At the end of the day we would like to have a product that we can sell and use in the North for everything ranging from expansion of agriculture to reclamation and for municipal uses as well.”      
 Finding a way of turning poultry bedding into a valuable resource in a cost-effective way is difficult. But it didn’t stop B.C. Agriculture Research and Development Corporation (ARDCorp), B.C. Sustainable Poultry Farming Group (SPFG), Ritchie-Smith Feeds and Diacarbon Energy, from trying.  The groups optimistically embarked on a trial to turn this material back into fodder. Anyone who works in B.C.’s poultry industry is aware that a creative, cost-effective disposal solution is required for the excess volumes of used poultry bedding accumulating from the over 100 million chickens and turkeys produced annually. Finding a way of turning this abundance of bedding into a valuable resource is even harder. But that was the goal of the B.C. Agriculture Research and Development Corporation (ARDCorp), B.C. Sustainable Poultry Farming Group (SPFG), Ritchie-Smith Feeds and Diacarbon Energy, who optimistically embarked on a trial to turn this material back into fodder. Used poultry bedding has been used for centuries as a soil fertilizer. But only so much of the bedding can be used on the land before the nutrients start leaching into the environment, becoming a risk rather than an asset. With a relatively low moisture content of 30 to 40 per cent, it is possible to transport broiler litter to nutrient deficient areas for land application. However, on average, a tonne of broiler litter contains less than 200 lbs of nitrogen, phosphate and potash, while a tonne of commercial fertilizer contains over 700 lbs. Due to its low nutrient content to weight ratio (when compared to commercial fertilizer), it is often uneconomical to transportation broiler litter over long distances. While this distance depends heavily upon transportation costs and the cost of commercial fertilizer, a good rule of thumb is that broiler litter should be used within 50 to 100 kilometres of the source. For the Lower Mainland, which raises close to ninety per cent of B.C.’s poultry, the current nutrient surplus is a concern. The poultry sector’s quest for a viable alternative to the land application of bedding was the reason for this recent feed study. In other parts of the world, some success has been achieved with turning used broiler bedding into biochar and adding it to broiler feed, thereby improving the broiler’s feed conversion and increasing final weight. Fueled by the success of others, ARDCorp, the SPFG and the Ministry of Agriculture hoped that through conducting their own experiment, they could create demand for roughly ten per cent of the used broiler bedding in the Lower Mainland; and, at the same time, improve production. Biochar is made by burning biomass material at extreme temperatures of over 500C in an oxygen-free environment. This process, called pyrolysis (thermochemical decomposition), is a very effective disinfection technique, ensuring that the biochar is free of any possible pathogens. When applied to soils, the high surface area and porosity of biochar act as a catalyst for plant growth by helping to retain water and by providing a habitat for beneficial microorganisms to flourish. More recently, there has been interest in how biochar aids in the grinding process and provides a habitat for beneficial microoganisms in the digestive system.  It has been claimed that the consumption of biochar by broilers can increase update of foodstuffs and the energy contained within them.  Increased uptake can thus result in increased weight gain and/or improved feed conversion. Although the idea of supplementing broiler feed with biochar made from broiler litter may seem strange, it should be noted that processed poultry litter has been used as a feed ingredient for almost 40 years in the U.S. For this study, used broiler bedding was taken from a commercial broiler barn in the Fraser Valley and dried before being delivered to Diacarbon’s pyrolysis unit in Agassiz. Once processed, the resulting biochar was transported to Ritchie-Smith Feeds in Abbotsford where it was incorporated into commercial starter, grower and finisher broiler feed. The feed was delivered to S.J. Ritchie Research Farms Ltd in Abbotsford for a floor pen study. The study involved 288 broiler chicks arbitrarily placed into twenty-four specially constructed pens. The chicks in each pen were given feed supplemented with biochar or feed without biochar for 35 days. The broilers were weighed individually once weekly and the weights recorded. All feed was also weighed weekly and any feed remaining in the feeders was weighed back and replaced. Unfortunately, the hoped-for outcomes of the study did not come to pass. From the results of this study it can be concluded that supplementing broiler feed with broiler litter biochar had no statistically significant impact on broiler weight gain and/or feed conversion (Table 1). While unknown as to why, it could be because of the nutrients in broiler litter; a result of the droppings and spilled feed that gets mixed in with the bedding material. It is therefore possible that the supplementation of broiler litter biochar resulted in the broilers being feed too high levels of certain nutrients. This assumption would go some way to explain the high levels of Sodium (Na) and Chlorine (Cl) found in the litter from T2 and T3 pens (Table 2). In other studies that have found significant benefits from supplementing broiler feed with biochar, other feedstocks were used to make the biochar; including oak, pine, coconut shells, corn cobs and peanut hulls. It is therefore possible that had an alternative feedstock be used (such as pine instead of broiler litter), supplementing broiler feed with biochar may have been a