Depending on where you are in the world, consumer preferences will dictate desired egg colour and egg size; however, good quality eggs should always be free from internal blemishes such as blood spots, pigment spots, and meat spots. Researchers examine dozens of traits that are linked to egg quality.
Transitioning from a conventional cage to alternative housing, either cage-free or within an aviary system, requires careful attention to good management. One important aspect of that is nutrition.
As Canadian egg producers move towards alternative housing, they will need to prepare for new challenges. In Switzerland, where battery-caged production was banned outright in 1992, a group of researchers works to address those challenges, including nest box behaviour, piling and smothering issues, depopulation, ranging behaviour and keel bone damage.
The laying hen industry in Canada is at the beginning of a 20-year transition. Following the lead of worldwide efforts to improve laying hen welfare, in February 2016 the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) announced that a move away from conventional egg production to alternative production methods would begin.
More poultry producers are switching to LED lights in their layer barns for the power savings, versatility, durability and brightness they offer in comparison to all other options. Lighting is important in broiler, turkey, pullet and layer production, but especially important in egg production these days because of the new systems hens are being housed in. It’s all about making sure, in these new housing set-ups, that egg laying in the nest boxes is maximized.
Across the country, egg producers looking to comply with the phase-out of conventional layer housing are facing a big decision of whether to invest in aviary or enriched housing. For many producers, the choice is challenging: not only do both systems provide management benefits and drawbacks, the single most critical factor – future consumer demand – remains a huge wildcard.
The poultry industry has seen quick changes in regards to the usage of antibiotics. These have resulted in rapid responses by production teams to manage their processes differently. For instance, it would have been taboo five years ago to “wet” an egg in any way for fear of bacterial growth.
The goal of any broiler breeder program is to produce the greatest number of hatching eggs per hen housed and life of flock hatch to give us the most chicks per hen housed.
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.
Enjoying large-scale popularity throughout Latin America, Aviagen's Ross 308 AP is now quickly gaining momentum in U.S. markets.Beyond the U.S. and Latin America, the bird – which Aviagen touts as "the complete package" – is currently being tested in other regions such as India.The Ross 308 AP’s high environmental tolerance makes it favorable for a variety of climates. Additionally, Latin American customers have seen two to three points in feed conversion improvements.Aviagen president of North America Kevin McDaniel commented on the bird's increasing popularity."The broiler and breeder performance advantages of the Ross 308 AP have helped promote the businesses of Latin American farmers, and these same benefits have led to a rapid growth in the US as well.”
As ‘Raised Without Antibiotics’ (RWA) chicken production grows – and the elimination of antibiotics for growth promotion and health protection continues within Canada’s broiler industry – the need for alternatives also grows.
The broiler housing and equipment industry continues to develop, introducing new technologies in line with trends in modern management, communication and ventilation systems. As you might expect, early adoption in markets such as Europe and North America, which have high labour and utility costs, easily justifies investment in these modern technologies.
Last year, Canadian Poultry outlined how some North American retailers were starting to source slow-growth broiler meat due to pressure over welfare concerns with conventionally grown chickens. Now, we look at economic, environmental and animal welfare factors attached to slow-growth broilers and also at Europe’s experience.
Chicken farmers across Canada are rolling out the latest changes to the Raised by a Canadian Farmer Animal Care Program (ACP).
Amy and Patrick Kitchen moved from B.C. to Ontario several years ago intent on buying a farm. They knew from the start they wanted to get into market gardening. Eventually, they decided on a mixed offering. “We wanted to add livestock to the equation to diversify our income and for the manure benefits,” Patrick says.
The environmental impacts of livestock and poultry production are a challenge for agriculture. Ammonia, along with greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane, are key areas of concern.
The protein product market has never been more crowded in Canada. The widest variety of meat, poultry egg and vegetarian options in history all entice us from their grocery store shelves, constantly vying with each other for a bigger slice of the protein product pie. However, Turkey Farmers of Canada (TFC) says that while Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter still account for over 90 per cent of annual whole turkey sales, the popularity of other turkey products throughout the year continues to grow.
