Poultry Equipment


With all their automated controls, sensors and so much more, today’s hatcheries, packing houses, grading facilities and on-farm barns are quite high-tech. But HatchTech of the Netherlands has taken hatchery technology to a whole new level with its ‘HatchCare’ incubation and chick care system, to the benefit of chicks, the environment and poultry farmers. Synergy Agri Group (based in Port Williams, Nova Scotia) recently installed HatchCare – the first in Canada and the fourth company in the world to do so. Erik Helmink of HatchTech says the firm is currently producing 200 000 HatchCare broiler chicks a week.

Let’s look at how HatchCare is different by first briefly describing a standard hatchery, where chicks are shipped away after emergence and receive their first food and water after they settle in on the farm – a day later. With HatchCare, firstly the fertility of eggs is checked using new lighting methods so that only 100 per cent viable embryos are incubated. Chicks are vaccinated while still in the egg. Once hatched, chicks are immediately able to have a drink and a feed, which research has shown results in higher body weight and breast meat yield in male broilers. HatchTech also cites research findings showing HatchCare chicks to be one centimetre longer at hatch, which Helmink says is due to “laminair air flow.”

HatchCare also involves a unique and advanced handling system called HatchTraveller, where the chicks stay in small individual crates from hatching until delivery to the farm. The crates are then cleaned and disinfected for
re-use. Helmink says HatchTraveller gives every chick perfect, uniform conditions in terms of temperature, air flow and relative humidity, “like they stay in the hatcher.”

HatchCare also includes several features that enhance bio-security, such as sealed incubators with filtered entry and exit air. Over 95 per cent of fluff is removed from the air before it leaves the hatchery, eliminating the need for a fluff room and reducing the amount of space needed in a hatchery by about 20 per cent.

In terms of energy efficiency, the systems’ insulation levels are very high (Helmink says its insulation value is up to 70 per cent higher than traditional Styrofoam), and its direct-drive motors with sensor-controlled speeds use less power. Anodized water-filled aluminum radiators with very large surface areas reduce heat-up time during startup and cool effectively when needed.

Incubation conditions
Doug Korver has done research showing that incubation temperatures for egg embryos may need to be adjusted depending on the age of the broiler breeder flock and the strain of bird. We asked the professor in the department of Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science at University of Alberta whether a system like HatchCare would be useful in making these adjustments, compared to previous hatchery system models or current competitor models.

“Single-stage incubation definitely makes it easier to manage conditions to more closely match the requirements for eggs from a particular breeder flock or age or egg size,” he replied. From that standpoint, Korver can’t say that the HatchTech system is any better or worse than any other single-stage incubator, but he notes that “potentially, the benefits of this system are that the chicks will have access to fed and water immediately after hatching. This would increase early intestinal development and potentially reduce stress and susceptibility to disease, while also increasing early growth rate. I think this is the biggest potential advantage of this system over other single-stage systems, and would be additive to the benefits over multi-stage incubation.”

Korver cautions however, that depending on how large the system is and how many different breeder flocks supply a HatchCare system, “some of the same issues regarding variation in egg size (and therefore optimum incubation conditions) might remain…Even with single-stage incubation…mixing different breeder flock ages and/or sizes of eggs can make it difficult to provide the optimum conditions for each egg.”

HatchCare is born
HatchCare was introduced after years of development in 2014. The total number of chicks being reared under the system per year is now at 682 million. However, by the spring of 2016, more installations will be up and running in Australia, China, some European and south American countries, as well as the U.S. and Canada. In one of their hatcheries, Probroed & Sloot in the Netherlands is running five HatchCare systems with a capacity of 90 000 chicks each. This totals about 650 000 HatchCare chicks a week (Probroed & Sloot calls them ProCare chicks). The firm will have installed five more HatchCare systems by February 2016, so the company will be able to deliver more than a million Hatchcare chicks a week from that point onward.

Probroed & Sloot’s Edwin Paardekooper says his company began working with HatchTech in 2008 as a partner to help develop the new system (known as Hatchbrood at that point). In 2013, they did the first tests with eggs hatching in a hatcher with feed and water. “They have a lot of knowledge and we have a lot of technical knowledge so we worked closely together,” Paardekooper explains. “Two things are important about the system. Vitality of the chick/reducing antibiotics and animal welfare. For the first is the advantage of early feeding. It means the chicks are growing sooner and they are about 15 per cent heavier at poult. The other factor of importance is the care of the chicks. As soon as they hatch, they are able to drink and eat and then they have a nap. They are so quiet, comfortable and satisfied. It is impressive to see.”

Although the energy savings provided with HatchCare are also welcome, Paardekooper says it’s the improved
performance of chicks that made leaders at his company so supportive of the system. “In this part of Europe, it’s important to reduce the use of antibiotics, and to have high standards for animal welfare,” he explains. “HatchCare chicks are stronger and healthier at first and in their life at the farms. They are so comfortable and this is what convinced me. My opinion is that we are starting with totally new chicks. Our farmers only want chicks reared with this system. These chicks are going to teach us a lot about what chicks need.”




Published in New Technology

December 2, 2015, Arthur, Ont. - Canarm AgSystems and Intelia have created a partnership to drive innovative new solutions for barn ventilation systems.

Canarm AgSystems is an Ontario-based manufacturer of ventilation, housing and technology solutions for barns. Intelia is a Quebec-based manufacturer of precision controls for livestock barns, especially poultry, hogs and dairy cattle.

The partnership was formed to merge the innovation power of the two companies for creating precision solutions for livestock as farmers demand more data-driven tools. The companies are integrating their technology to create new barn environment control options that they say will lower operating costs for farmers.  These products will launch in early 2016. 

As well, Canarm AgSystems and Intelia are committed to long-term, industry-leading customer service that farmers can rely on to keep their barns monitored and working efficiently.

Canarm AgSystems and its dealer network will now market Intelia’s controllers across Canada. Canarm and its dealers will also support previously marketed Intelia controllers.


Published in Trade

 UGA poultry science developed the Chkminvent app, a poultry house moisture removal and ventilation calculator intended to provide users with an estimated minimum ventilation rate required to remove the specified daily amount of moisture from a poultry house. Photo by Mike Czarick

University of Georgia poultry housing experts have released the state’s first app to help poultry farmers determine how much they should ventilate their houses during cold weather.

With thousands of birds living in a single house, keeping the air warm and fresh without spending a fortune on fuel during the winter can be one of the toughest challenges for broiler producers. The new app – called CHKMINVENT – is meant to simplify this process, said Mike Czarick, a poultry housing engineer at UGA’s Department of Poultry Science.

“In the summertime, ventilation is fairly straightforward,” he said. “The more air they can move through the house, the better off their birds will be. In the winter, there is so much more at stake. Ventilate too much and you will have excessive energy costs and stressed birds. Ventilate too little you will have poor air quality and wet litter, which can lead to poor performance and health.”

The app, available through Apple’s App Store, allows farmers to enter variables, such as the outside temperature, the amount of water the chickens consume, the temperature inside the house and the size of the poultry house’s fans. It then calculates how long farmers need to run their fans in order to remove excess moisture from the house and keep the chickens at a comfortable temperature.

“The app gives people a starting point as to how much fresh air they need to bring in to control house air quality and litter moisture,” Czarick said. “It’s not intended to provide a precise minimum ventilation rate. It’s going to take adjusting, but this at least gives a scientifically based place to start.”

For more information about the CHKMINVENT app, search for it on Apple’s App Store. For now, the app is only available for iPhone, but the team may develop versions for other operating systems based on demand for this initial version.


Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.






Published in Turkeys


The current phasing out of incandescent light sources has created an urgent need for more energy efficient lighting systems in the poultry industry. To date,  a lighting system designed specifically for egg producers has been lacking, but Dr. Gregoy Bedecarrats has developed a special LED light bulb to address this need

In an interview, Dr. Bedecarrats, a Poultry Physiologist from the University of Guelph, described the theoretical design criteria for an LED light bulb to be used specifically by the egg-laying industry.

