Eggs - Breeders


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 With the purchase came more than 20 employees and out-of-date facilities.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 Composition
From 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 Nutrition
By 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.

 chart1 poultry april14

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).

 eggweight 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.

 table 1 poultry apr14

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.

The 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.


  • 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
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 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
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 ( 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.

Hen management is one of the most difficult areas that has been discussed or looked at in the 30-plus years that I have been involved in the poultry industry. And it does not appear to be getting any easier.

The most difficult part to achieve is to be sure that the reduction in feed to the female takes place at the correct time, so as not to affect the egg mass and therefore production. It is important that farmers maintain control of egg size in the later stages of life, since studies have shown that it can affect production, shell quality and fertility – which can ultimately reduce the number of chicks per hen housed.

Therefore, the goal of the producer should be to keep eggs from becoming too large, but keep track and control the flock’s production.

In this article, we will touch on areas that can possibly help control hen egg size by doing quick daily checks, as well as tabulating weekly egg size averages for your flock.

Nutritional effects

Nutritional specification can partially control egg size, but it should be balanced with making sure that the birds receive the correct nutrition needed to maximize peak egg production during its peak egg mass.

“The most important nutrients for control of egg size are linoleic acid, protein and specific amino acids,” according to Emma Fleming, the Technical Transfer Manager for Aviagen Inc. “Reducing the level of one, or a combination of these nutrients, in the diet will or can reduce egg size. However, this type of reduction is not recommended much before 40 weeks of age as this can reduce egg production (egg mass). Therefore an introduction of a second stage breeder diet at approximately 45 weeks of lay has been beneficial in some flocks in helping to control late egg size but in some cases it may be already too late.”

Reducing the linoleic acid content of the hen’s diet could be beneficial, but it is worth noting that this is more difficult to achieve in maize-based diets than in wheat-based diets. Lowering the total protein in the diet may also help, but a reduction in dietary protein can also reduce egg numbers as well as egg size (see Figure 1).

But, the most significant amino acid affecting egg weight is methionine, and reducing it can help in controlling late egg size. However, it must be repeated again that there is a fine balance between supporting persistent egg production and controlling late egg size when altering nutrient concentrations in the feed.

Therefore, while it is possible to control late egg size by manipulating nutrition, such an approach should be exercised with caution to minimize adversely affecting egg production.

An effective tool to help stay on a consistently balanced diet but control egg size is to calculate the energy available from your feed, as well as your weekly production rate of decline after peak production, which is based on the grams of feed being fed to the bird weekly.

When the flock has reached its peak and starts to show a decline in egg mass, the hen is very close to the optimal time for feed reduction. With constant monitoring, you can help control egg size and keep production more stable during her weekly declines in production (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 – A bird showing the various stages of egg production.

One of the largest issues in egg production for the female is stress – namely water, nutrition, light and disease. The effects can be dramatic or very slight, but it will be noticeable if you are recording weights.

To troubleshoot flocks that are showing issues with their production and egg sizes, the FLAW (Feed, Lights, Air and Water) system can be incredibly useful.

Feed = Change every four days as a nutritional response.
Light = Alter every 10 days as a response to egg size, but it may result in short-term weight loss as well as long-term egg size gain. This has not been seen in all flocks, but has been noted in the past.
Air = Change every 24 – 48 hrs. For every two degrees below 65 degrees, you can lose approximately 8 k/cal of energy solely in the feed.
Water = Be sure to change every 24 hrs.

Start of production

But how do we maximize the accuracy of weighing eggs?

  • Always weigh eggs same time every day.
  • Only weigh gathered eggs, excluding double yolk eggs.
  • Always weigh the eggs in the same place, and never on another table or belt.

Be sure to weigh eggs a full tray at a time if possible, and be sure to use a light tray – I always used the fiber tray, as they are light and most scales can handle that weight and still be accurate.

If you weigh the eggs in a different place every time, there will be no consistency to your egg weights, you will lose accuracy and confuse the egg weight data on how your flock is doing.

It is also important to weigh at least 90 eggs per day (or approximately three trays) to give an accurate egg weight measurement. Remember to also average out the weight to an individual egg average at the end of the week. If sending eggs to a hatchery, only weigh those eggs in order to receive an accurate starting measurement.

Once your eggs have been weighed and averaged, how do you make adjustments to your feed based on egg size? 

