February 16, 2017 – Up to 23,000 chickens are expected to be culled after a suspected case of bird flu in Suffolk.

A control zone has been set up around Bridge Farm in Redgrave, UK, after the H5N8 Avian Influenza virus was identified, the government said. READ MORE
Published in News
In several parts of Ontario, poultry production is quite concentrated, which doesn’t bode well for preventing spread of disease in the event of an outbreak. Because of that, Tom Baker, project manager and incident commander at the Feather Board Command Centre (FBCC,) is co-ordinating a special project.
Published in Health
Dec. 5, 2016 - It turns out birds have a flu season too.

After years of studying the role of wild birds in outbreaks of avian influenza in domestic poultry flocks, one of Canada’s top public sector veterinarians says the bottom line is farmers need to take precaution in the fall.

John Pasick is the national veterinary science authority for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and he says there’s an annual rhythm to infections. Much like humans tend to suffer more in the fall when kids return to the Petri dish of schools, birds spread disease in the fall during migration.

“The main message from our research is for farmers to maintain good biosecurity measures in the fall when the birds are migrating,” Pasick said in a recent interview. “Pay close attention to every detail during that time because domestic flocks have little natural immunity to diseases.” | READ MORE.
Published in Biosecurity
Dec. 7, 2016 - Poultry across England, Scotland and Wales have been forced indoors as a precaution after announcements by the Chief Veterinary Officers of the countries of avian influenza prevention zones.

The requirements aim to protect poultry from a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza which has been spreading around Europe recently.

Housing birds is more of an issue for free range producers, but they will retain the ability to market their eggs as free range for the duration of the order. | READ MORE.
Published in Biosecurity
Nov. 30, 2016 - A local company has developed an electronic logbook system that can help the livestock industry quickly and easily track movement on and off farms – information that is absolutely critical for preventing or minimizing costly disease outbreaks.

Currently, a paper-based visitor register is the global standard for keeping track of who entered or left a farm property at what time and where they’d been previously.

A manual system is slow and leaves room for error, however, neither of which is helpful during a disease emergency, especially in the early days when spread can still be prevented or contained.

“It’s not just livestock that are affected by catastrophic disease outbreaks, it’s just as important for crop and horticulture growers to keep unclean vehicles moving from farm to farm,” says Tim Nelson, CEO of Be Seen Be Safe Ltd. “Uncontrolled disease populations increase exponentially and that’s why control is so important.”

Be Seen Be Safe uses predetermined geo-fence boundaries around a farm business to automatically record movements on and off the property, either through a mobile phone app or an in-vehicle GPS system used by the individual accessing or leaving the premises.

Property owners can download and review their electronic visitor records using a personal login; no movements outside of the pre-determined geo-fence around the property are recorded.

The information is collated and analysed to predict disease spread, and can then be used to electronically contact people within the surrounding area of a possible outbreak, a process that currently is done manually.

It runs in tandem with the company’s customizable Farm Health Monitor software, which lets farm staff record clinical signs of disease on-farm before there is a formal diagnosis as part of regular or special herd visits. The software also allows for inventory management of antibiotics on-farm, by letting users record both purchase and actual use of antimicrobials.

“This is a proactive decision support tool for farmers,” explains Nelson. “The Farm Health Monitor gives you the clinical signs, Be Seen Be Safe provides the movement, and when you overlay the weather on a network of properties, you can start to show risk that you can alert people to.”

“Everybody is worried about catastrophic diseases, but this is also powerful for production-limiting diseases that can be carried from farm to farm,” he adds. “If livestock and poultry sectors start to see cost benefit from this because it is reducing the rate of production-limiting illness, people will get used to observing and preventing instead of diagnosing and treating disease.”

First steps have been taken to build a farm sector-led biosecurity community with the hosting of a successful information day in Guelph recently.

The system is being trialed in the Ontario poultry industry, as well as with large poultry integrators in the United States, and an agreement is in place with a Spanish partner to roll it out to the swine industry in the European Union.

A pilot is also underway with the wine industry in Australia to track the spread of fomites, which can carry disease.

Be Seen Be Safe has received support from the Bioenterprise Seed Funding program funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. The Ontario poultry industry trials are supported in part through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.
Published in Biosecurity
Oct. 14, 2016 - Monitoring the migration routes of wild birds could help to provide early warning of potential bird flu outbreaks, experts say.

The recommendation follows new research that shows migrating birds can help to spread deadly strains of avian flu around the world.

Lethal strains
Some strains of bird flu viruses are highly lethal in birds they infect and pose a major threat to poultry farms worldwide.

In rare cases, the viruses can also infect people and cause life-threatening illness.

Asia outbreak
Researchers investigated how a subtype of bird flu called H5N8 spread around the world following outbreaks in South Korea that began in early 2014.

The virus spread to Japan, North America and Europe, causing outbreaks in birds there between autumn 2014 and spring 2015.

Migration patterns
Scientists analysed migration patterns of wild birds that were found to be infected with the H5N8 virus.

The team then compared the genetic code of viruses isolated from infected birds collected from 16 different countries.

Long-distance flight
Their findings reveal that H5N8 was most likely carried by long-distance flights of infected migrating wild birds from Asia to Europe and North America via their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

The researchers say their findings reinforce the importance of maintaining strict exclusion areas around poultry farms to keep wild birds out.

"Bird flu is a major threat to the health and wellbeing of farmed chickens worldwide,"  says Samantha Lycett with the University of Edinburgh. "Our findings show that with good surveillance, rapid data sharing and collaboration, we can track how infections spread across continents."

Greater surveillance of wild birds at known breeding areas could help to provide early warning of threats of specific flu virus strains to birds and people, they add.

Deadly bird flu strains – known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) – can kill up to 100 per cent of the birds they infect within a few days.

The study was conducted by the Global Consortium for H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses and involved scientists from 32 institutions worldwide.

This study could only have happened through bird flu researchers around the world pooling resources and working together," adds Mark Woolhouse, also with the University of Edinburgh. "We see this as a model for how scientists should unite to combat infectious diseases of all kinds.

Global study
The study is published in the journal Science and was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, COMPARE. The Roslin Institute receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Published in Biosecurity
Controlling highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks is a costly business. Quarantine, culling and depopulation, poultry movement control and increased biosecurity amount to high costs for the industry. So, too, does establishing transparent communication with both the public and producers.

Compensating farmers – and not compensating them – brings costs of its own, as proper compensation facilitates reporting and disease control. Unfortunately, not all compensation schemes are created equal, and lack of compensation is a problem that extends far beyond geographical borders. One could say that its consequences are global in scale.