July 21, 2017, Toronto, Ont. - Portuguese barbecued chicken restaurants in Toronto are struggling with a supply shortage of the younger, smaller chickens they cook on charcoal barbecues or rotisserie spits.“Where is all the chicken?” asks Guiherme Salera of the Portuguese Chicken Guys, a downtown restaurant. “We are calling all our suppliers, scrambling.”The eateries, called churrasqueiras (a Portuguese word that translates to barbecue restaurant), have over the decades become a popular dining option in Toronto; dozens of the family-owned shops thrive across the city and the suburbs. But several restaurateurs say that for the past few months they have been unable to find the 1.1-kilogram chickens that taste the best.At its heart, their beef seems to result from a clash between taste and efficiency.Canadian farmers prefer to raise heavier chickens, because they get paid by weight. Abattoirs have set up their shackle lines — where workers slaughter, defeather, eviscerate and chill the chickens — to process the bigger birds. It takes about as much time to process a small bird as a big bird. READ MORE
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.
After a long winter across Canada, summer and higher temperatures are approaching. That means it’s important to be prepared for the heat and the impact this could have on your birds.
Getting the flock off to the right start can help positively impact health and performance throughout the flock’s life. Issues such as the environment and management of the bird, barn, feed and water are just a few factors that need to be addressed and monitored during brooding.
By the end of 2018, Canadian chicken farming will reach two significant milestones related to the use of antibiotics.
Feeding young broiler breeders around the world generally involves restriction starting when the chicks are one week or a few weeks of age. This is done so that they grow at a rate that supports their health and welfare – one that prevents obesity, lameness and reproductive problems.
Proper diagnosis and application of vaccines can reduce the frequency and quantity of antimicrobials used on your farm. Here are a few examples related to immunosuppressive diseases and viral infections that can leave birds more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.
Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) has been developing an antimicrobial use reduction strategy policy, where the main goal is to eliminate the preventive use of medically important antibiotics in commercial broiler production.
It’s been many years since heat exchangers arrived on the poultry industry scene. As with countless technologies, designs of new models are greatly improved over those of the past. Heat exchangers have become much easier to both clean and install, and in terms of efficiency, some manufacturers claim that current systems cut barn heating bills in half. The higher indoor temperatures of broiler operations make them more worthwhile than egg producers.
What is the recommended dose of fenbendazole for an individual animal, based on its weight? How much fenbendazole will it take to treat a specific number of animals? Which Safe-Guard or Panacur formulation is the most appropriate and cost effective option in a particular instance?The answers to these and other questions are just a few clicks away with Merck Animal Health’s new Safe-Guard mobile application.This one-of-a-kind tool makes it easy for veterinarians and producers to quickly calculate the volume and amount of fenbendazole required based on the number of animals to be treated, the animal’s weight, and the selected formulation of Safe-Guard, Panacur or Panacur Aquasol.The Safe-Guard mobile application also includes an optional cost comparison feature to help users select the most cost-effective formulation and presentation of fenbendazole to meet their specific needs.Other features include in-app access to product labels for all formulations of Safe-Guard, Panacur and Panacur Aquasol, as well as selected studies and a resource section containing helpful information and articles.“Merck Animal Health has always been committed to providing veterinarians and producers with value-added products and services that promote the well-being of animals and help increase productivity and efficiency,” said Douglas Wong, product manager, farm animal business unit, in a press release.“Our goal in developing the Safe-Guard mobile application was to create an easy-to-use, practical calculator and resource tool that helps save time and money by taking the guesswork out of fenbendazole administration.”The Safe-Guard mobile application can be used to calculate fenbendazole dosages, quantities and costs for four different species: cattle, swine, horses and poultry.The Safe-Guard mobile application for both iOS and Android is now available for download on the Apple Store and Google Play.
While precision farming technology has taken the crop production world by storm, it’s been slow to enter the livestock sector, especially poultry production. But in recent years, innovative companies and researchers around the world are finding new ways to measure, calculate and analyze data using sensor technology.
When Andre van Kammen of Cedar Acres Farm in Chilliwack, B.C., decided to build a new barn for his newly-acquired chicken quota (from his in-laws), he thought outside the box – or, in his case, outside the tunnel.
Founded in 2008, Greengage is a lighting company that designs LED lamps, power hubs and sensors for agricultural production.
ROVA Self-Moving Barn
The phrase ‘energy efficiency’ in a poultry industry context likely brings to mind shining rows of LED lights. It’s true that an increasingly large number of Canadian poultry farms have LEDs now.