As long as you have been collecting the data on a weekly basis, when the birds arrive at 23 weeks of age, a simple calculation can be done: Egg weight X Production % = Egg mass.

Calculation examples

For example, at age 30 weeks, a flock has an observed average egg weight of 59 grams with a production percentage of 88 per cent. Therefore, using the formula above, the egg mass peak equals 51.92 grams.

Once the flock has hit its peak egg mass and you observe a drop in production and an egg weight increase the following week, it may be time to reduce the feed on the flock.

Continuing with the above example, if the production drops to 87 per cent and the egg weight goes to 59.5 grams during the second week, the peak egg mass will drop to 51.76. 

Looking at the reduction, a decision must be made based on the energy of your breeder feed and the amount the
production dropped that week. To do this, you first must know the energy of your feed, and for this example, we will use 2850 k/cal. 

To calculate the energy per bird you must take your feed rate per bird and multiply it to the energy of your feed per bird.
Example: 159 grams per bird X 2.850 energy of feed per bird = 453 k/cal of energy per bird being fed at week 31.

Feed Reduction examples

If your production drops one per cent at the end of week: Take the drop in production from that week (1 per cent) and multiply by 1.8 k/cal, which gives 1.8 k/cal to be reduced for that week.

453 k/cal – 1.8 k/cal = 451.2 k/cal per bird. 

When 451.2 is divided by 2.850 energy of feed (based on the energy in the feed being supplied to the flock), you get 158.32 grams per bird. Therefore, you were feeding 159 grams initially, so the next week you should only be feeding only 158.32 grams (a drop in feed rate of .68 grams of feed per bird for that week based on the drop in production and energy required).

What if your production drops two percent at the end of a week? 

Take the production drop percentage and multiple by 1.8 k/cal to get 3.6 k/cal of energy to be reduced per bird.

Therefore: 453 k/cal – 3.6 k/cal = 449.4 k/cal per bird.

Finally, if you divide 2.850 energy of feed from 449.4 kcal/bird, you end up with a total of 157.68 grams per bird, a total drop in feed rate of 1.31 grams per bird.


It needs to be pointed out that while 1.8 k/cal is a constant base energy value number, all the other values can change based on egg weight, production of the flock and the energy in your feed ration.

This calculation should be done on a weekly basis to tell when it is time to start reducing or increasing feed and by how much. In essence, you are letting the production of the flock and the energy of your feed dictate how much should be reduced on any given week. 

It should be noted that it is possible to notice egg weight improvements by simply weighing the eggs, watching the trends and keeping an eye out for flaws in production. 

There are no silver bullets in this industry that are a given, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Feb. 19, 2013, Toronto, ON - One Earth Farms Corp., a subsidiary of Sprott Resource Corp. (SRC) has acquired Toronto based Beretta Farms Inc., a purveyor of hormone free and antibiotic free natural and organic branded meat products in Ontario and British Columbia, in consideration for cash and shares in One Earth Farms.

Beretta Farms was founded 20 years ago by Mike and Cynthia Beretta who, together with Elvio DelZotto their partner for the last 10 years, have grown the Beretta natural and organic product range into a market leading brand of fresh beef, poultry, deli products and meal solutions in the greater Toronto and Vancouver markets. Beretta Farms products are available to consumers through selected national grocery chains, leading natural and organic retailers, direct home delivery, and a specialty catering operation that provides meals to professional athletes and corporate clients based around the Beretta product line. In connection with the transaction, Mike Beretta will join the executive committee of One Earth Farms as the Chief Operating Officer.

Commenting on the transaction, CEO for One Earth Farms, Larry Ruud said, "I am pleased to welcome Beretta Farms to the One Earth Farms family. Mike and Cynthia Beretta are market visionaries with a passion for farming and the marketing of natural and organic meat products. The Beretta Farms supply chain and consumer brands perfectly complement the One Earth Farms source of beef from our more than 17,000 animal herd of top quality natural and organic cattle. With Mike and Cynthia remaining actively involved in the day to day operation of the business, this combination gives One Earth Farms an integrated business model and broadens our reach from the farm to the end consumer where there is increasing interest in naturally raised meats, food traceability and best practices in animal care."

Mike Beretta added, "Cynthia and I are delighted that we can continue the growth and evolution of our business through this partnership with One Earth Farms. The fit between the Beretta brand, our customer base of prestigious retailers and the organic and natural cattle supply of One Earth Farms make this joint entity an ideal platform for growth."