Compensation around the world
At this year’s International Egg Commission (IEC) conference in Warsaw, HPAI was a hot topic. Concerned poultry producers from around the globe met in an economics workshop to listen to Peter van Horne speak about compensation schemes around the world. Van Horne is a poultry economist from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

There are a lot of regulations in the EU on how to compensate, said Van Horne as he dove into his presentation. The European Union clearly says where there is an outbreak of AI and birds are culled, farmers are compensated for the market value of that bird – both pullets and layers, he said.

“The EU, at the same time, says that it is very important that all of the member states have good control of the outbreak,” he continued. “If there’s an outbreak in one country, the neighbouring countries are also impacted.”

The EU compensates 50 per cent of direct losses because it believes that it’s in the best interest of all member states to do so. The EU, however, does not compensate for consequential losses, so all of the empty periods on the farm. That’s the risk of the farmer. How governments operate at the state level is their decision, said van Horne.

But how do you determine the market value of a layer? Do the eggs she could have laid determine her worth or is the farmer simply compensated for the value of the bird? Turns out that there’s no clear answer.

In the Netherlands, value is assigned to pullets beginning at seven weeks. Feed costs are also calculated and included up to a maximum of 23 weeks. There are two main points where market value is determined, at the beginning and at the end. Since there is no market for hens at 50 weeks of age, value is simply estimated. Value is also based on revenue that would have been earned from the eggs. Consequential costs, including the costs to destroy the birds, transport, and the cleaning and disinfection of farms, are not covered.

“The Dutch say that there should be a maximum that the farmers can pay,” said van Horne. “There is a fund with levies. For five years the levies go into a fund and then there is a certain amount of money compensated from this fund to give compensation payments to the farmers – so there is a ceiling because otherwise it would be too expensive for the farmers.”

“When there’s a big outbreak, like 2003, there are very, very high losses with a lot of birds culled, then it’s just only the first part [that is] paid by the farmers,” he continued.

Belgium’s compensation scheme, said van Horne, is very straightforward. With regards to direct losses, the EU pays 50 per cent and farmers pay the remaining 50 per cent. Regarding the cost of control, the EU pay 50 per cent and the Belgian government pays the remaining 50 per cent. Consequential losses are at the risk of the farmer.

In Germany, direct losses are paid by the EU (50 per cent), by the government (25 per cent) and by the farmer (25 per cent). The scheme is similar for control costs, although Germany is a little more complicated as the various states have different regulations. Like Belgium and the Netherlands, there is no compensation for consequential losses. There are, however, insurance companies that will cover consequential losses.

In France, farmers don’t have to pay anything for control or direct losses. The EU pays the 50 per cent, and the government pays 50 per cent. Consequential losses are not covered, but like Germany, there are insurance options.

Like the other EU member states, Spain gets 50 per cent compensation for direct losses. While van Horne couldn’t speak with great certainty on what happens beyond that, he did say that there are plenty of public-private insurance schemes in place.

Outside of Europe farmers have very different schemes. Australian farmers, for instance, are only compensated for direct losses. The amount of compensation is dependent on the type of disease. Diseases fall into three categories – one, two or three. The government compensates 100 per cent of direct losses for those diseases that fall into category one. Diseases that fall into category two, like HPAI H5 and N7, are paid for by the government and industry at 80 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Category three diseases, such as HPAI other than H5 and N7, and LPAI subtypes H5 and H7, are paid for 50 per cent by government and 50 per cent by industry.

In Indonesia, where there’s no clear preventative or control program, farmers are offered little to no compensation. This creates an additional problem, van Horne pointed out. That is, when farmers are not compensated, they are not motivated to report cases to the government. In many cases, they take the birds to market as quickly as possible. Sometimes, though, farmers are offered credit schemes to return to farming once the crisis is over.

“There should be compensation to motivate the farmers to be involved in solving the problem,” said van Horne.

This has been a problem in South Africa where there is no compensation for consequential losses. “The difficulty we have, if it’s a controlled disease, then the government will depopulate,” one South African farmer said at the workshop. “But you don’t know what you’re going to be compensated when they depopulate.”

“It’s never happened with chickens, but it’s happened with ostriches and cattle, so we don’t have any poultry experience,” he clarified. “But it is a practical problem for us, and private insurance is too expensive.”

Just as schemes vary in other parts of the world, they differ from country to country in North America as well. Although no official details on Mexico’s compensation scheme could be found, a Mexican farmer at the workshop, Sergio Chavez, quoted a price of $0.50 per bird. Chavez’s concern went beyond compensation, though. In 2012, there was a major outbreak in Jalisco, he explained. This was particularly problematic for the industry, as Jalisco represents 55 per cent of Mexican production.

“I think that’s important to measure – the social impact, the political impact – because what happened at that time?” he asked. “The prices to the consumer skyrocketed – doubled or tripled.”

Until 2012, U.S. poultry farmers hadn’t faced large outbreaks, so they didn’t have a compensation scheme in place. “If you don’t have a problem then you don’t know how to compensate for it,” said Chad Gregory, president and CEO of United Egg Producers. “Clearly, with the high-path AI outbreak of 2015 where we lost 35 million layers... we got intimately familiar with indemnity, and the formula and the areas that it was lacking.”

The first figures, said Gregory, weren’t good. The U.S. government came to a figure by calculating costs, including the costs for buying in and moving chicks, feed, vaccinations and service costs. One of the big problems was that the government was taking 90 per cent or more for dividends, earnings and taxes, he said.

“You’re left with about $1.00 to $1.10,” he said. “They add that to the figure to start of layer capitalization – so $4.25 to 4.50 – that is what she’s worth at 19 weeks.”

“That doesn’t come anywhere close to helping pay for the bird or helping the farmer staying in business,” he concluded. “We had a lot of upset farmers last year.”

The U.S. government also paid for cleaning and disinfecting, but Gregory says they hired contractors who had no idea what they were doing. “It took five times longer and it wasn’t done well,” he said.

Since then the U.S. government has changed the rules about virus elimination. The farmer now gets a cheque for around $6.45 per bird. “The total package is very fair,” said Gregory. “We think the reimbursement package is nice.

In Canada, the order to have animals destroyed as part of disease control activities comes from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) under the Health Animals Act.

“The amount of compensation is the market value, as determined by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, that the animal would have had at the time of its evaluation if it did not have to be destroyed,” explained Tammy Jarbeau, media relations person for CFIA.

The maximum amount established for this type of animal is in the Compensation for Destroyed Animals Regulations. If there is no readily available market for the animals, said Jarbeau, the market value is estimated using CFIA economic models. These models take into consideration factors such as incomes and costs for feed and bedding.