 “Firstly, in birds, light is perceived through retinal and extra-retinal (hypothalamic, pineal) photoreceptors capable of converting light into neuroendocrine signals. Secondly, direct photo-stimulation of the hypothalamus results in activation of the reproductive axis,” he explained. “And finally, our research shows that light from the red spectrum is critical to stimulate the reproductive axis and maintain high levels of egg production in hens, and this effect is mediated by hypothalamic photoreceptors.”

In partnership with Thies Electrical Distribution Inc., Dr. Bedecarrats has designed a new LED light bulb that delivers 60 per cent red spectral light.  

The research approach undertaken to validate the new LED light bulb included testing its efficiency (electric consumption) and efficacy (on production parameters) with comparable light sources at the University of Guelph’s Arkell Research Station prior to testing in a large scale commercial barn in Ontario.  

“Use of this 60 per cent red spectral output LED light bulb is capable of increasing egg production by three per cent, decreasing feed consumption by three to four per cent, and reducing electricity consumption by 80 per cent  and 20 per cent respectively  when compared to incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs,” said Dr. Bedecarrats in describing the overall
findings of the validation studies of this new LED light bulb. “These results show that this light bulb can increase productivity and significantly reduce energy costs in a commercial setting. Thus, it represents a perfect option for barn retrofit or new barns in the egg-laying industry”.

This research was funded by the Poultry Industry Council, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs,  Dykstra’s Poultry Farm, Thies Electrical Distribution Co., and the Canadian Poultry Research Council: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Poultry Cluster 2).




Published in New Technology

March 20, 2015 -  Patz Corporation has a new addition to its Vertical Mixer line. The new 400 Series II Single Screw Stationary Vertical Mixer is offered in 140 cubic foot (3.9 m3) or 200 cubic foot (5.7 m3) capacities.  It's built heavier to handle the blending of livestock rations and compost materials.

The 400 Series II Vertical Mixer has been redesigned from the ground up. The mixer’s new, rectangular base allows for multiple drive mounting locations, enabling customers to adjust discharge door location simply by moving the motor and turning the machine. The mixer tub now comes standard with a ½-inch thick floor plate, heavy-duty ¼-inch walls, and two adjustable flow restrictors for exceptional mix quality of longer materials. The newly-designed steel cone-top screw includes flighting that is 60% heavier for increased lifespan and durability. Screw wear points are also reinforced with AR-400 steel. A four-piece top safety guard encloses the mixer tub, meeting ASABE safety standards and promoting safer operation of the unit. The 400 Series II Vertical Mixer is also easier to service, thanks to a new, telescoping drive line with sheer bolt protection with easy access for maintenance and service.

A variety of options allow the mixer to be customized for any industry. A choice of three drive packages (one motor, two motor, or one motor without 2 speed gearbox) provide expanded horsepower options, while an optional variable frequency drive kit offers versatile speed control for exceptional mixing and cleanout. Users will also be able to select from 5 knife options, including the patented Patz Raptor™ knife, and increase the capacity of their vertical mixer with optional side extensions. 

For more information, visit www.patzcorp.com or your local Patz dealer. 

Published in Researchers
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
There are more people trained to ensure good poultry welfare on Canadian farms, thanks to the PAACO (Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization) Poultry Welfare Auditor Training Course, offered for the second time in Canada this past fall, in partnership with the Poultry Industry Council (PIC).

PAACO’s mission is: “To promote the humane treatment of animals through education and certification of animal auditors, as well as the review and certification of animal audit instruments, assessments and programs.” And while PAACO has been training poultry welfare auditors since 2006, the 2013 course was only the second offering in Canada.

The first Canadian offering of the course, organized by PIC in the fall of 2012, quickly sold out, and a number of hopefuls had to be placed on a waiting list. This year was also very well attended.

The popularity of the Poultry Welfare Auditor Training Course stems from the fact that it is all encompassing, applying to welfare criteria within and across all sectors of industry, and is offered locally.  

“We have producers and farmers, packers and processors, academia, government, and what we call ‘customers’ such as Sobeys and Walmart. They all require knowledge in welfare auditing, and they all have different reasons for being validated,” says Mike Simpson, PAACO executive director

“I would say about 40 per cent or more take the course purely for educational value, so that they are familiar with animal welfare issues, terminology and criteria,” continues Simpson. “For the remainder, they might want a PAACO certified auditor on staff because they are doing internal audits and want them done routinely with the same rigour and the same standards as would be expected in a third-party audit situation. In addition, they want assurance that when an official audit is done it is being done right. Important also would be training to become a third-party auditor.”

Importance in business
The PAACO Poultry Welfare Auditor Training Course is an important step toward proving business integrity to customers and consumers, but it also objectively assesses if, and where, there are any issues. Leanne Cooley of Gray Ridge Eggs Inc., and a member of the PIC board of directors, is a PAACO-certified poultry welfare auditor and holds a master of science in animal behaviour and welfare from the University of Guelph.  

“Canadian farmers have many excellent, existing on-farm programs that are achieving the goals and standards set out, and that should be maintained,” she says. However, Cooley feels that the Canadian food industry would benefit from more Canadian PAACO-certified auditors with good knowledge of Canadian animal agriculture and existing on-farm programs.

“If the goal is to truly improve animal welfare through the supply chain, then as an industry we need to ensure that all auditors, whether first, second or third party, are able to evaluate each farm and processor fairly, objectively, and equitably across Canada,” says Cooley. “This requires appropriate, standardized training and accreditation for all auditors, particularly in the area of live animal production and processing.”

In the course, students learn the commonly audited poultry welfare criteria, addressing the relevant welfare-specific areas for each of the commodity groups, including broilers, turkeys and egg layers and covering specific production segments: breeders, hatchery, grower/producer, transportation and processing.

Trainees also learn poultry husbandry and management best practices based on U.S. course material.  However, leading up to the first Canadian delivery of the course, PIC helped to revise the material to work with the Canadian poultry industry structure. The course is also largely in line with the Canadian Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Poultry. PAACO will ensure continued alignment in future course offerings, as the Codes are a nationally recognized standard of care across Canada.

The course runs over three days and begins with two days of classroom instruction, with the first day on management and husbandry related to welfare criteria and audits, and the second teaching trainees precisely how to audit those criteria. The third day is spent travelling to farms for audit demonstrations at broiler, layer and turkey facilities, followed by a closed-book exam. In addition, training for certification requires three shadow audits over a time period of 12 months, where trainees are evaluated by a certified and experienced auditor.

To learn more about becoming a PAACO Certified Poultry Welfare Auditor, please visit www.poultryindustrycouncil.ca or www.animalauditor.org.
Published in Turkeys
High heating costs, wet floors, elevated carbon dioxide levels, uneven bird distribution: these are all problems that can be influenced by the use of stir fans.

Heat Stratification
A situation that many producers may be dealing with is outdated heating systems. Older-style brooder heaters and box furnace heaters (which may be the best option for breeder barns) have some inherent problems. The biggest issue is the percentage of heat that rises to the ceiling instead of the floor, where the heat is needed. In brooder-style heaters, this can be nearly 50 per cent, and in the case of furnaces, almost all of the heat rises instead of heating the floor, resulting in a temperature difference of up to 15 F. In open-truss barns, the stratification of air was as much as 20 F.1

This would be fine if gas were a penny a litre, but obviously that’s not the case, so we need to mix that hot air at the ceiling with the cooler air at the floor. During brooding or extreme cold, even with a proper minimum ventilation system, there won’t be enough mixing to even this out, so stir fans are the best way to mix the air. Within five minutes of turning on stir fans, a temperature difference between ceiling and floor of under 3 F is easily attainable.

Litter Moisture
Creating more air movement over the litter – especially the newly heated fresh air – will create more opportunity for moisture evaporation and result in less caking. The fresh air that has been heated to 40 F, for example, as it enters the barn and travels along the ceiling, will double its water holding capacity twice. What that means is, even with 80 per cent outside humidity levels, that fresh air would have a relative humidity level of 20 per cent after heating, and the ability to pull a lot of moisture out of the litter if it reaches the floor. An additional side-effect of reducing the litter moisture and caking will be lower ammonia concentrations.