Jan. 15, 2013, Ottawa, ON - This is a statement released by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz on the passing of former Federal Agriculture Minister John Wise:

On behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, I extend my sincere condolences on the passing of the Honourable John Wise, PC.

A dairy farmer from Ontario's Elgin County, John brought his passion for agriculture to public life, serving in municipal politics, farm organizations and as member of Parliament for Elgin for 16 years. As Canada's agriculture minister, John was highly respected in the farm community and by Canadians for his integrity and dedication to the job of serving and growing Canadian agriculture.

John was a capable and realistic minister with a knowledge of agriculture from the ground up. Under his watch, he helped guide several critical pieces of legislation. He was also instrumental in the development of the Canada-U.S. Trade Agreement from an agricultural perspective. This included delivering transition assistance for grape growers, which laid the foundation for today's world-class Canadian wine industry. He was also successful in developing stronger federal-provincial-territorial relations to move the industry forward. While dealing with some difficult issues through his career, John was always open to debate-and, as one colleague recalls, he was "a gentleman throughout."

I am honoured to continue John's efforts in putting farmers first, because a strong farm gate is the backbone of our economy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Wise family.

Dec. 4, 2012 - A new course will be starting in January 2013 at the University of Manitoba entitled "Advocacy and Animal Rights" focusing on food security and the ethics of meat production.

According to an article in The Manitoban, the idea came out of the recent E.coli O157:H7 contaimnation at Alberta's XL Foods back in September. The course will focus on the various questions that erupted from that crisis and its implications to the entire industry including the role of a union, the definiton of "consciousness" and the role of fatory farming.

For more information on the new course offered in January, please read the entire article from The Manitoban.

Oct. 31, 2012. Huntsville, AL - Aviagen, Inc. was the anchor sponsor for 7th consecutive Alberta Breeder Workshop held October 2-4, 2012, in Airdrie, Alberta.

Organized by the Government of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, more than 70 poultry industry professionals representing every region of Canada were registered for the event – over twice the number attendees originally anticipated. The workshop themed "Setting the Stage for Success: Managing Breeders in the 21st Century," was focused on sharing knowledge, collaboration, and best practices in broiler breeder management. The intense 3 day program featured more than seventeen presentations from academia, poultry production specialists, and allied industry on a variety of critical areas for successful production.

Workshop attendees included hatching egg producers, hatchery and feed company representatives, as well as other poultry professionals. Participation by so many qualified presenters from Aviagen, Ceva, DSM, Lilydale Foods, Poultry Health Services, and the Universities of Alberta and Georgia captivated the audience with a broad topic range including summer and winter ventilation, litter management, barn management, fertility, coccidiosis, male management, female management, nutrition, integrated health management, and production output.

"Working together with the Government of Alberta, Aviagen is once again proud to sponsor the breeder workshop," said Canadian Regional Business Consultant for Aviagen Scott Gillingham. "Together we share a common commitment of support and education that is focused on breeding success for poultry producers throughout Canada."

This project was sponsored by Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

For more information, please visit

Oct. 16, 2012 - Ziggity Systems Inc. has made it easy for producers purchasing any one of its poultry watering systems to register for their warranty online at

Customers just need to open the drop-down menu under the "Support" tab and click on "Warranty Registration." There is a simple form to fill out that includes the type of watering system and kind of poultry being served.

The warranty document is also available for review along with an informational update on the corrosive use of chemicals with the watering system.

"In the everyday busyness of poultry operations, sending in your warranty registration is a detail that's easy to overlook. So we've made it easy for our customers to just pop online to give us their contact and system information," said the company.

"A watering system is a key investment, and we urge all of our customers to make use of this resource to make sure that investment is properly protected."

For more information on Ziggity Systems Inc., please visit

Oct. 9, 2012, Huntsville, AL - Aviagen recently hosted the three young poultry farmers who are the recipients of the 2012 Canadian Broiler Hatching Egg Producers Association's (CBHEPA) young farmers program at the company's facilities in Huntsville, Alabama. This year's CBHEPA young farmer program recipients are Ben van Steenbergen from Hepburn, Saskatchewan, Timothy van Steenbergen from Hepburn, Saskatchewan, and James Malda from Barrhead, Alberta.