AI is a global issue
Avian influenza, unfortunately, is here to stay. As it affects farmers globally, prevention and controls programs, as well as compensation schemes are necessary to prevent its spread, especially as migratory birds don’t recognize geographical and economic borders. The meeting in Warsaw was a good start, though, as it provided a space to increase dialogue between affected countries.
Published in Business & Policy

Avian influenza (AI) is without a doubt one of the biggest concerns for the global poultry industry. New outbreaks occur in most regions of the world every year, and according to Arjan Stegeman of Utrecht University in The Netherlands, it’s a problem that is only going to get worse. Stegeman was a keynote speaker at the International Egg Commission’s Global Leadership Conference in Berlin last September. His talk, Understanding AI, opened what would be an interesting week.

The unpredictability of AI
Commonly called the bird flu, AI is an infectious viral disease that occurs in birds, particularly in wild waterfowl, such as geese and ducks. AI viruses can be sub-divided into two groups, high pathogenic and low pathogenic AI. This division is based on their ability to cause disease in poultry. Low pathogenic viruses can cause mild symptoms, like gut trouble, whereas high pathogenic viruses result in high mortality rates, sometimes up to 100 per cent in just 48 hours.

Avian influenza ranges from H1–H17 types; only H5 and H7 are highly pathogenic, though. While highly pathogenic viruses are always categorized as either H5 or H7, not all H5 or H7 viruses are highly pathogenic. H5 and H7 viruses are actually quite similar, Stegeman said. In fact, it’s only a very small part of the gene encoding that is different.

High pathogenic viruses, however, can arise from low pathogenic types. “Sometimes we know that this happens quite quickly, so on the same farm where the virus was introduced,” said Stegeman. “And other times it can take more than half a year, like we’ve seen in Italy. That is something that we would like to understand better.”

Another peculiar feature of this virus is that it can easily exchange genetic material. “If a duck gets infected by the H5N1 virus, and at the same time an N8 virus, a new virus can arise from that,” Stegeman explained. That virus would be referred to as H5N8.

“This happened, for example, with the H5N2 virus that has arisen in the United States,” Stegeman continued. “So this virus has all kinds of tricky features that can make it survive in the population and change its nature in a way that is very difficult to catch.”

While high pathogenic viruses wreak the most havoc, they’re the quickest to be diagnosed by the farmer. Transmission, said Stegeman, is pretty much the same as it is with the low pathogenic viruses. The concentration of the virus is much higher in high pathogenic types though.

In the past 10 to 15 years, there have been a number of interesting occurrences in highly pathogenic AI. For one, the scientific literature before 2003 showed that epidemics of new sub-types (H5N1 or H7N7) always arose from the introduction of a new low-path virus, which then mutated to a high path virus. This still happens today, only now, wild birds have entered the equation. The hypothesis, Stegeman explained, is that the H5N1 epidemic was not effectively controlled in some countries, and spillover of the virus to wild birds occurred. In fact, experts agree that H5N1 was the first high pathogenic AI to be widely spread through the movement of wild birds. Today, it is possible for several wild bird species to be high pathogenic H5 infected without showing any signs at all.

Global spread of H5N8 explained
The global spread of the H5N8 virus began in China and South Korea. Later, it spread to Europe. As of November 2014, the virus had spread further to Canada and the United States. Interestingly, though, the pattern of spread does not match the migratory routes of wild birds, Stegeman said.

The virus, he explained, spread first from China and South Korea to Siberia. There, birds from Western Europe and Asia mixed and the resulting viruses were brought to Europe in the spring. A similar thing happened in North America.

There are tools available to evaluate the genetic differences between viruses, and results have shown that many only differ by one genetic position. “For the rest, this is not what we see,” said Stegeman. “What we see is something that is really very scattered with really huge differences between these viruses. What this means is that we’re dealing with separate introductions, and not between-farm transmission. The most likely cause of that is the wild bird population.”

Differences between the U.S. and Europe
In April of 2015, what has since been described as the worst animal disease outbreak in the history of the U.S. began. On April 12, the first birds tested positive for high pathogenic AI on a 200,000-bird cage-free operation in Wisconsin. On April 20, a five million bird operation in Iowa was hit.

“From April 20 until the middle of June, it was absolutely crazy,” Chad Gregory of United Egg Producers in the U.S., told the crowd in Berlin. “Every single day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day it was quite the experience – Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota.”

Ultimately, the outbreak ended up wiping out some 35 million egg-laying hens, and another five to six million pullets.

“Those 35 million egg-laying hens represented about 12 per cent of the entire U.S. flock,” Gregory said. “And unfortunately 30 million of the 35 million we lost were dedicated to the egg product market.”

The U.S. turkey industry lost almost eight million turkeys, primarily in the Iowa and Minnesota areas. In total, 223 premises tested positive.

“We didn’t know what to do in the beginning,” Gregory said. “We felt like there was just so much chaos going on in those first couple of days.”

But what made the U.S. situation so much different than the European cases? Dr. Klaus-Peter Behr of AniCon in Germany explained.

The H5N8 virus that hit both Europe and North America originated in Southeast Asia. This virus found its way with migrating birds via Russia to Europe and via Alaska and Canada to several U.S. states. “On its way to the U.S. it mingled up with an H9N2 virus and became the H5N2 virus hitting the U.S. poultry industry,” Behr said.

The U.S. virus experienced a severe delay or incubation period, whereas the original H5N8 needed only two days from infection before severe mortality began. In the U.S., mortality didn’t begin for eight to 10 days.

“This difference gave the U.S. virus a whole additional week to intensively multiply and spread without being obviously present, as shown by increased mortality,” Behr said.

In Europe, poultry producers had a tremendous advantage, since the virus became obvious very quickly after introduction on the farm. “This was the crucial difference that made it possible to stop spreading of the virus one week earlier than in the U.S. cases,” Behr concluded.

AI isn't going anywhere
Most experts agree; AI isn’t going anywhere. That’s not to say, though, that producers are helpless. “I think, as many of you realize, we may have to live with bird flu for quite a while,” Stegeman said at the end of his presentation. “That does not mean that we cannot do anything because introductions for known pathogenic virus will remain. But it does leave us wondering what will happen with future outbreaks with the highly pathogenic virus, especially given that all the migratory birds are now coming back.”

Published in Biosecurity

Should a producer find him or herself facing avian influenza or another catastrophic disease event, Ontario turkey producer Bob McCauley has the following advice to share: “keep track of everything.”

McCauley manages the turkey farm that was the first to be infected with avian influenza (AI) in southwestern Ontario last spring. Speaking at a Poultry Industry Council (PIC) Producer Update in February, McCauley was candid about how stressful the experience of dealing with AI was, and the importance of keeping record of everyone he talked to, what they talked about and next steps. When under such stress, it’s not easy to keep track of who said what – and when your livelihood is at stake, you want to make sure everyone is held accountable and stay in control of your own operation.