Carbon Dioxide
Another benefit is decreasing the level of carbon dioxide at the bird level. This can be a problem particularly during the first week of brooding when moisture control hasn’t yet become a problem.

Because heaters produce a unit of carbon dioxide for every unit of natural gas and three for every unit of propane, and the birds are also producing the gas, buildup can occur quickly near the floor. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air, and can easily be 10 to 20 times the normal outdoor level (400 parts per million) with under-ventilation in a poultry barn. A level of 5,000 ppm can begin to affect performance, but it is recommended that levels be kept below 2,500 ppm. With stir fans running, levels at the floor can decrease as much as 50 per cent as carbon dioxide is dispersed throughout the barn.

System Design
The purpose of stir fans are to mix the air, not to circulate the air at a high speed, so the sizing and speed of the fan should reflect this goal. In general, for most applications, an 18- to 20-inch fan will do a great job of stirring the air without chilling young birds, especially if fans are angled slightly toward the ceiling. A second factor to keep in mind when purchasing fans is the grill. The fewer ribs in the grill, the cleaner the fan will stay, and the better the airflow will be.

An ideal system will be sized to move about 10 to 15 per cent of air in the building. For example, a typical 20-inch fan that can move about three to 5,000 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of air, and a 40 foot x 500 foot building with a 10-foot ceiling.

Calculation of 40 x 500 x 10 x 15 per cent gives us 30,000 cfm capacity for our stir fan system, so if using 3,000 cfm fans, 10 will be needed. If you need 36-inch fans for wind chill in the summer in curtain side barns, they should be variable speed so they can be used as stir fans in the cold months, or it may be worthwhile to have a second system with smaller fans.

There are a few schools of thought on stir fan layout, the most common are the “racetrack” and “straight-line” configurations. It works well to run a straight line down the centre in 40-foot-wide barns, spaced about 50 feet apart. But in wider barns, a racetrack configuration makes more sense because it is difficult to stir the air wall to wall more than 40 feet.

No matter how tightly sealed barns are, or how well managed they are, stir fans will always pay back with better floor conditions, lower heating costs and improved performance.  They are a relatively small investment, and if you already have them, they should be in working condition and in use.

1 University of Georgia’s Poultry Housing Tips, Volume 18 Number 10, https://www.poultryventilation.com/sites/default/files/tips/2001/vol13n1.pdf
Published in Researchers
Nov. 27, 2013, Truro, NS - Nova Scotia Egg Producers (NSEP), which regulates egg production in the province, is introducing a program that will award selected new egg farmers with a no-cost quota lease for up to 500 laying hens provided that they are raised in alternative housing systems - free run, free range or certified organic.

The new entrant program, aimed at meeting increased consumer demand for locally produced specialty eggs, includes the creation of a class of leased quotas that will add up to 2,000 laying hens to Nova Scotia's system of egg supply management.

Farmers who meet NSEP's eligibility requirements can enter a lottery in order to receive leased quota for up to 500 hens per farm. These special quotas cannot be transferred or sold and must be used to raise hens in alternative housing.

Farmers must also comply with all NSEP programs, including food safety and animal care. If an applicant's business plan includes selling eggs to retail or food service outlets, the eggs must be graded at federally registered egg grading stations.

NSEP is also increasing to 200, from 100, the number of hens that small-scale, diversified farmers are allowed to maintain without having to obtain quotas. The increased small flock exemption is aimed at helping family farms take advantage of market opportunities to broaden their revenues, as well as boosting rural economies.

"Today's announcements ensure that Nova Scotians will have increased access to a full selection of locally produced eggs using all housing systems," says Geneve Newcombe, Chair NSEP. "These changes also demonstrate the flexibility of supply management, the system that has been supplying our market with local eggs and helping to maintain family owned egg farms for more than 40 years."

As in all other provinces, NSEP uses a system of supply management to ensure a stable supply of locally produced eggs to consumers at fair prices while also providing farmers with a fair return. Farmers must own quotas for the number of laying hens and must adhere to rigorous food safety and animal welfare standards.

The introduction of leased quota is pending regulatory review and approval. The increase in the small flock threshold has already received approval and is now in effect.

"I am pleased with the Egg Producers' response to changing consumer demand for egg products that use different types of production approaches," says Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell. "I am also pleased that the Egg Producers responded to the need for development opportunities for small business and small farmers."

NSEP is confident that its decision to allow small-scale farmers to now have flocks of up to 200 laying hens without the need to purchase quota will provide an economic stimulus for both diversified farmers and their communities.

"Farming can be a tough business but our small flock of egg layers provides us with a stable source of revenue," explains Bill Wood, a farmer in Tatamagouche, in Colchester County. "Doubling the allowable number of hens is a most welcome decision."
Published in Emerging Trends
Image courtesy of Ziggity Systems Inc.

Nov. 13, 2013, Middlebury, IN - Ziggity Systems Inc. has launched a new website called “Poultry Watering U” (www.poultrywatering.com) as an educational resource for poultry producers looking for easy-to-digest information about different aspects of poultry watering systems.

As poultry producers look for every edge to maintain top flock performance and to take advantage of new revenue opportunities, such as paw exports, management of poultry watering systems has become more critical than ever.  Poultry Watering U provides articles and videos that explain visually and in clear language how birds drink and the best methods for keeping them at peak health and performance.

The site also seeks to dispel myths about bird water consumption and focuses on practical, reality-tested management practices that Ziggity has found most helpful over its many years as an exclusive provider of poultry watering equipment.

“Poultry watering is all we do and it’s all we study,” said the company. “The bottom line for us has always been what gets the best results. We ask, ‘what can we do, not only with our products, but with our management expertise, to help producers get the results that will enable them thrive in today’s poultry market?’ ”

The site updates older management articles found at www.ziggity.com and includes newer, simplified practices for things such as correctly adjusting water pressure. It also features “watering principles” that can help producers better understand how birds drink and the thinking behind specific practices. “We believe it’s very important for producers to understand not only what to do but why they are doing it,” said the company. “That extra bit of knowledge can be key in some situations.”

From such basic principles, a wide range of topics related to enclosed watering systems will continue to be added to the site over time, under such categories as System Maintenance, Environmental Management, Controlling Disease, Water Quality, Drinker Management, and Equipment Solutions.

“We’ve distilled the best of what we know into this site, covering poultry watering systems with a depth and breadth not seen from any other company,” said Ziggity. “That’s why we’re calling it Poultry Watering U. It will be continually updated and visitors can expect to see helpful videos to show what we’re talking about, providing both overviews and practical step-by-step instructions for specific practices.”

Although there is some product-specific information, the site is designed to be useful to producers using any kind of enclosed watering system.

Visitors can also sign up on the site to receive periodic free e-bulletins from Ziggity highlighting various water management topics and the latest additions to the site.

“It’s all about sharing knowledge. There’s a lot that goes into a good, well-managed system. The more ways we can spread such knowledge throughout the poultry industry, the more everyone can benefit,” said the company.
Published in Nutrition and Feed
In 1946, there were about 300 Canadian commercial chicken breeders, and most or all Canadian research institutions conducting poultry research maintained their own genetic lines.  By the 1980s there were only two primary breeders based in Canada – Shaver and Hybrid – as well as 13 middle-level breeders of chickens, turkeys, and waterfowl, and 119 populations kept in 11 research institutions.  

Today, two breeders dominate the international market for layers, broilers (90 per cent) and turkeys.  As well, there are hardly any middle-level breeders left in Canada, and until recently, five Canadian institutions conducting agricultural research kept 38 populations of chickens and Japanese quail.

The Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz, B.C,, has recently terminated its poultry unit, including nine lines of chickens and nine lines of Japanese quail.

It is clear that avian researchers and the poultry industry have experienced a massive loss of genetic resources. Maintaining live flocks is impractical and very costly, and economical methods of preserving poultry genetics for future use are badly needed, as genetic resources continue to narrow.  

In the recent past, the only effective method of conserving poultry germplasm has been in living animals. Alternative options have been attempted over the years, but results have not been very promising. Fertility obtained from cryopreserved chicken semen is unpredictable and the structure of the avian egg prevents its cryopreservation. Embryonic cells can be stored and used to generate germline chimeras (organisms with a mixture of cells from different embryos), but this requires complex procedures and results in very low efficiency. Over the past century, chicken ovarian transplantation has been attempted with limited success.  