statistically significant impact on broiler weight gain and/or feed conversion. Future OpportunitiesWhile the biochar feed study might have ruled out one opportunity, it has opened doors for others. The main objective, after all, is to find sustainable ways of managing used broiler bedding. And if supplementing broiler feed with broiler bedding biochar did not work as expected, then the question should be: where can the industry look next? Allen James, Chair of ARDCorp, and a member of the SPFG hopes researchers can find a positive way to convert the poultry bedding into energy. “As long as there’s an excess of bedding, we’ll be looking for a solution.” He is hopeful we will find a local solution to our local situation. Other applications of biochar have proved successful, but perhaps not economically feasible for the Lower Mainland. Biochar has been used as a soil conditioner to improve water retention and nutrient density to aid in the growth of plants and increase yield. Biochar is also considered a superior growing medium in hydroponics, which is a rapidly growing technology. All of these areas could be expanded upon, creating financial opportunities for the poultry industry. “Many studies have been done in the U.S,” explains James, “but none of them relate to B.C. and our particular situation. We’ll keep pressing on as long as the industry has this situation to deal with.” For B.C., a new study is planned for 2015 to convert poultry litter into heat and electricity. This project could potentially have positive impacts on both the environment and animal waste management, and be one solution to how we can turn trash into treasure. We will have to wait for the results to come in, and look forward to future projects, which will help answer the burning question. Any inquiries about this study and requests for details should be directed ARDCorp’s Senior Program Manager Jaclyn Laic (604) 854-4483.  Funding for this project has been provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture through the Canada-B.C. Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C.    
  Actual chicken growers as action movie stars fighting the use of hormones and steroids in the production of B.C. and Canadian chicken? That’s the unlikely premise of the Chicken Squad, a recent social media campaign by the B.C. Chicken Growers Association (BCCGA) and the B.C. Chicken Marketing Board. “We started working on the program three years ago,” says BCCGA president Ravi Bathe. “Our association directors talked a lot about how we talk to the public about things they are concerned about. Three years later, here we are.” Bathe plays the primary “good guy” in the series of ten YouTube videos and an action movie “trailer” which can be viewed at www.chickensquad.ca. BCCMB director Kerry Froese acted as the main “villain” while other growers from both the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan took parts as supporting members of the cast. Even Chicken Farmers of Canada chair David Janzen appears in a cameo role as the good guys’ mentor. A total of about 15 growers and their families participated. The short videos include “auditions” for the movie, grower interviews, outtakes and, of course, the movie trailer. Even though the videos were shot in mid-winter and included a rather chilly scene where several end up in a backyard pool, the growers had a blast. “I’m now looking to Hollywood,” one joked, claiming “I’ve already turned down several offers.” Relevention Marketing, the public relations and marketing firm contracted to co-ordinate the project shares their enthusiasm. “The most rewarding part of the process was working with real chicken farmers and seeing the relationships and friendships which developed,” says Relevention marketing strategist Steffan Janzen. “To ask them to do something vulnerable and be able to laugh at themselves was great.” Reaching ConsumersThe program is based on consumer misconceptions about the use of hormones and steroids in chicken production. “The most concerning statistic is how many consumers believe chicken contains hormones and steroids,” Janzen says, noting a recent survey showed 64 per cent of British Columbians believe that. The videos therefore clearly spell out that the use of hormones and steroids to produce chicken in Canada has been banned for 50 years. Misconceptions are particularly prevalent among the young. “We looked at the issue of trust between consumers and farmers. Do consumers trust the people who are growing their food?” Janzen asks, adding “there was a direct correlation between age and the level of trust. The younger the consumer, the less the trust.” He says the campaign’s aim was to “increase the level of trust among younger urban consumers,” calling them “a highly skeptical group.” They are also difficult to reach using traditional media, which is why a YouTube campaign was selected. “Social media is becoming the norm now so we wanted to harness it,” Bathe says. He would not reveal how much the campaign cost, but insists “the benefits outweighed the cost.” Although it was funded in part by provincial Buy Local funding Bathe notes the campaign was already being developed before the funding program was announced. By the end of June, the videos had attracted a total of 175,000 views. The campaign also led to appearances on major Vancouver television and radio stations and interviews in many urban papers. “It’s about making people aware that we have all these programs,” Bathe says. “Part of the purpose is to build goodwill so when something happens there’s a level of comfort among consumers,” Janzen says, adding there is opportunity to do more with the material developed for the campaign. That is something growers are considering. “We are looking at the next steps,” Bathe says. “We hope to do more things like this in future.”    