Despite having robust biosecurity plans for poultry facilities in place, unfortunately avian influenza can still find its way into a barn (see comments from Jim Dean, CEO of Center Fresh Group, on page 37). While good biosecurity practices focus on keeping a pathogen such as AI out of a barn, since the AI outbreak in British Columbia in 2004, much work has been done in Canada to understand how to minimize its spread to other facilities once a pathogen does get into a barn. Just as McCauley wanted to keep track of what was going on at his farm during AI recovery, it’s crucial that industry track everything and everyone that had been on his farm in the days before his birds showed symptoms.

Service providers, suppliers and other vehicles moving from farm to farm pose a significant risk of disease spread. This has been looked at extensively and much work has been done to understand and mitigate this risk. At the same PIC Producer Update meeting in February, Tom Baker, incident commander of the Feather Board Command Centre (FBCC), said that connectedness through people, equipment and service providers caused avian influenza to spread rapidly in the U.S. last year, and was “much more significant than airborne transmission.”

But performing a traceback to determine which farms may be at risk from contact through a shared provider is not instantaneous. The Canadian poultry industry as a whole has gotten much better at reducing the time required to perform such a traceback. This can be seen in the reduced number of farms infected in B.C. in 2014 versus 2004, and the fact that AI was limited to three premises in Ontario in 2015.  

While executive director of the PIC, Tim Nelson wanted to find a more immediate solution. After several years of working with a technology partner, Nelson, now CEO of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC), is seeing his vision become reality. The “Be Seen Be Safe” app (see full story on page 10) acts as a virtual logbook, recording the movement of who comes on and off a farm and logging the information in a central database. During an emergency, Be Seen Be Safe can quickly analyze visitor information obtained from an infected property and plot the movement of visitors to that property throughout its infectious period, where they came from and where they went in order to identify potentially infected secondary properties.  

While the app is not meant to replace good biosecurity practices on-farm, it offers industry the potential to keep AI incidents rapidly contained so that, hopefully, disease incidents can be kept to one or two farms and the industry can get back to business sooner.

Published in New Technology


When you are suspicious, it is very important to have fast lab results and quick depopulation of live birds if the results are positive. As the disease progresses through a farm, the environmental contamination grows and promotes the spreading,” said Dr. Jill Nezworski, Blue House Veterinary, during her presentation at the “Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza – Lessons Learned” education program held during the 2016 International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, Ga. Nezworski discussed “Lessons Learned in the Layer Industry” in which she provided comparisons and contrasts between early detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) on farms and late detection due to mortality.

Nezworski observed that diagnosis of HPAI should be communicated to employees in an organized chain of command, and every hourly employee must also be educated and empowered. “False alarms may come up, but it is more important to create a culture in which it is fine to be wrong or overcautious,” she says. She emphasized that it is essential to have a quick and realistic depopulation plan, as well as a primary plan and a backup plan for carcass disposal. After depopulation is over, she underscored the need for the entire site to be decontaminated with the thought that even outside premises still likely accumulate viral contamination. Nezworski stressed that big risks should be addressed, and management should make it hard for the system to fail.

During his presentation on “Lessons Learned in the Turkey Industry,” Dr. Ben Wileman, Ag Forte, reflected that a clear sign of HPAI on a turkey farm is when a person enters the house and the turkeys are quiet. Wileman observed that when sick, animals develop neurologic signs, twist their necks and have tremors. He recommended, “When in doubt, test it.”

Dr. Lindsey Garber, USDA APHIS, Veterinary Services, provided an overview of the “Epidemiology of the Recent AI Outbreak” that addressed the results of two studies, one with HPAI infected layer farms and the other with turkeys. The two studies concentrated on potential risk factors for the spread of HPAI, including rendering and garbage trucks, shared equipment use, visitors, wild bird presence, etc. The result from both studies centered on the need for effective and efficient biosecurity measures at all levels.


Published in Farm Business


Despite routine utilization of standard vaccination protocols in broiler breeder and broiler flocks, outbreaks of diseases in broiler flocks still occur.  However, limited data on pathogen prevalence and associated risk factors among commercial broiler flocks in Canada are available.

Dr. Michele Guerin, a Poultry Epidemiologist from the University of Guelph recently completed a comprehensive project that investigated the prevalence of nine viruses * and four bacteria of health significance for the Ontario broiler industry.  The study included the associations of exposure to the pathogens with management and biosecurity practices, flock mortality, and condemnations.  

“As a contribution to disease control initiatives, this study will enable producers to adopt better strategies to reduce the incidence of these pathogens within their flocks,” said Dr. Guerin in an interview.

Pathogen exposure
Guerin’s team investigated 231 randomly selected Ontario broiler flocks and results showed frequent exposure to AAAV, ARV, CAV, pathogenic FAdV species, IBDV, Clostridium perfringens, and Enterococcus cecorum, and no exposure to, or low prevalence of, AEV, IBV, ILTV, NDV, Brachyspira spp., and Clostridium difficile.

Beyond prevalence, the genotypes of several of these pathogens were determined.

“Potentially pathogenic genotypes of FAdV, IBDV, and IBV were identified that can guide vaccine development and disease control efforts in Ontario,” she explains.

Although no specific management or biosecurity practice was identified as a predictor of all pathogens investigated, several factors were significantly associated with the prevalence of more than one pathogen (e.g. feed, barn and environmental conditions, hatchery, manure disposal, and antimicrobial use).

“Geographic and seasonal variation in the prevalence of a number of pathogens was evident,” Dr. Guerin indicated. “However no one district or season stood out as being a hot-spot or time period of high prevalence for all pathogens investigated.”

Of interest, a high proportion of Clostridium perfringens isolates were found to be resistant to antimicrobials commonly used in feed, and use of these antimicrobials was a risk factor in the development of resistance.  

“Finding alternatives to the use of antimicrobials in the feed to prevent necrotic enteritis should continue to be a priority for the industry,” Dr. Guerin asserted.

Dr. Guerin highlights that of all the pathogens surveyed, only Clostridium difficile poses a potential risk of infection for humans via the food chain, and despite the fact that toxigenic strains were found among the isolates, the proportion of positive flocks was low.

This research was funded by the Animal Health Laboratory’s AHSI, Poultry Industry Council, OMAFRA- U of G Partnership, and Chicken Farmers of Ontario. 

*Avian adeno-associated virus (AAAV), Avian encephalomyelitis virus (AEV), Avian reovirus (ARV), Chicken anemia virus (CAV), Fowl adenovirus (FAdV), Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), Infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), Infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV), Newcastle disease virus (NDV).