Successful development of techniques for cryopreservation and transplantation of ovaries and testicles of birds can provide the means of maintaining the genetic variation needed for full differentiation of markets for poultry meat and eggs. Dr. Fred Silversides, formerly of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, together with Drs. Yonghong Song (Dubai), Jianan Liu (USDA post-doctoral research fellow) and Kim Cheng (UBC), has been working on optimizing cryopreservation and transplantation of avian gonadal tissue.  

The first step in this research, which was Dr. Jianan Liu’s PhD project, was aimed at simplifying the storage process for cryopreserved genetic material by using vitrification, which converts liquid to a glass-like substance instead of ice crystals, and has several advantages over slow-freezing procedures in preserving tissue.

A vitrification protocol was developed to preserve Japanese quail ovarian and testicular tissue, using cryoprotective agents and acupuncture needles to facilitate tissue handling. Rather than using cryovials typically used for cryopreservation, a simpler straw system was tested and found to be an ideal storage medium, as it has the advantage of fitting into existing systems for storage and transport.

Normal morphology of testicular tissue was observed after in ovo culture and live offspring were produced by performing surgical insemination directly into the hen’s oviduct with the extrusion of cryopreserved testicular tissue. Donor-derived offspring were also efficiently produced from cryopreserved and transplanted ovarian tissue.

Also, because gonadal transplantation is critical to functional recovery of cryopreserved tissue but can be limited by tissue rejection, the researchers used thymic tissue to improve the efficiency of immunological acceptance. Donor thymic tissue was implanted into recipient embryos, and gonadal tissue from the same donor was transplanted under the skin to the recipient after hatching. Transplant viability and histology were also examined.  

It was found that thymic implantation might improve survival of gonadal transplants from chicken to chicken, but not transplants from quail to chickens. Investigations into avian ovarian transplantation led to intriguing additional observations: donor-derived offspring were produced from transplanted adult quail ovarian tissue, although delayed age at first egg and reduced reproductive longevity were observed with the transplants. As well, offspring with chimeric plumage coloration were produced from cryopreserved and transplanted chicken ovarian tissue, indicating chimeric folliculogenesis.

This project provides a successful model of cryobanking avian gonadal tissue using a simple vitrification method and suggests future directions in improving transplantation tolerance and using gonadal transplantation in avian research. This is good news for the poultry industry, as cryobanking of germplasm is both economical and ensures availability of genetic resources for years to come. To read more about this research project, please visit www.poultryindustrycouncil.ca.

The Poultry Industry Council congratulates Dr. Fred Silversides on his 2013 Poultry Science Association American Egg Board Research Award.

The American Egg Board Research Award is given to increase the interest in research pertaining to egg science technology or marketing that has a bearing on egg or spent hen utilization. The award is given to an author for a manuscript published in Poultry Science or The Journal of Applied Poultry Research during the preceding year.
Published in Health
Oct. 29, 2013. Spring Valley, PEI - The fire marshal's office in Prince Edward Island says a fire that destroyed as many as 20,000 hens at a poultry farm was accidental.

Sunday's fire at Murray's Poultry Farm also damaged one of the operation's huge barns.

Investigators say the blaze was likely caused by an overheated fan motor, which caused the surrounding material to combust.

Farm owner Leith Murray suspects that while some of the chickens would have died in the fire, most would have suffocated or died from smoke inhalation.

Kensington and New London fire departments responded to the call.

Kensington fire chief Alan Sudsbury says firefighters were on scene for about two hours.
Published in Manure Management
Oct. 21, 2013, Airdrie, AB - The Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, along with Blake Richards, Member of Parliament for Wild Rose, announced support for an initiative that will result in new commercial opportunities for Western Canada's poultry industry.

"Our Government is committed to ensuring that Western Canada's agricultural sector has the resources and opportunities to succeed in the global economy and continue creating jobs for Canadians," said Minister Rempel. "We are proud to invest in new technologies that strengthen the productivity and international competitiveness of the western Canadian poultry industry."

The federal investment of $2.6 million through Western Economic Diversification Canada, combined with support from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency and industry, will enable the Institute for Applied Poultry Technologies to purchase and install specialized equipment needed to establish and operate a technology innovation and commercialization centre. This centre will develop, produce and commercialize vaccines and other health-related products. It will also provide western Canadian poultry producers enhanced access to advanced diagnostic services, vaccine development and production capabilities.

"In addition to being a sound industry, government and academia partner, the Institute will help address consumer demands for enhanced food safety, and value-added, hormone-free poultry products, leading to increased consumer confidence in our food supply," said Gordon Cove, ALMA President and CEO.

"The Institute for Applied Poultry Technologies is focused on developing technical solutions and products for the Canadian and global poultry industries," said Dr. Tom Inglis, President of the Institute's Board. "By working with an integrated team of scientists, veterinarians, industry experts, producers and the manufacturing sector, the Institute will be an incubator for the development of commercial products, tests and applied science. Together we will help to secure a competitive advantage for Western Canada's poultry industry."

For more on the Institute for Applied Poultry Technologies, please visit http://www.iaptwest.org/
Published in Researchers
Chris Mullet Koop didn’t set out to start growing his own pullets. He really just wanted to convert his layer barn into an enriched colony system – but as these things sometimes go, one thing led to another and then another. Now, he’s the first producer in North America with an innovative enriched pullet housing system called the Combi Pullet.  

Mullet Koop farms with his wife Laura (who hails from a cattle ranch in Alberta’s Peace River region), and their three children near Jordan, Ont., the fifth generation on a farm started by his great-grandfather in 1932.

Today, in addition to capacity for 20,000 pullets per year, there are 5,500 laying hens, and 45 of their 57 acres are planted in wine and juice grapes. It was changing his laying hen facility into an enriched colony system that ultimately led him to growing chicks and to the Combi Pullet, which just won an innovation award at France’s largest poultry trade show.

“I’ve never grown pullets before. My whole project oriented towards converting the existing housing into an alternative system but we couldn’t do it in the existing barn so we built a new barn. So what do I do with the existing barn?” he explains. “It was Dad who suggested we could grow our own chicks and since most chicks grown in Ontario are grown in traditional cage housing or on the floor, I wanted a system that would complement my new layer facility.”

A lengthy search finally brought him to the Combi Pullet, developed by Farmer Automatic in Germany, which has interior LED tube lighting, interior feed troughs and three levels of perch space. It mirrors his layer system in almost every way except it doesn’t have nest boxes. But finding out everything he needed to know, and convincing himself that this was the one, was not easy.

“This is such a recent innovation that there are only one or two systems in France and Germany that have been installed. So I tried to get some data and information and talk to people who had seen it,” he says, adding that he finally managed to see a partition of the system at a display at the International Poultry Show in Atlanta this past January.

“I was sold on it, how the chicks would navigate and what the benefits would be.”

The system’s cages can be kept open or closed, which he says will give him the option to grow pullets for both conventional and different alternative housing barns in the future.


His first pullet flock was 14 days old at the time of this interview in mid-September and he was very pleased with how things were working out so far, recording only a half per cent mortality rate during that time. The system came with a series of maps and charts to help guide him through usage and maintenance, and since he is the first farmer in North America to have the installation, the equipment supplier and others are closely watching his experiences in the industry, including the grader who buys their eggs.

“Everything has been charted, including what needs to be done environment-wise to keep the temperature, feed and water at appropriate amounts to get a good survival rate from hatching. But you’re still dealing with living animals,” he says, adding that although it’s going well so far, it’s his first time growing pullets so he’s not in a position to make comparisons with other pullet rearing systems.

“When they were eight days old, I noticed the first chick on a 12-inch perch and now, at 14 days, I’m seeing all of them on the two-foot-high perch,”
he says.

This is in contrast to what he has observed in his new layer barn with a flock that came from traditional pullet housing.

Very few birds use the second- or third-level perch, preferring to remain on the floor or use the front perch that is only three inches off the floor. He says it’s interesting to observe the difference in his pullet barn and he’s keen to see how his first flock of pullets will adapt to their layer cages when the time comes.

