It was in her third year of her undergrad studies at the University of Guelph where she first got a taste of the poultry industry.
“Once I got into university I happened upon a job working with one of my mentors going to poultry farms for research and it was then that I really found my passion for this industry,” says the young veterinarian. “I really felt like this was where I wanted to be.”
Taylor took two extra years of specialty courses in poultry welfare, nutrition and physiology in order to gain the background knowledge she felt she needed. Meanwhile, she actively sought out jobs and volunteer opportunities working in all aspects of the industry to gain a full scale, well-rounded view of the different areas of poultry in Ontario. This included membership in the University of Guelph Poultry Club during both undergrad and in Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).
“I loved every minute of it – we got to do the coolest stuff,” Taylor exclaims. In her fourth year of OVC, she focused her rotation weeks specifically on poultry studies. She already knew that’s what she wanted to do when she graduated.
It was during the second half of that final year an opportunity with Cargill came up. “They say the best things come to you when you aren’t expecting it and this truly was one of those things for me,” Taylor confesses.
Cargill had been looking for a veterinarian to not only look after flocks on farm but to very specifically take care of animal welfare from hatchery to processing, leading their animal welfare programs. “This really spoke to me because I was looking for a job that would combine my love of medicine with my passion for improving welfare.”
Taylor completed her Bachelor of Science in animal biology in 2010, with a special interest in poultry husbandry and welfare. She completed her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at OVC in 2014.
Today, Taylor is working as veterinarian for Cargill Canada overseeing the health and welfare of broilers and broiler breeders at the company’s poultry facility in London, Ont., the hatchery in Jarvis, her office in Guelph and on farm.
Based in Winnipeg, Man., Cargill is one of Canada’s largest processors, employing 8,000 people across the country, part of a global team of 155,000 people in 70 countries.
Taylor services a diverse and challenging portfolio, always keeping animal welfare at the forefront.
She has been involved with the company’s process of the transition from crates to modular loading to improve transportation welfare and handling. She will audit crews on farm during catching in order to ensure that animal welfare is maintained and that the transition continues to go smoothly. It’s part of her job to ensure that catching and transportation are done well, with minimal stress, and to evaluate new opportunities to improve loading conditions and lairage checks in all types of weather situations.
She also heads up the training program for animal welfare at the hatchery and processing end through which she will train all of their stakeholders about how to handle birds and recognize behavioural indicators of their comfort. What is animal welfare? Why is it important? This focus on bird welfare also extends to dealing with disease challenges that may arrive on farm.
Cargill has currently moved from electrical stunning to a CAS (Controlled Atmospheric Stunning) system. Taylor is in charge of ensuring appropriate animal welfare practices in and around the stunning and handling of the birds with this system, implementing the use of captive bolt devices on farm, in the plant and for their breeder service people, as well as implementing the use of the zephyr device in the plant. Taylor also goes on farm to assess and validate appropriate on-farm euthanasia practices for Chicken Farmers of Ontario.
With regard to antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic reduction, Taylor is part of the IBH (Inclusion Body Hepatitis) working group, continually assessing disease challenges in the field and evaluating how to improve on practices to help reduce antibiotic use overall when appropriate.
One of her main areas of involvement is with the Cargill NAIHM program (No Antibiotics Important to Human Medicine). As she explained, this program essentially says that Cargill will not use category I, II, or III antibiotics preventatively in the feed or water and only for treatment when necessary for animal welfare reasons on farm. This program does allow the use of category IIII ionophores and chemicals as they are antibiotics not used on the human medicine side.
“So far we have had good success implementing this program and we continue to work on it daily to ensure that bird health and welfare are optimized,” the veterinarian says.
Taylor currently lives in Guelph. She just bought a house two years ago that backs onto Guelph Lake Conservation Area. On her days off you might find her hiking with her fiancé, camera in hand, enjoying nature and, of course, bird watching. When she’s not planning her upcoming wedding, she might be enjoying Zumba or playing Ultimate Frisbee. But basically, her life has gone to the birds.
“What attracted me to poultry was the kindness and eagerness of producers to want to show me what chicken farming was really like when I was just starting out, to introduce me into the industry and welcome me with open arms,” Taylor says. “It really made me feel like it was an industry that wanted new ideas, that wanted people to come learn and see how they did things but also to challenge them to try new things and to continuously improve.”
This profile is part of our Who’s Who: Rising Poultry Stars series. For more profiles of young industry leaders, visit canadianpoultrymag.com.