The visit to Aviagen was an opportunity for the three young farmers to learn more about the US poultry industry and receive information about latest management advice and best practices including nutritional advice, veterinary, biosecurity objectives, production planning, shipping and export processes, as well as the latest Ross parent stock and broiler performance data. To get a close look at management practices, Canadian Technical Manager Mark Belanger accompanied the visitors on a tour of an Aviagen hatchery, the company's Egg Depot, pullet and breeder farms, and a customer facility.

"On behalf of Aviagen, I'd like to congratulate Ben, Timothy and James on being selected as this year's recipients of the CBHEPA's young farmers program," said Scott Gillingham, regional business consultant for Aviagen, Inc. "The young farmers program is a great opportunity to help prepare the next generation of production managers for future success in the global poultry industry and Aviagen is proud to be a part of the program."

These young Canadian farmers have been working alongside their families in the poultry business from very young ages and plan to pursue careers in the poultry industry.

Sept. 11, 2012, Tucker, GA - The 2013 International Production & Processing Expo has surpassed 400,000 net square feet in exhibit space, covering over 20 acres of exhibit area. With only three months left to secure an exhibit at one the world’s largest poultry, feed, and meat tradeshows, space is going fast!
Comprised of the three integrated tradeshows -- International Poultry Expo, International Feed Expo, and AMI’s International Meat Expo -- more than 970 exhibitors have registered for the 2013 IPPE as of the beginning of September. This is the largest exhibitor count in a decade. In addition, the August 2012 issue of Trade Show Executive has ranked the Expo as number 35 in its Fastest 50 tradeshows listing for percentage of growth in net square feet of paid exhibit space. IPPE expects this ranking to go up for 2013.
The global poultry, feed and meat industry tradeshow will be held Tuesday through Thursday, January 29-31, 2013, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA. The Expo will highlight the latest technology, equipment, and services used in the production and processing of poultry, meat and feed products.  The Expo will also feature dynamic education programs addressing current industry issues.
The IPPE workshops and education programs will be held from January 28 through February 1, 2013 and will include the annual line-up of the International Poultry Scientific Forum, Pet Food Conference, Animal Agricultural Sustainability Summit, and AFIA’s International Feed Education Program.  New for 2013 are the following educational programs: Improving Food Safety, Sanitation and Maintenance; Animal Handling: Focus on Poultry Processing; Antibiotic Conference – Current Issues for the Poultry & Egg Industry; USPOULTRY/United Egg Producers Conference on the Future of the U.S. Egg Industry; Meat & Poultry Research Conference; Processed Meats Workshop; Consumer Trends – Best New Meat and Poultry Products; Operations: Risk Management & Lifestyle Analysis; and International Regulatory Topics for Meat. Back by popular demand is the National Renderers Association’s International Rendering Symposium and thePoultry Market Intelligence Forum.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursday, January 31, 2013: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
For more information about the 2013 IPPE, go to


U.S. Poultry & Egg Association is an all-feather organization representing the complete spectrum of today’s poultry industry, with a focus on progressively serving member companies through research, education, communication, and technical assistance. Founded in 1947, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association is based in Tucker, GA.
About AFIA

AFIA is the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to representing the business, legislative and regulatory interests of the U.S. animal feed industry and its suppliers. AFIA also is the recognized leader on international industry developments. Member-companies are livestock feed and pet food manufacturers, integrators, pharmaceutical companies, ingredient suppliers, equipment manufacturers and companies which supply other products, services and supplies to feed manufacturers.
About AMI

AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Together, AMI’s members produce 95 percent of the beef, pork, lamb and veal products and 70 percent of the turkey products in the United States. The Institute provides legislative, regulatory, public relations, technical, scientific and educational services to the meat and poultry packing and processing industry.

Aug. 21, 2012 - Morrisons, a supermarket group in the UK, has developed information on helping producers deal with the impact of wet litter on bird health and performance.

According to an article in Farmers Weekly, the information packet was produced to address the causes of wet poultry litter and to create a factsheet that can be used as a quick reference for farmers.

"Debate on how to tackle problems associated with wet litter tends to dominate our producer group meetings and it was obvious there was a desire to find out what was happening elsewhere in the world, to see if we could copy best practice," said agriculture manager Louise Welsh.

For more on the information packet, please see the complete article at Farmers Weekly.

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