It was the increased focus on animal welfare-friendly production that helped the producer consider the switch to alternative housing. Before building his new layer facility, he’d been producing eggs in a conventional system, and although alternative housing options aren’t yet standard, he feels that’s only a matter
of time.

“The industry is moving increasingly towards alternative housing systems and looking more carefully at animal behaviour to try to create a production environment that will accommodate that,” he believes.

“It’s not a standard yet, but I can see this coming and our cages were almost 30 years old, so this was the time to
do it.”

He hasn’t noticed any production increase from his hens in the two and a half months they’ve been in the new layer barn so far, but he is hoping that will change in the long run. He anticipates being able to raise a better pullet with stronger bone structure that will result in fewer cracks or better longevity in the shell quality. It’s something he says he’ll be watching for over the next few flocks that he’s growing himself.

“Ultimately, my goal is to achieve the best results in cage-free rearing. I do want to open the cages and see how their bone strength and health develop and how that might alter when they lay as mature layers,” he explains.

Mullet Koop is also involved with Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) in helping to promote the industry. He serves as a zone councilor for EFO, has been an active member of the EFO speak-up team and was one of several producers featured in the highly popular and award-winning “Who made your eggs today?” campaign.

So when it came time to unveil his new facilities, he and his family hosted two open houses: one for the layer barn on June 21 and one for the pullet barn on Aug. 9.

The events attracted over 100 attendees, including farmers, processors, food service representatives, poultry specialists and even the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

It was the culmination of a busy year for the family, and now that everything is up and running, Mullet Koop is looking forward to a bit of quiet.

“It’s probably a small project, comparatively speaking, but it was a big one for our family. It was an intense year for us and I have a vineyard too that keeps me busy from April to August and that’s when all the construction took place this year,” he says.

“Right now, it’s quieter and I just appreciate being able to be here with my chickens and my family and no one else.”
Published in Layers
There are multiple risk factors that can affect the mortality rates in loads of broilers transported to slaughter. That’s the word from PhD candidate Niamh Caffrey, who presented her research findings at the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre Poultry Welfare conference in Charlottetown, P.E.I., earlier in the year.

Caffrey, in collaboration with Drs. Michael Cockram and Ian Dohoo at the University of Prince Edward Island, studied the risk factors affecting mortality rates in loads of broilers transported for slaughter.

With support from the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada and the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the University of Prince Edward Island, she found that a number of key factors could significantly influence mortality rates.

“When transporting broilers, the duration of various stages during transport and environmental conditionals can have a major effect on mortality rates,” she said.

For the study, the researchers analyzed slaughter-plant records on loads of broilers travelling from barns in the Atlantic Provinces and Quebec to a major slaughter plant in the Maritimes.

At each stage of the journey, different sets of data were collected, including flock characteristics, loading information, time periods for each stage of the journey, external temperatures, weather conditions, trailer temperatures and ventilation.

In total, records on 5,184 loads of broilers between January 2009 and August 2010 were in the study.

Broilers ranged in age from 33 to 45 days (average 38 days of age) and 1.6 to 2.9 kilograms in weight. The median mortality rate (per cent of those dead on arrival) for all loads was calculated to be 0.29 per cent.

Of the total loads tracked, 90 loads had mortality rates of zero per cent, and 168 loads reported mortality rates greater than two per cent.

Using a statistical program, Caffrey was able to determine what constituted an “average journey” for a load of broilers, and presented models to predict how changes in each factor affected the mortality rate of an average journey.

She said mortality rates increased significantly when both duration times and environmental conditions were different from the “average journey.”

“As the duration of time spent loading, or in transit, or in the holding barn, increased, then mortality rates also increased,” said Caffrey. Couple this with humidity changes such as wet, snowy weather, she said, and it’s a recipe for increased mortality.

As an example of the effect of colder temperatures, Caffrey said that when the external temperature was 0 C there was 0.37 per cent mortality, at -15 C there was 0.69 per cent, and at -35 C there was 2.19 per cent of birds dead on arrival.

Caffrey said it could be challenging to control a number of these factors due to the design of trucks, as ventilation methods are typically achieved through manual adjustments of panels and tarpaulins.

She added that paying careful attention to ventilation and adjusting stocking density as required can help to make broilers more comfortable in their journey and reduce the risk of mortality.

As well, during transport in extreme cold conditions, she said that management of ventilation and stocking density is crucial – too much ventilation can cause the birds to become cold, but when the ventilation is closed, heat and humidity can build up in the trailer and the birds can become too hot.

“There’s a wide potential of external temperatures that birds can be exposed to during transport,” she said, adding that as the journey progresses, loads already in “danger” are particularly sensitive to waiting times and environments.

Caffrey also added that there was not a statistical significant difference in mortality rates based on the barn of origin, producer or truck driver.

“There was a bigger influence of individual loads versus those from certain barns or producers,” she said.
Published in Broilers
The newly opened Sunnymel plant, which cost nearly $55 million, has already experienced its fair share of difficulties during the five-year process. The plant will have a weekly slaughter capacity of 450,000 chickens, processed by around 200 workers at an hourly rate of 12,000 birds – and its products will be distributed by Sunnymel across the Maritimes and other Canadian markets.

The plant began start-up operations in November 2012, under federal jurisdiction and the supervision of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as well as subject to the application of the Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) protocols.

Sunnymel is a 50/50 partnership of Groupe Westco, a New Brunswick company headquartered in Saint-François-de-Madawaska, N.B., and Olymel, a leader in Canada for the processing and distribution of pork and poultry products. Even the name, Sunnymel, is a collaboration between the two companies – the name combines Sunny Glen, a brand name from Groupe Westco’s egg division, and Olymel.

Groupe Westco grew out of a common vision in the early 1980s of several northern New Brunswick poultry producers for expanded production growth and profitability through joint collaboration. Six of these producers later incorporated their mutual enterprise in 2002 as Groupe Westco, today one of Canada’s largest poultry producing organizations, owning hatcheries, breeding farms, egg grading stations and trucking firms, plus producing turkeys and table eggs.

Quebec-based Olymel employs nearly 10,000 people at its facilities in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and exports half of its production to the United States, Australia, Japan and 60 other countries. In 2012, its sales were over $2.3 billion based on a slaughtering capacity of 160,000 hogs and 1.7 million birds weekly.

Sunnymel boasts that its new plant uses “next generation equipment and manufacturing processes,” with processing efficiency unique in the New Brunswick food processing industry, as well as “the most modern facilities, in order to meet the highest environmental standards, especially as regards wastewater treatment.”

A repayable loan from the federal government’s Business Development Program enabled Sunnymel to take advantage of the design and construction of automated systems in order to improve its
productivity, said Claude Chapdelaine, director of Sunnymel’s slaughterhouse and cutting facility.

“The federal government’s support has also helped us to enhance our quality assurance program,” said Chapdelaine. The federal government contributed a total of $438,000, matched by an investment of $404,667 by Sunnymel in
quality assurance and automated production systems.

The seeds that germinated into Sunnymel were planted in the 1980s and ’90s, after the only other poultry processing plant in New Brunswick, in Sussex, shut down. Many southern New Brunswick poultry farmers chose to retire, rather than truck their chickens to over 400 km to Nadeau Poultry in St. François. Following that, northern poultry farmers began buying up their quota, so chicken production became even more concentrated around St. François in the Madawaska. They also invested millions of dollars in new poultry industry infrastructure, hatcheries and trucking.

The principal partners in Westco, however, believed they were exposed to an undue business risk, as they had only one processor customer, Nadeau Poultry. They feared that if Ontario-based Maple Lodge Farms Ltd. (who owned Nadeau) eventually closed the plant, their local investments would be in jeopardy.

Thomas Soucy, Groupe Westco CEO, explains that, more importantly, Group Westco partners believed their chicken operations should be totally integrated like their egg production.

“It was also the belief of our shareholders that we needed to be in all aspects of our chicken production to serve fully our customers in order to meet what the market wants. So, they offered to buy or invest in shares in the Nadeau plant in January 2007, but they could not reach agreement with Nadeau’s owners.”