Published in Health

July 30, 2015 - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has removed the final Avian Influenza Control Zone, located in the counties of Oxford and Waterloo, Ont.

The quarantine on IP2 (infected premise #2) has been removed at the completion of the 21-day waiting period that followed the cleaning and disinfection process under CFIA oversight.

The information table for infected premises has been updated on the Agency's website.

Permits are no longer required for the movement of birds and bird products in Ontario.

Removal of Avian Influenza Control Zones is a Canadian domestic measure and has no impact on export of poultry or poultry products.

A 3-month enhanced surveillance period following the cleaning and disinfection of all IPs is required by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) before a zone will recover its avian influenza free status.

The cooperation and support of the Province of Ontario, the poultry industry and the owners of the infected birds were critical to the successful control of this outbreak and the removal of the control zones.

The CFIA continues to remind poultry owners to take an active role in protecting their flocks by employing strict biosecurity measures on their property, and immediately reporting any signs of illness.

For more information on avian influenza and measures poultry farmers can take to protect their flocks, please visit the CFIA website at

Published in Biosecurity


The H5 bird flu viruses crossing North America may be around for a while, avian influenza experts warn.

The nesting season, which will see wild birds converge on breeding grounds in Northern Canada and Alaska, could further spread the virus in wild bird populations, and produce a new wave of outbreaks in poultry operations when the birds fly south in the fall, they suggested in late April.

“So if the viruses weren’t there to begin with, there’s a good bet that these wild birds will migrate north and bring those viruses there again, and then potentially see a second wave of reintroduction,’’ said Dr. Tom DeLiberto, assistant director of the national wildlife research centre of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s animal and plant health inspection service.

It’s not completely clear what route the highly pathogenic H5 viruses took to get to North America, though the suspicion is that infected wild birds brought this family of Asian bird flu viruses to North America, perhaps through northern Russia and Alaska.

The first spotted was an H5N8, a virus which emerged in China a few years ago. It later swapped genes with North American bird flu viruses, creating H5N2 and H5N1 hybrids.

The H5N2 virus was first seen in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley last December, where it triggered a large outbreak across a number of poultry operations. Since then the virus has been found in multiple U.S. states and (at press time) three Ontario poultry farms, two housing turkeys and one broiler breeders.  All the farms are located in Oxford County and prompted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to impose two separate control zones within the county.

USDA scientists have been studying these viruses to determine which birds are most susceptible to them. Dr. David Swayne, director of the southeast poultry research laboratory at Athens, Ga., said wild mallard ducks are highly vulnerable to the virus. They are not visibly sick when they are infected, he said, but they do emit viruses so can contribute to its spread.

Other birds — non-aquatic birds like hawks, falcons and eagles — appear also to be vulnerable, but in them infection is fatal, said DeLiberto.

These viruses have been found in birds in three of North America’s four flyways — the Pacific, the Central and the Mississippi flyways. The only unaffected flyway so far is the Atlantic, but experts appear to feel the virus’s appearance there is only a matter of time.

These viruses are descendents of the Asian H5N1 bird flu virus that has killed millions of poultry in Southeast Asia, Egypt and places in between since late 2003.

As well at least 784 people in 16 countries are known to have been infected with H5N1 viruses since 2003 and 429 of them have died. There have been no known human infections with the H5N2 virus to date.

H5N1 has caused major economic losses in Asia, and while H5N2 is clearly a threat to poultry operations in North America, experts are not predicting the same level of devastation here.

``I would not expect, even if we do see the virus returning in the fall, that we would see the kinds of problems that Southeast Asia has had,’’ said Dr. T.J. Myers, associate deputy administrator for veterinary services with the USDA animal and plant health inspection service.

He pointed to the fact that commercial poultry production in North America is different from poultry farming in Asia, and operations have extensive biosecurity measures in place.

That said, he acknowledged investigations are will underway to try to figure out how H5N2 has managed to make its way into commercial poultry operations in North America, despite the biosecurity precautions.

In Ontario, in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading during cooler weather, the Feather Board Command Centre (FBCC)  issued a warning in April to producers on the importance of minimizing the risk of introducing fecal material from wild birds into their poultry operations, particularly during planting season. The FBCC warned that tilling and planting equipment “cover every inch of fields that may have been contaminated by wild birds” and should be kept away from poultry barns and from driveways serving poultry premises.

The FBCC and the Ontario poultry marketing boards also advised producer members not to attend any meetings, which resulted in the cancellation of the London Poultry Show (this was scheduled to be held at the Western Fairgrounds April 22 and 23), and two events hosted by the Poultry Industry Council (PIC): Research Day (scheduled for May 6) and Health Day (scheduled for June 13), both of which were to be held in Guelph.

U.S. hit hard
As of April 28, 2015, 97 outbreaks of H5N2 HPAI were reported in the U.S. 74 turkey flocks were affected, 10 commercial chicken flocks, one mixed flock and 12 backyard flocks.  The total toll was greater  than 15.4 million birds (57 million commercial turkeys, 4.75 million commercial chickens and 70,000 backyard poultry).




Published in Biosecurity

April 6, 2015 - Preliminary testing by the Animal Health Lab at University of Guelph has confirmed the presence of a highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza in a commercial turkey flock west of Woodstock in Oxford County.

On behalf of the four feather boards, the Feather Board Command Centre is issuing a heightened biosecurity  advisory to all commercial producers and small flock growers in a 10 km area around the farm.

The farm has been quarantined. Further tests are being carried out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The FBCC is providing advice to the farmer and working closely with  the provincial and federal government in the response to this serious infectious disease.  

Be very diligent in observing your flocks. Monitor mortalities and track feed and water consumption. Take an active role in protecting your birds by employing strict heightened biosecurity measures on your property.

You are urged to heighten biosecurity measures; please refer to biosecurity material that has been provided to you. Please alert any visitors to your farm that you have heightened your biosecurity because of this situation and keep a logbook of movement in relation to your farm. Minimize visits to other poultry production sites, avoid exchanging equipment with other poultry production sites or ensure that it is washed and disinfected. Ensure all personnel in contact with birds wear boots, protective suits, head coverings and gloves/handwashing. Ensure adequate control of vermin and wild birds.

Birds with outdoor access should not share areas with wild ducks, geese, or shorebirds. Make sure free-range areas do not have attractions for wild waterfowl, such as a pond or open feeders, which may become contaminated with wild waterfowl droppings. Be prepared to cover your entire yard with netting or to enclose your birds under roofed cover if necessary.

Should you suspect any signs of health concerns in your flock, please contact your veterinarian as well as your Board or call 1-877-SOS-BYRD. For more information see OMAFRA news release from March 12.