Cockroaches, ants, birds, ground beetles and rodents are exactly the kinds of visitors you do not want to stop by unannounced. Poultry facilities often have an abundant supply of food, water and shelter – the three resources pests need to survive. And any tiny cracks, gaps around utilities or tears in window screens could let pests in to your workplace.
It’s an approach that’s time-honoured and still holds significant value in pest control: a multi-pronged strategy is a very effective way to manage serious pests like mites, flies and more in the barn. Are there new products and strategies, however, to add to the tool kit, and what threats are of most concern right now in Canada? We contacted several experts to get their views.
Al Dam, poultry specialist at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, says that in 2018, he had more inquiries about darkling beetle infestations than he’s had in a long time.
When you consider food safety, it’s easy to think of the kitchen – storing poultry properly, preparing it wisely and cooking it thoroughly. But the journey to safe food on our plates starts well before then. It actually begins on the farm. Canadian Poultry asked a few industry experts about how farm management practices contribute to food safety.
It may seem ironic, but even poultry facilities need a bird control plan. With bountiful food (including bird feed) on the property, pest birds like pigeons, starlings and sparrows can easily become an issue if proper control methods are not taken.
Northern Ireland produces an estimated 260,000 tonnes of poultry litter each year. This leads to the problem of how to dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way. Until now poultry farmers have relied on arable farmers to take the lion’s share of the litter. But a new solution is now in operation.
Broiler litter is a mixture of poultry manure, bedding, feathers, and spilled feed. The actual nutrient content of a manure sample varies. Nutrient concentration of broiler litter is variable due to age of bird, composition of the diet, how the manure is handled, and the number of batches of birds raised since the last house clean out. The average nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) content of broiler litter is 62, 59, and 40 lbs/ton, respectively. Having your manure analyzed for its actual plant nutrient content is recommended. Armed with this and appropriate soil test information you can decide on the best plan of action to use poultry litter for specific cropping needs. | READ MORE
November 20, 2017, Sede Boqer, Israel – A new study shows that poultry excrement may have a future as a fuel for heat and electricity.Treated excrement from turkeys, chickens and other poultry, when converted to combustible solid biomass fuel, could replace approximately 10 per cent of coal used in electricity generation, reducing greenhouse gases and providing an alternative energy source, according to a new study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers.While biomass accounts for 73 per cent of renewable energy production worldwide, crops grown for energy production burden land, water and fertilizer resources. According to the researchers, “Environmentally safe disposal of poultry excrement has become a significant problem. Converting poultry waste to solid fuel, a less resource-intensive, renewable energy source is an environmentally superior alternative that also reduces reliance on fossil fuels.”According to the study in Elsevier’s Applied Energy, researchers at the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at BGU evaluated two biofuel types to determine which is the more efficient poultry waste solid fuel.They compared the production, combustion and gas emissions of biochar, which is produced by slow heating of the biomass at a temperature of 450°C (842°F) in an oxygen-free furnace with hydrochar. Hydrochar is produced by heating wet biomass to a much lower temperature of up to 250°C under pressure using a process called hydrothermal carbonization (HTC). HTC mimics natural coal formation within several hours.“We found that poultry waste processed as hydrochar produced 24 per cent higher net energy generation,” says student researcher Vivian Mau and Prof. Amit Gross, chair of the Department of Environmental Hydrology and Microbiology at BGU’s Zuckerberg Institute. “Poultry waste hydrochar generates heat at high temperatures and combusts in a similar manner to coal, an important factor in replacing it as renewable energy source.”For the first time, the researchers also showed that higher HTC production temperatures resulted in a significant reduction in emissions of methane (CH4) and ammonia (NH3) and an increase of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.“This investigation helped in bridging the gap between hydrochar being considered as a potential energy source toward the development of an alternative renewable fuel,” Gross explains. “Our findings could help significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation and agricultural wastes. Field-scale experiments with HTC reactor should be conducted to confirm the assessments from this laboratory-scale study.”The study was funded by the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Rosenzweig-Coopersmith Foundation. BGU Ph.D. candidate Vivian Mau received financial support from the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources, the Rieger Foundation and the Zuckerberg Scholarship Fund at BGU’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research.
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.
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