Therefore, in March 2007, Westco proposed a joint venture with Olymel L.P., Nadeau’s main competitor in Quebec and the eastern provinces, to either buy the Nadeau plant or build a new processing facility nearby. In August of that same year Westco told Maple Lodge that if it was not willing to sell the Nadeau plant, Westco would begin building its own processing plant in partnership with Olymel, and during construction, would shift all its chicken for processing to Olymel in Quebec until the new plant was completed.

However, negotiations for the sale of the Nadeau plant failed. So, in January 2008, Westco notified Nadeau Poultry Farms Ltd. that it would stop supplying chickens, effective July 20, 2008.

Subsequently, Nadeau saw 80 per cent of its previous chicken supply head to Quebec as Westco partners held 51 per cent of the New Brunswick chicken production quota and their producer allies a further 29 per cent.

Nadeau responded in 2008 by seeking leave from the federal Competition Tribunal to apply for an order under Section 75 of the Competition Act, alleging a “refusal to deal” infraction by Groupe Westco under the legislation.

That application, if successful, would have compelled Groupe Westco to continue selling all of its live chickens to Nadeau.

The tribunal subsequently dismissed the application in June 2009, which the Federal Court of Appeal later upheld on June 2, 2011, after hearing an appeal by Nadeau Poultry of the tribunal’s decision. Ultimately, in December 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal by Nadeau challenging the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision.

In 2008, Nadeau also filed a complaint with the marketing board, the Chicken Farmers of New Brunswick (CFNB), insisting that the CFNB should create a guaranteed supply system that would require Westco to supply 50 per cent of its production quota of live chickens, to Nadeau’s plant.

The CFNB dismissed the complaint and the New Brunswick Farm Products Commission and the provincial Court of Appeal both approved the dismissal.

Nadeau had employed more than 350 at its peak, but in late August 2009, it announced it would have to lay off 175 workers if it could not get Groupe Westco birds. The Liberal provincial government reacted with a ministerial order in January 2010 designating Nadeau as the only federally inspected plant for processing New Brunswick-produced chickens, in order to stop Westco from shipping its poultry to Quebec while its new joint-venture plant with Olymel was under construction.

The court eventually struck down the ministerial order, as New Brunswick had never claimed the power to regulate processing, a power it could have had under the federal-provincial agreement on supply management.

Recently, Nadeau proposed a New Brunswick Chicken Marketing Agency that would deal solely with the marketing of broiler chickens past the farm gate, while allocating live chicken supply to processors inside and outside of the province. The Progressive Conservative government (which defeated the Liberals in September 2010) rejected the proposal.

The current government also rejected Nadeau’s request to review the CFNB’s 2005 removal of the cap on the level of quota ownership. Nadeau argued the cap removal allowed Westco producers to concentrate too much quota in their hands. The provincial government countered with a number of legal decisions, by various courts and the Federal Competition Tribunal that, under existing regulations, Groupe Westco could legally build its own processing plants while shipping its chickens to Quebec in the interim.

Earlier this year, Thomas Soucy declared, “It is high time to recognize that there will be competition in chicken processing in the Maritimes. Nadeau and Maple Lodge can no longer control the processing of chickens in
Eastern Canada.”

At Sunnymel’s official opening on May 17, Soucy stated, “This plant represents five years of solid effort and hard work to bring our products from poultry producers to market. It is a dream we saw on paper for five years that is now real and provides employment to some 200 people and creates many economic benefits for suppliers and services in
the region.”

In September 2009, the Sunnymel joint-venture partners signed a labour agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1288, whose president, Jean Guimond, pledged the union would do everything it could to ensure that the Nadeau workers who lost their jobs would be hired by Sunnymel.

Soucy saw Sunnymel as a guarantee that producers like Westco could become a part of the value chain. “This is a great day for the poultry industry in New Brunswick.”

Olymel CEO Rejean Nadeau added, “Olymel’s presence in New Brunswick, through our partnership with Westco, one of the most dynamic poultry producers in the country, is a success factor. In the Madawaska region we have found a great home, a committed, dedicated work force, quality products and an undeniable desire for development.”

New Brunswick Premier David Alward viewed completion of the Sunnymel plant as an “achievement fully in line with our plan to create jobs and grow the economy by working with innovative partners like Westco and Olymel.”

Federal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister and Madawaska-Restigouche MP Bernard Valcourt observed: “Our government is committed to creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity in our communities across Canada. That is why we are proud to support the upgrade to the Sunnymel facility. These investments will help the company to become more efficient, productive, which, will in turn contribute to the economic growth of this region.”
Published in Companies
It sounds extreme, but it’s really true. The only thing that could stand between disease on your farm and an industry outbreak is one person. Only one visit to a poultry farm where biosecurity protocols aren’t followed to the letter can lead to industry reputation damage, economic hardship and worse.

Researchers have found that compliance with biosecurity protocols is not always complete, and the reasons for this span from lack of knowledge and comprehension about the how’s and why’s to personality traits and ineffective or absent education programs.

There may also be inadequate physical set-up in the barn that actually impedes producers and their employees from using protocols every time. This usually means a lack of room or space, proper signage, barriers and supplies.

These are the findings of Manon Racicot, Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt and their colleagues, who are leaders in the study of farm biosecurity protocol compliance in Canada.

Racicot is a veterinary epidemiologist working for the Office of Animal Biosecurity within the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Vaillancourt is a professor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Montreal, and director of the university’s Epidemiology of Zoonoses and Public Health research group.

With their colleagues, they have published numerous research papers examining to what extent poultry producers in Quebec, their employees and farm visitors comply with biosecurity measures when entering and exiting poultry barns – and to put it bluntly, they’ve found that it can be very low.

Compliance Issues
The good news is that they have also unearthed the factors behind why compliance doesn’t occur, and what needs to be put in place for protocols to be carried out correctly each and every time. To do their research, they employed a combination of hidden cameras, visible cameras and frequent audits.

Their most recent studies have been on Quebec farms, covering 15 broiler, six layer and one breeder farm.

Vaillancourt says he’s found biosecurity compliance to be a bit better on breeder farms than on broiler/layer farms.

“Biosecurity on layer farms is more likely to be better than on broiler farms, because layer farms have the chickens for a longer time and biosecurity is therefore more critical.”

He notes that while 23 farms might seem like a low number and thus not a representative sample, over 2,300 visits were measured, which in his mind is a significant sample size.

Vaillancourt says the results are definitely representative of what occurs across Canada, and he has seen similar results in Ontario, North Carolina, France, Mexico, and other locations. He notes that “everywhere I have consulted, I observe the same problem [of low biosecurity compliance].”

Personality Matters
In one recent study that involved industrial psychologist André Durivage, the researchers asked 114 workers and farm owners (involved in a total of 2379 filmed visits on 23 Quebec poultry farms), fill out a personality test.

“We found that three personality traits seem to be important in compliance: responsibility, complexity and action-oriented,” says Racicot.

Not surprisingly, people who scored high on “responsibility” followed biosecurity guidelines and those who scored low for this trait are more likely to defy authority and ignore rules. The trait of “complexity” relates to approaching life with logic and rationality, and those who score high with this trait are more likely to use complex strategies to solve problems, which is needed to correctly apply biosecurity measures. “Action-oriented” folk tend to evaluate options before making risky decisions, react quickly to constraints in their environment, and act energetically when faced with tasks to accomplish and challenges to overcome.

In contrast, people who score low with action orientation tend to take unnecessary risks, which often leads
to mistakes.

“This trait information can be used in hiring practices,” notes Racicot. “So, in selecting a poultry barn manager or worker to hire, you should try to determine whether or not the applicants display these traits by asking questions about their past demonstration, general tendencies and attitudes and so on.”  

Poor biosecurity compliance may also be related to unwillingness.

“Errors can be intentional or unintentional,” she says. “Intentional errors seem to be related to beliefs and attitudes, like when a visitor reports in the logbook that he put on coveralls, although he did not.”

Error Effect
Unintentional errors are related to lack of understanding – for example, donning coveralls in the contaminated area, and not applying the protocol properly. This might include dropping farm coveralls in the contaminated area but still putting them on for the barn visit, or not using footbaths properly. There may also be spatial challenges to compliance, she notes.