Published in Turkeys

Jan. 9, 2014 - An Alberta individual who recently returned from a trip to China has passed away, making them the first North American to die of the H5N1 strain of flu.

According to the Globe and Mail, the person’s gender, age, profession or name have not been revealed, due to patient confidentiality. However, travel details for the individual were provided - they flew from Beijing to Vancouver and Vancouver to Edmonton on December 27, 2013.

The Albertan victim was admitted to hospital on Jan. 1 and passed away on Jan. 3.

Published in Consumer
Dec. 19, 2013, Ottawa, ON - Canada's agricultural industry will benefit from an enhanced food safety audit system that will increase consistency throughout the sector, with the help of an investment from the Government of Canada. An announcement was made by Parliamentary Secretary Pierre Lemieux, on behalf of Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, at a press conference in Ottawa.

"Canada is known for its world-class ability to produce a variety of safe, high-quality agricultural and food products," said Parliamentary Secretary Pierre Lemieux. "An important part of Canada's rigorous food safety system is the strength of our oversight - not only do we have strong standards, but we have strong quality-control to back that up."

Up to $173,000 will go to the Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition (CSCFSC) to develop standard auditor competencies and qualifications which are consistent with private and international standards. This investment will help the Coalition bring all stakeholders to the table to shape a consistent made-in-Canada approach to food safety audit and certification across all sectors, and to develop an action plan to get there.

"This collaboration between industry and federal government comes at an important time," said Albert Chambers, executive director of the coalition. "With the passage of the Safe Food for Canadians Act, which the coalition strongly supported, the whole supply chain will be implementing new preventive controls and a common set of competence requirements for private sector and, we hope, public sector food safety auditors. This will ensure that both types of audits are done at the highest level."

The standard developed through this project will ensure that all sectors implementing a food safety system will be able to remain competitive in domestic and international markets. Members of the CSCFSC represent every major segment of the agriculture and agri-food value chain.

This investment was made through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's AgriMarketing Program, a five-year, $341-million initiative under Growing Forward 2. The assurance systems stream of the Aprogram supports industry-led projects in the development of assurance systems that meet market demands and buyer requirements -- such as food safety and animal care - to enable the sector to proactively manage risks and make credible, meaningful and verifiable assurance claims.

The new Growing Forward 2 policy framework, which came into effect on April 1, 2013, will continue to drive innovation and long-term growth in Canada. In addition to a generous suite of business risk management programs, governments have agreed to invest more than $3 billion over five years in innovation, competitiveness, and market development.
Published in Emerging Trends
With the ever-increasing reach of the Internet, technology has become an important part of how any business or organization communicates with its customers, the industry and the general public. One of the best ways to do that is through a website – but how do you communicate in a secure and efficient way during a serious event, like a disease outbreak, and make sure that everyone receives the information they need?

The Feather Board Command Centre (FBCC), an organization has served as an informal information hub since 2003 for the four poultry marketing boards in Ontario – Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Egg Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission, and Turkey Farmers of Ontario – now plays a leadership role in emergency disease management.

Dr. Tom Baker, a consultant and incident commander at FBCC, says that over the years, the FBCC has made progress in a variety of ways to help the poultry industry: geo-spatial coding of poultry farm locations, disease outbreak simulations, biosecurity practices and more.

As well, the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program provided financial assistance to make the collaboration with the marketing boards official and improve emergency management planning and rapid response/recovery capacity, including the development of an Emergency Management Plan.

Thanks to the funding, the FBCC was able to create a new and secure website to help co-ordinate emergency responses, convey communication and recovery initiatives as well as provide access to maps and other useful resources.

“FBCC aspires to have an emergency-free Ontario poultry industry through industry-led disease incident risk management,” said Baker.

“When notified of a disease incident, FBCC maps the involved area and advises all farmers in the affected zone to institute heightened biosecurity measures. Poultry industry associations and poultry veterinarians are also alerted of the need for heightened biosecurity and provided with a buffered zone map.”

The website will be used as a way to avoid constant e-mailing among staff, agencies, experts, etc. and centralize all the information, including manuals, test results and biosecurity resources.

Added Baker: “Previously, feather boards communicated with their members and stakeholders primarily through their own websites and newsletters. It was long recognized that timeliness, security, and consistency would be enhanced with an integrated secure (or ‘dark’) website. The new website went live in the spring of 2013 and was used successfully in the two-day FBCC Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) Simulation in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF), Animal Health Laboratory (University of Guelph) and the Ontario Livestock and Poultry Council (OLPC).”

Website Features
The goal of the new FBCC website, according to Baker, is to provide:
  • efficient and secure internal information exchange with access based on the individual’s response role and information needs
  • common timely messaging of disease incident status
  • alignment of key messages with those of government
  • access to critical information resources, such as the Emergency Response Plan, biosecurity resources, technical fact sheet, etc.
  • documentation access
  • efficient staff management according to the Incident Command System functional structure used by emergency responders
  • entryway to government regulatory processes (for example, movement permit applications)
  • timely and common messaging amongst the four feather boards to co-ordinate information sharing with all government, laboratory and industry stakeholders and partners.
  • archival information to learn from past incidents
  • forum to discuss policy and scientific issues
  • access to the website via mobile devices
Invitation Only
One of the most notable features of the new FBCC website is that the general public cannot access it in any way; it is securely protected and offers only limited access to individuals within
the industry.

Baker says that one of the main reasons for this drastic change in access is due to the risk of misinterpreted information getting into the public domain. “In several international disease incidents, media curiosity has been a significant deterrent to effective information exchange amongst responders,” he said. “And in some cases, the biosecurity on site was threatened.”

There are three levels of access for the website:

Level 1 – those who manage content (update messages, assign staff, verify completed tasks, document), such as assigned Incident Command staff and Section Chiefs

Level 2 – staff with Incident Command co-ordination responsibilities

Level 3 – those who view only, in declining order of access:
  • designated government liaison and communication staff
  • FBCC Board members
  • Advisory Group members (view and participate in Forum discussions)
  • key stakeholder and partner associations
  • individual key enterprises and producers
  • guests and media (location map with zones, disease summary)
Future applications
The FBCC site is also extremely versatile and could be developed into a news source.

“This website could be expanded into a livestock and poultry web portal that would allow other livestock and crop organizations faced with emergency response challenges to have secure access to its customized features.”

However, he is quick to point out that the FBCC site currently only meets the most basic initial emergency response needs, as it is only a skeleton framework for a potentially more comprehensive site. Visitors to the site, Baker adds, have been incredibly useful.