Although the Canadian poultry industry doesn’t have a formal sustainability plan, existing on-farm programs and planning speak to sustainability  Sustainability is simply long-term thinking, making sure we look after tomorrow while we look after today. Farmers already know this: unless farming is balanced on the three pillars of sustainability — looking after the environmental, economic and social needs of production — long-term viability will not be ensured. But to consumers, sustainability has now become a buzzword. They are starting to realize that at our current global population growth rate we’re faced with a potential need to feed 9 billion people by 2050. At the rate we’re going, we will eat our planet. Water, soil, energy, all can be easily depleted but not so easily replaced. While farming practices and scientific advances will contribute to higher production, we will end up bankrupt if we don’t plan to use our natural resources wisely. Under increasing consumer pressure it may no longer be good enough to just practice sustainable production — you may have to prove it. Is this an opportunity or a restriction? What does the actual word “sustainability” mean to the future of farming? A CASE STUDY: ONTARIO AQUACULTUREFor fish farmers, sustainability is already a household word. By the mid-1990s, aquaculture was already implementing world-class standards. Fish farmers realized early that demonstrating sustainability would be critical to their industry, not only to maintaining and growing their market, but also to look after their natural and social resources. While farm-raised fish now supply half of our global demand for human consumption, Karen Tracey, Executive Director of the Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association, told the audience at the 2014 Farm & Food Care Conference in Milton, Ont., that the demand for farmed fish will rise to 70 per cent of global market share by 2030. The media assault that resulted from heightened food safety fears was the original driver of sustainability in aquaculture, said Tracey. While food scares were easily fuelled, they were not so easily corrected. Food retailers became the target of a strategic focus on the marketplace, where groups such as Greenpeace rated retailers according to their sustainability practices. Like it or not, this pressure can close doors in a hurry. Certification JungleRetailers, not wanting to be shamed, fed into what Tracey called a “seafood certification jungle” of more than 30 fishery and aquaculture labeling programs worldwide, which led to great confusion in the marketplace. Seventy to eighty per cent of these accredited standards contain the same criteria, but the confusion arose within the remaining twenty to thirty per cent — and this is where the labels tried to differentiate themselves. Tracey said when you meet one certification standard it’s not so hard to meet the others, but it causes a lot of confusion for all stakeholders — farmers, consumers, processors and retailers. Fish farmers knew that more regulations were not the answer. In Ontario, aquaculture is covered by more than 20 acts of legislation. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources issues the fish-farming license but then defers regulation to others, such as the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Canadian Food Inspection Agency for fish health, or Transport Canada for farm siting in relation to navigation of waterways. In the marketplace, producers knew that a solid production framework had to be in place in order to compete globally. Pressure to become more sustainable wasn’t going to go away; it was only going to intensify. The best answer would be third-party audits and certification. At first the industry didn’t understand the rationale or cost surrounding this new word, sustainability. Surprisingly though, while certification was not initially embraced, it has turned out to be a positive experience. Facing Challenges“The biggest challenge for farmers was recording data,” said Tracey, “but once you get your mindset into it (third party certification), (farmers) found greater efficiencies at the farm level that they didn’t embrace before.” On the farm, underwater cameras now monitor feed consumption, reducing the amount of waste feed that supplies the benthic community of bugs and worms and wild fish that feast under the nets. In ocean fisheries, three-bay management is now standard, allowing for site recovery. Fallowing sites has been the subject of research by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, showing that site recovery occurs within a few months with absolutely no trace left after seven years. Technical improvements in containment pens have significantly reduced escapes, and fish health is increasing through the use of vaccines and brood stock screening, reducing the need for antibiotic use. The future will also embrace innovation and research into novel feeds and nutrient recycling. Tracey acknowledged that even though sustainability has become a part of everyday aquaculture there are still a lot of challenges ahead. She would like to reduce unnecessary duplication of efforts and conflicting requirements as well as increase buyer and consumer confidence through more consistent messaging. And in some cases, refute expectations of certain standards that are unreasonable. At a minimum, certification has maintained or increased market access, providing worldwide consumer assurance. Within the next three years a new Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative will attempt to assimilate the smorgasbord of sustainability certification into two or three global standards.   