Racicot says the main non-compliance issue she and her colleagues have observed is a lack of respect of the contaminated and clean areas.

“Having sufficient space to change boots and clothing without cross-contamination is very important,” she explains.

All the farms that she and her colleagues visited had clearly marked hygiene barriers (defined demarcation zones for the changing of footwear, such as a bench) but ignoring these areas remained the most frequent error. How much these areas were ignored seems to depend on the type of demarcation, duration of the visit and of course, if someone is watching.

“Generally, when the visit was short (less than 17 minutes), errors were more frequent,” Racicot notes.

“Therefore, growers should be aware of people coming in for short visits (or looking for the farm managers) because they may be less likely to comply with things like signing the logbook and donning boots and coveralls.”

Not surprisingly, when there was a red line or footbath, ignoring of clean and contaminated areas was more frequent than if the demarcation were a bench or door.

The researchers also found that not changing boots was the second most frequent error, and Racicot says this is likely because individuals did not understand the potential of disease transmission by footwear.

The third most frequent error observed was related to hand washing.

Besides hands, clothing is also an important potential source of contamination that the researchers found is being neglected.

“Lots of microbes – Mycoplasma gallisepticum, iowae, and synoviae for example – can survive on cotton for two to six days,” Racicot explains.

“However, few farms that we studied required coveralls. And when they did, this measure was often neglected.”

Lastly, despite the fact that the logbook was clearly visible and accessible, almost 70 per cent of visits were not recorded.

“A logbook allows for a rapid and effective traceback of visitors in the case of an outbreak, and contributes to the control and eradication of diseases,” Racicot says. “Not having it filled in correctly is a serious biosecurity risk.”

What works and what doesn’t
Racicot and her colleagues have found that visible cameras don’t work to increase compliance; they only work on a short-term basis.

“Where there was a camera visible in the barn entrance, it enhanced overall short term visit compliance and more specifically boot and area compliance, but that did not last,” she notes.

“Six months later, compliance significantly declined.” Audits, she adds, also have no impact on compliance, as everyone is careful to do things perfectly during an audit … and tend to go back to their old habits afterward.

In terms of what works to significantly boost biosecurity compliance, Racicot says the first thing to understand is that there must be several corrective actions taken. No one action will solve the problem.

Here’s what to do
  1. Educate every employee and remind him or her often that biosecurity is important. Of particular importance is emphasizing that biosecurity measures must be applied with the same rigor, no matter the length of the visit or when it occurs. They should consider the area a potential biohazard zone at all times.
  2. Demonstrate how to apply all protocols to make sure employees know how to do them correctly. Have them demonstrate regularly that they know how.
  3. Identify highly compliant employees, recognize their excellence and have them train others.
  4. Revisit biosecurity protocols several times throughout the year.
  5. Change the barn entrance to help everyone follow protocols properly and replace the demarcation lines with a simple bench or wall and door. Please make sure there is enough space for at least two people to complete protocols in the change area, and that there is enough equipment (hand washing products, boots, coveralls, etc.) and position it within easy reach. If the entrance area is not large enough for this, and/or to frame a wall and put in a door, a renovation is required.
  6. Post checklists on each door leaving the biosecurity area so that employees can check off their actions.
  7. Visitors should be educated on the spot about protocols and supervised to make sure they are followed.
  8. Keep all barn access doors locked at all times.
Published in Emerging Trends
It’s an exciting time for Cal Dirks, and indeed, for all his fellow pullet farmers. They are in the process of applying for Part II Agency status, a designation that would ensure inclusion in Canada’s supply management system. It’s the most recent step on a journey that Dirks’ father began travelling, for the benefit of the family, decades ago.

Edward Dirks started the 10-acre family farm in 1962, at the same time he was working at a small leghorn hatchery nearby. The farm is situated just south of Steinbach, M.B., in a region that supports a vibrant mix of many types of agriculture. Edward built the farm’s first chicken barn in 1966 to grow a new breed of Babcock breeder pullets, the first in western Canada.

“It was a huge responsibility for him to take on so much debt in a very unstable time in the egg industry,” Cal notes. “My Dad raised two flocks, but then he had to look for new customers the year after. He worked very hard, sometimes holding down two or even three off-farm jobs to augment the very lean returns in the early years.”

Industry Turmoil

And it was also in this time of uncertainty for timely pullet orders and a depressed egg industry that Marek’s disease hit the farm in the late 1960s, causing up to 30 per cent mortality. “A vaccine was soon available, but we also learned that along with careful cleaning and disinfection, we had to manage vaccine administration to be most effective,” Cal explains. “Today, all farms have mandatory HACCP-certified programs that have greatly improved consistency of practices and overall bird health and welfare.”

Things were on the upswing by the early 1970s with the establishment of supply management in Manitoba, with pullets included. Cal’s parents were very grateful for better returns.

“This allowed them to focus more on the pullet operation, working just one full-time school bus run,” he says. “They were also always very active in their church community, and very generous to share what they had – produce from a big garden, and fresh beef and milk from a very small herd.”

Cal was 14 when he began to get seriously involved in chicken farming. It was 1974, and he and his brother-in-law, with his father’s help, built their first cages.

“The industry was more stable, with production numbers regulated, but price was still a negotiation,” he says. “But it was a good move. The cages doubled our pullet numbers to two cycles of 24,000.”

Off-Farm Activity

After leaving home for a bachelor of arts degree in biblical studies from Providence College University, Cal returned to the farm in 1983. He married Pauline, and the young couple purchased the family farm in 1987. With their four children, they decided to expand the operation to 72,000 pullets per year in 2001.

However, getting the required credit was a challenge. The Dirks needed to secure more off-farm income, so Pauline began a job hunt. They eventually decided to approach Farm Credit Canada, and completed the expansion in 2007.

In addition to running the pullet operation, Cal has driven school buses since 1984. Pauline does all the farm’s bookkeeping – and the chores when Cal is away at meetings – in addition to co-owning a small painting business, as well as being an avid gardener with a huge plot and a greenhouse. In Cal’s spare time, he coaches high school volleyball and plays acoustic guitar in the church band, as well as fishing for trout and bass in northern Ontario. Their four adult children all still help out on the farm at various times.

“Our son Stefan comes home to do the barn washing twice a year,” Cal explains, “and our girls Jess, Hali and Emily help with placing the day-old chicks, and then moving them to the top tier at one week of age.”

Achieving Sustainability

It was during the farm expansion, around 2005, that the Dirks family began to realize a change in the industry was needed.

“We knew we had to find ways of increasing returns to pullet producers to ensure a viable business in the future,” Cal says. He, Andy DeWeerd and three other pullet growers from five provinces met in Ottawa to explore the options, and soon began making plans to create Pullet Growers of Canada (Dirks currently serves on the PGC executive as treasurer).

“We knew a cost of pullet growing survey was required to better articulate the need for increased growing fees across Canada,” Cal notes. “The 2008-2009 survey results showed that we in Manitoba were $0.25- $0.50 per pullet behind what pullet producers were getting in Ontario and Quebec. It was clear that unless things were better regulated on a national scale, we’d always have to subsidize our operations with off-farm income.”

In 2010, the PGC made the decision to apply to the Farm Products Council of Canada (FPCC) for Part II Agency status. “This new status will make us a part of the supply management system, and give us the ability to implement stable production levels and pricing,” says Cal. “It will give pullet farmers the tools to manage their operations into the future, meeting the highest standards of food safety, animal welfare, and the environment.”

As of May 2013, the public hearings stage was finished. The two-person panel examining the application will now decide whether or not to recommend the attainment of status to the entire FPCC.

“I believe the next step is a recommendation to the minister of agriculture and cabinet approval,” Cal notes. “During this time, we will be working on a draft federal-provincial agreement that all parties can sign on to. There is a lot to be done yet before we gain our status, and it could proceed into 2014.”