“Users of the site see many new possibilities for enhancements that can serve industry needs throughout the whole emergency management continuum from report of disease suspicion, through to response, movement controls and recovery,” he said.

The goal is to make the FBCC website a “one-stop” website for emergency disease management resources.
Published in Researchers
Spent fowl meat is a byproduct of the egg and hatchery industries. After about 60 weeks, the egg production of laying hens declines, and they are taken out of production and processed for their meat, which is usually used to make further-processed foods. Although spent fowl meat processing is an important source of economic activity in some parts of Canada, its potential use as a front to import regular broiler chicken meat without import quota is causing headaches for the broiler industry.

The Good

Canadian spent fowl meat production provides about one quarter of Canadian demand, and the rest must therefore be imported, says Robert de Valk, general manager at the Further Poultry Processors Association of Canada (FPPAC). “We’ve worked hard to find uses for this byproduct meat,” he says, “due to our success, we are exporting fowl meat products to 34 countries.”

Chicken products made using spent fowl meat are usually less expensive than broiler meat, de Valk notes. “It’s used to provide consumers and restaurants with lower-cost nuggets and patties. It has a legitimate and important place in the Canadian market.”

The Bad
The problem arises because there seems to be collective agreement that broiler meat, mostly from the U.S, is being imported into Canada under the guise of being meat derived from spent fowl.

Importing regular chicken meat as spent fowl is lucrative because the cost of the import permit is avoided, allowing cheaper, imported “spent fowl” meat to be legally sold on the Canadian chicken market, de Valk explains – thus, it is undercutting Canadian wholesale chicken prices.

De Valk adds, “Ironically, having a strong spent fowl meat product market –  availability of lower-priced chicken products – is one of the reasons supply management has been able to last as long as it has in Canada, significantly longer than it has in its current form in other countries, because consumer demand for lower-priced chicken products is met.”

The Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) 2012 Annual Report states that in 2012, spent fowl meat imports were 28 per cent higher than in 2011, but de Valk says the increase has slowed down this year, likely because the issue has become public. He notes that illegal spent fowl meat is often marketed to unsuspecting small provincial processing plants and restaurants. “Our members are likely the biggest users of imported chicken meat, including fowl, and have always followed the applicable rules,” says de Valk.

The Accurate?
Mike Dungate, CFC executive director, says that significant imports of broiler chicken meat are being mislabelled as spent fowl products in order to avoid import controls, and this is having a very large impact on chicken farmers and on the economy of Canada. “This year so far, Canada has imported 112 per cent of the entire U.S. production of spent fowl,” he explains. “For this to all be spent fowl meat is completely impossible, as it would assume that no spent fowl meat is being used in the U.S. for various products. And if we just count the 12 per cent, that represents $66 million in lost import taxes to our country’s coffers.”

Because the issue has been paid attention to, Dungate says the smugglers are becoming inventive and perhaps blending the meat with shipments containing no more than 49 per cent broiler meat. And imports of spent fowl currently equate to 10 per cent of Canadian chicken production.

Dungate also points to a report from the Guelph, Ont.-based George Morris Centre (GMC) that says this results in 8,900 fewer jobs being created in Canada and a $591 million lower contribution by Canadian chicken farmers and processors to Canada’s GDP per year.

De Valk counters that GMC’s loss estimates are taken from calculations that he does not see as realistic. “These calculations of losses assume that if consumers were presented with cheaper products such as nuggets labelled as containing spent fowl meat, they would automatically choose to buy the broiler meat ones, but that’s not necessarily true,” he states. Moreover, he says spent fowl meat activity creates just as much economic activity and jobs at the further processing level as broiler chicken meat, another point, he says, that the authors of the GMC report glossed over.

What to Do
De Valk reports that all poultry industry groups in Canada and the pertinent ones in the U.S. are working to stop shipments of broiler meat that are coming into Canada as spent fowl. These efforts also involve regulatory elements such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as well as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). While genetic testing is not an option because layers and broilers are the same species, Dungate says CFC is supporting research into ways spent fowl meat and broiler meat can be distinguished.

 In terms of what CFC sees as a solution, Dungate states that firstly, the CFIA must implement a mandatory certification process. “Secondly, the CBSA must classify blended products as chicken because there is no test to distinguish spent fowl [meat] from broiler [chicken meat], and the blended content cannot be verified,” Dungate explains. “Thirdly, the CFIA must require truth in labelling to inform consumers; spent fowl is not chicken and carries egg allergy risks. Consumers do not know if they are buying spent fowl because it is all labelled as chicken. As my chairman says: if it’s not ‘chicken’ at the border how can it be ‘chicken’ in the grocery store.”

He also notes that recent survey results undertaken by Leger Marketing show that 74 per cent of Canadians want spent fowl to be clearly labelled.

To Label or Not to Label 
“We understand that processors and importers are not in favour of consumer labelling of spent fowl. It’s fine in the eyes of chicken farmers to not have spent fowl labelled as such for consumers as long as it is labelled as chicken when it comes across the border,” Dungate says. “There is a tariff rate quota system in Canada wherein all chicken imports up to 7.5 per cent of Canadian chicken production are duty-free, but the over-quota tariff beyond that point is prohibitive. But there’s a problem for if we don’t label spent fowl that can affect consumers and the entire industry.”

Labelling isn’t a solution in de Valk’s view for several reasons. “It distorts the issue. Yes, if consumers are offered more information, they will always say yes, but to say that labelling will stop the illegal chicken imports is misleading.”

All Agree it’s Illegal 
De Valk continues, “No one wants illegal activity. We need to focus on stopping illegal chicken imports, and not using this issue as an excuse to push for labelling and make spent fowl meat look inferior to consumers. CFC is using this as an opportunity to try and do exactly that, to try and make it seem to consumers that they must pay the price for ‘real chicken.’ But spent fowl meat is chicken meat.

Dungate adds, “CFC has been contacted by the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council and is aware there have been meetings on certification to which CFC has not been invited,” he says. “We do sincerely hope that processors and further processors are pursuing real certification that will stamp out this illegal activity and are not engaged in setting up a paper exercise that looks good but does not have any actual impact.”
Published in Emerging Trends
Poultry disease prevention draws on a broad range of tools. Management, biosecurity, genetic selection, vaccination and antimicrobials all play important parts. While often used to great effect, these tools are not without their shortcomings. For example, vaccines are not available for certain diseases and are not effective when an immediate protective effect is required, as is the case in a disease outbreak.

Furthermore, the use of antimicrobials is under increasing scrutiny and pressure is mounting to find alternatives to these compounds. The Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) is therefore supporting research designed to investigate the possibility of stimulating natural immunity in poultry to complement existing disease control strategies.