So if Tracey hit rewind, what would she say now? “Just jump right in and do it. If consumers are demanding it, be pro-active.” What about Poultry?Just jump in and do what? Fish can’t fly and poultry can’t swim. Does a consumer push for sustainability mean the same thing to aquaculture as it does to feather culture? Are there lessons to be learned? “We don’t talk about sustainability the same as aquaculture,” answered Lisa Bishop-Spencer, Communications Manager at the Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC), “it’s an unspoken rule already.” In general comparison, farming implies some sort of intervention in a production cycle, allowing improvements such as feeding and predator protection for the stock or product being raised and ownership of the product. So in this context, fish and poultry are both farmed. In terms of market access, there isn’t the same international pressure on Canadian poultry that there is on fish. And for poultry, under supply management it’s the poultry farmers themselves, not the consumers, that have been leading the way. Strategic PlanThe CFC has a five-year strategic plan in place that looks at responsible stewardship, risk management, consumer-driven growth, value-chain efficiency, competitiveness and system management. The current evolutionary document covers 2014 through 2018, helping to identify and respond to the needs of consumers and producers. While the central thrust of the document does not include the word sustainability, it covers everything else from providing profitable industry growth, managing markets, and eliminating the preventive use of Class 1 antimicrobials to addressing media myths and public concerns. The strategic plan also includes moving forward with the On Farm Food Safety Assurance Program (OFFSAP), which has received full government recognition in compliance with HACCP rules. While there are variations among the provinces, at present, 95 per cent of poultry farmers meet compliance in Canada: they’ve passed the third party audit. “We are extremely good planners,” said Bishop-Spencer. There is a lot of protocol already in place. Over her 14 years with CFC, she is noticing that the government wants to regulate less, but someone has to take charge; the feather industry has taken a lead role rather than being told what to do. Having a strategic plan not only drives increased efficiency in the industry, but the plan also serves consumers, to offer them a wide choice of different brands and feeding protocols. “Whatever they want they can find it,” said Bishop-Spencer, although they may have to pay a premium. New labeling, set to launch this month, will brand fresh chicken, letting consumers know that a Canadian farmer raised it.  This designation will either appear as a label or be integrated into an existing label. That WordBut what about that word “sustainability”? How can poultry farmers prove to the consumer that their industry is looking after the future? It’s not enough to say “trust me” when the consumer is saying “show me.” Poultry farmers already have incredibly stringent record keeping with strong repercussions for non-compliance, Bishop-Spencer explained. “We don’t have a sustainability plan but I think it’s all there.” Ask any farmer and they’ll tell you they’re responsible to their land, their birds, their customers, the system that allows them to grow their birds, and ultimately, to their children, says Bishop-Spencer. “Sustainability means leaving a positive legacy and frankly, that’s something that just makes sense.”  
February 26, 2014 - Egg Farmers of Alberta (EFA) has announced the launch of a new environmental program, the first of its kind for egg farmers in Canada.   The Producer Environmental Egg Program (PEEP) is intended to help egg farmers better identify their impacts on the environment and facilitate the use of best practices.  This will help to ensure that resources are being managed in a sustainable manner and that the Alberta egg industry continues to be recognized as a source of fresh, high-quality local food, which is produced in an environmentally responsible manner. Egg farmers are already good stewards of the land, who are committed to environmental protection and sustainable development.  PEEP will build upon this foundation by providing information about impacts of on-farm activities and helping to establish goals for improvement.  The PEEP assessment is focused on key impact areas such as energy use, water consumption and manure management, which helps farmers identify and address environmental risks and opportunities, to improve their carbon footprint.   “Consumers, retailers and other stakeholders want to know that eggs are fresh and safe, and also produced in a sustainable fashion,” said Jenna Griffin, EFA’s Industry Development Officer.  “Given the egg industry has existing on-farm food safety and animal care programs, the development and delivery of an environmental program is a natural point of expansion.  PEEP will enable EFA to communicate the positive efforts being taken by farmers, and champion the cause when industry needs to take the lead on piloting solutions.”   Portions of PEEP have been derived from the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP), which is a more extensive program available to all agricultural producers across Alberta.  EFA believes that the key to effective environmental management is through a systematic approach to planning, controlling, measuring and improving environmental performance.  EFA will be able to track industry-wide trends and significant changes in egg farming practices over time, using a pioneering attitude to contribute to the long-term sustainability of Alberta’s egg industry.  

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