Nature’s Defence    
The avian immune system is the product of a remarkable evolution that defends the body against a range of pathogens. Immune responses can be broadly categorized as adaptive or innate.

Adaptive immunity involves recognition of specific components of invading organisms called antigens. Organisms or objects presenting these antigens are recognized as foreign and, through a complex cascade of events involving many molecules and cell types, are attacked and eliminated from the body. The adaptive arm of the immune system remembers the invading organism and is primed to launch a robust attack if it recognizes the corresponding antigen again.

The innate component of the immune system can clear an infection even before an antigen-specific immune response is developed. Years of immune system research has led to the development of the danger hypothesis, whereby the immune system can rapidly respond to characteristic features, or molecular patterns, of invading pathogens. This innate or natural immune response is the first line of defence against a broad range of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.

Enhancing Natural Immunity
Researchers are attempting to enhance the innate immune system by presenting it with elements typical of various pathogens – fooling it into thinking a pathogen is present. Dr. Susantha Gomis at the University of Saskatchewan used small pieces of DNA with molecular patterns characteristic of bacterial DNA to stimulate innate immune responses. When injected into the egg, these molecules can protect chicks from Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium infections. The protective effect is relatively short-lived, however.

Gomis’ group is experimenting with different formulations that protect the molecules from degradation in the body; the longer they stick around, the longer the immune system remains primed and ready to combat potential invaders.

Similarly, Dr. Mohamed Faizal Abdul Careem at the University of Calgary has demonstrated that other compounds typically present in bacteria can be used to stimulate innate immunity and protect chickens from challenge with the Infectious Bronchitis virus. Lab studies also showed the ability of these compounds to inhibit replication of Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT) virus. A paper on the mechanism of ILT virus inhibition was published in the October 2013 issue of Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology.

Industry application
Drs. Gomis and Careem are currently testing to see if their formulations are effective upon injection into the egg at day 18 of incubation for applications in the industry and in academia. If so, they could easily be incorporated into egg vaccinations routinely performed at many commercial hatcheries. This research may provide industry with another tool to help protect poultry from disease. We’ll provide more updates as things progress.

Funding for Dr. Gomis’ work is provided by CPRC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Saskatchewan Chicken Industry Development Fund (SCIDF) and Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). Dr. Careem’s work is funded by CPRC, the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, NSERC and ALMA.

  • Progress continues to be made on ways to stimulate natural immunity and help protect poultry from various infections.
  • Results thus far are promising, showing protection from bacteria and respiratory viruses.
  • Work is underway to further enhance protection, make it last longer, and make the technology practical for industry use.
For more details on any CPRC activities, please contact The Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, Ont. K1R 7S8. Phone: 613-566-5916, fax: 614-241-5999,
e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at 

The membership of the CPRC consists of Chicken Farmers of Canada, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, Turkey Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors’ Council. CPRC’s mission is to address its members’ needs through dynamic leadership in the creation and implementation of programs for poultry research in Canada, which may also include societal concerns.
Published in Broilers
Agricultural disease is one of the biggest hurdles for any farmer, processor or industry to overcome; never mind the damage it causes to the environment and economy of a region. While the implementation of biosecurity measures is key in the control of such diseases, it does not deal directly with the problem.

The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd. (ALMA) is working with a team of researchers to create a new vaccine for poultry to help prevent the spread and damage that two pathogens cause to poultry producers – Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens.

Dr. Christine Szymanski, a University of Alberta professor and one of the researchers involved in the project, said that the preferred method of control for these two pathogens would be a vaccine, as it can help reduce the risk of contamination of eggs and meat without the use of antibiotics. This is especially important due to the concerns from both consumers and producers regarding antibiotic resistance.

The researchers decided on Salmonella because of its ability to cause foodborne illnesses in humans, and Clostridium perfringens, which causes necrotic enteritis in broilers in addition to food poisoning in humans.

“While C. perfringens is the most common and financially devastating bacterial disease in commercial flocks, no effective chicken vaccine is commercially available,” said Szymanski. “And salmonella in humans is caused by consumption of contaminated eggs and poultry products, and results in potentially severe gastrointestinal issues.”

The vaccine research is based on Szymanski’s development of a successful carbohydrate-based poultry vaccine for another common foodborne pathogen, Campylobacter jejuni. This was accomplished through the use of bacterial glycomics, the investigation of sugars (also known as glycans), especially those found on the surface of the bacteria.

According to Szymanski, the sugars on the surface of pathogenic Salmonella and C. perfringens can be presented on the surface of a non-pathogenic bacteria, which means that a vaccine could be used to stimulate an immune response without the use of the deadly strains.

“This means we can create a vaccine from harmless bacterial strains that will help the bird’s immune system identify and destroy the pathogenic strains. In this way, a single vaccine will simulate an immune response in the bird that will protect it from a broad array of Salmonella and C. perfringens strains.”

She added that combining the two vaccines into one would provide an inexpensive vaccine against the two problematic pathogens. In doing so, this could eliminate the need for antibiotics for both diseases.

This is especially important for C. perfringens, Szymanski said, which currently can only be controlled through the addition of antibiotics into the drinking water.

Glycan-based vaccines are not new, as human glycoconjugate vaccines have been routinely used for less than 20 years with minimal side-effects, and are routinely given to infants. Similarly, no side-effects have been seen with the C. jejuni chicken vaccine, and the live non-pathogenic organisms in the vaccine are only in the system long enough to induce an immune response before being cleared from the chicken entirely.

“Right now, researchers struggle to obtain a reproducible two-log drop in campylobacter colonization from chickens,” said Szymanski. “In our studies, we reproducibly observe six to eight logs drop in campylobacter colonization – with many birds having undetectable levels of C. jejuni in their intestines.”

Dr. Susan Novak, ALMA’s research manager, said, “A glycan-based vaccine would be a transformative advancement for the poultry industry. The use of antibiotics could be reduced if producers are able to give their birds a dual vaccine that boosts the immunity against multiple strains with a single shot. Alberta is leading the world in this area and that is a point of pride for our industry as well as a real competitive edge.”

In addition, Drs. Szymanski and Mario Feldman have spun off a company, VaxAlta Inc. in Edmonton that builds on their studies in bacterial glycomics. They were the first to identify the C. jejuni glycan pathway and show that sugar systems can be mixed and matched to produce novel glycoconjugates. Szymanski and Feldman are now exploiting this expertise toward the development of novel glycoconjugate vaccines for use in agriculture.

“The next step in our research is to optimize the carbohydrate-based vaccine against C. jejuni and create an effective dual vaccine against Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens. Glycoconjugate vaccines against other pathogens found in poultry, cattle and pigs are also in the pipeline,” said Szymanski.
Published in Genetics
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