Passionate about the Industry

Since 1997, Dirks has served as the pullet director on the Manitoba Egg Farmers board. Over that time, he has been the vice-chair of the board, and chair of the pullet committee. Dirks has also served on the working team to develop the Salmonella enteritidis insurance product for breeders, hatcheries, layers and pullets in Canada. He is a CEIRA (Canadian Egg Insurance Reciprocal Alliance) director and also sits on their Claims Committee. He also represents pullet growers on the Egg Farmers of Canada HACCP team.

“I enjoy raising pullets from chick to adult layer, and then seeing the customer happy with the high production my birds provide,” Cal says. “Relationships are very important for success.”
Published in Producers
C’est l’endroit rêvé pour vivre d’agriculture : le fleuve en contrebas, les montagnes de Charlevoix au loin, une route bordée de maisons ancestrales et de pommiers. Luc et François Turcotte savent qu’ils sont privilégiés de vivre et travailler sur l’île d’Orléans, le berceau agricole de la Nouvelle-France.

En 2012, ces producteurs de poulet à griller, de dindon et de pommes ont fait honneur à la terre de leurs ancêtres (ils sont de la 11e génération sur l’île) en remportant la première médaille d’or du Concours de l’Ordre national du mérite agricole. Il s’agit de la plus prestigieuse distinction pour une ferme au Québec.  

L’aventure de la Ferme avicole Orléans débute au milieu de siècle dernier, quand les parents de Luc et François se portent acquéreurs d’un lopin d’un hectare et demi à Sainte-Famille. Aux quelque 250 pommiers qui s’y trouvent, ils ajoutent d’autres productions, comme les framboises, les fraises et les oeufs. Quelques années plus tard, la vocation idéale pour la petite superficie de la ferme se confirme : le poulet et les pommes.

En 1980, Luc termine ses études en finance et administration. Une compagnie est formée pour l’intégrer à la ferme. François suivra en 1984, après des études en production animale.  

Pendant ses études, Luc s’intéresse à l’implantation des offices nationaux de mise en marché et à la production sous contingentement. Les calculs qu’il effectue dans le cadre d’un travail lui permettent de croire que le système de quotas pourrait être avantageux pour l’entreprise familiale. « à l’époque, on n’était pas assurés que les prix couvriraient nos coûts de production, mais le système nous offrait quand même une certaine sécurité. »

Dès le début des années 1980, l’entreprise passe en mode expansion. On achète du quota et on construit des poulaillers, toujours avec grande prudence. « Nous avons travaillé très fort, toujours projet par projet, en limitant l’endettement et en surveillant notre capacitéde remboursement », explique François.

Cette discipline leur a permis de traverser une époque trouble en maintenant le cap sur la croissance. « Il faut se remettre dans le contexte de l’époque, insiste Luc. Il y avait des taux d’intérêt de 22 % et on était ni plus ni moins en crise économique. Puis il y a eu les négociations de libre-échange avec les états-Unis et beaucoup d’inquiétude sur l’avenir de la gestion de l’offre. »

Cette incertitude exerçait une pression àla baisse sur le prix des quotas. Luc et François ont saisi l’opportunité d’en acheter. Ces risques calculés se sont avérés d’excellentes décisions. La consommation de poulet s’est mise à augmenter et les allocations de quota en proportion du quota déjà détenu ont permis de générer des revenus inattendus.

Aujourd’hui, la Ferme avicole Orléans produit quelque 800 000 poulets, 40 000 dindons de 6 kg et 7 000 dindons de 16 kg par année. La ferme compte six poulaillers à trois étages pour les poulets et une dindonnière à deux étages. La production de dindon s’est rajoutée en 1995, quand l’opportunité d’acheter du quota s’est présentée. Avec un cycle de production de 12 semaines, il s’agissait d’un bon complément aux poulets qui repartent à six semaines.

Les investissements dans la production se poursuivent à ce jour, en améliorant les poulaillers existants. « Avant de prendre de l’expansion, on maximise ce qu’on a », affirme François. L’automatisation des contrôles d’éclairage, de chaleur et de ventilation permet d’améliorer le bien-être des poulets et de ceux qui s’en occupent.

Ces améliorations augmentent les performances techniques de la ferme. « Si les poulets sont bien traités, cela se reflète sur les performances d’élevage, soutient Luc. Notre fierté, c’est d’amener un bon produit au consommateur. On fait tout pour que la qualité soit au maximum. »

La ferme compte un employéàtemps plein et trois employés àtemps partiel. Marc-Antoine, le fils de Luc, sera bientôt copropriétaire de la ferme, au terme d’une démarche d’intégration de la relève.

Luc est administrateur des éleveurs de volaille de la région de Québec et de la Coopérative des horticulteurs de Québec (le Marchédu Vieux-Port. François est administrateur chez Exceldor, président du Syndicat des producteurs de pommes de la région de Québec, secrétaire-trésorier du Club de production pomicole de la région de Québec et deuxième vice-président du Syndicat de base de l’Union des producteurs agricole.

Pour eux, produire à l’île d’Orléans est tout sauf une source d’isolement : tous les services agricoles y sont offerts et les abattoirs sont àune heure et demie de route. « Nous sommes à 20 minutes de Québec, dans un arrondissement historique, » souligne Luc. « Nous avons l’avantage de pouvoir démontrer à nos voisins et à tous les touristes qui passent que notre production respecte l’environnement et que les agriculteurs sont de bons citoyens. »
Published in Producers
It’s a dream setting for farming, with the St-Lawrence river down below, Mount Ste-Anne in the backdrop and a narrow country road lined with heritage homes and apple trees. Luc and François Turcotte know they are privileged to live and work on Orléans Island, the cradle of French-Canadian agriculture, minutes away from Quebec City.  

Last year, the two brothers added their personal contribution to their island’s four-century-long farming history, when they reaped the first gold medal at the Concours de l’Ordre National du Mérite Agricole, the most prestigious agriculture award in Quebec.

The story of Ferme avicole Orléans began in the 1940s, when newlyweds Viateur and Rose Turcotte purchased a 1.5-hectare piece of land near the village of Sainte-Famille. To the 250 apple trees that were already standing, they added raspberries, strawberries and eggs in smaller quantities. A few years later, the couple settled for the best mix to make a good living off its small land base – chicken and apples.     

In 1980, their son, Luc, finished studies in finance and business, and a company was founded to include him in the family farm. His brother François followed in 1984, after studying animal production.

During his studies, Luc turned his attention to the new marketing boards and quota production systems. His calculations showed farming under supply management could be a positive thing for his family.

“We still weren’t sure the prices would always cover our production costs, but we knew the system would bring us some security,” says Luc.  

From the beginning of the 1980s, the farm was expanding. Quota was purchased and new henhouses were built, always with careful debt management.

“We have always worked very hard, limiting our debt and making sure we were able to pay,” says François.

Investing with great prudence allowed them to survive tough times without ceasing to grow.

“You have to remember the context,” says Luc. “There were 22 per cent interest rates and we were basically in an economic crisis. Then came free-trade talks with the U.S., along with a lot of uncertainty for the future of supply management.”

Uncertainty drove quota prices down, so Luc and François saw an opportunity and bought more. They calculated the risks and it turned out to be an excellent decision. Chicken consumption started growing and extra quota allocations to help meet consumer demand generated unexpected revenue.  

“We always put in the right amount of time and money for the farm to have good financial health,” Luc says. “We always worked for the farm. It wasn’t the farm that worked for us.”

Today, Ferme avicole Orléans produces annually some 800,000 broilers, 40,000 six-kilogram turkeys and 7,000 16-kilogram turkeys, in six three-storey chicken houses and one two-storey turkey house.

Investments in production improvements are ongoing. “Before expanding, we maximize what we already have,” says François. Automating all the lighting, heating and ventilation controls improves both broiler and farmer well-being.

And all these improvements have a direct impact on the farm’s technical performances. ‘”When our chickens are well treated, it reflects on their growth performance,” Luc says.

“We are proud to provide good products to the consumer. We do everything to achieve top quality.”

The farm has one full-time and three part-time employees, with Luc’s son, Marc-Antoine, soon to become co-owner.

Luc is a board member of his local chapter of éleveurs de Volailles du Québec (poultry farmers’ union) and of the Coopérative des Horticuleurs de Québec (Old Port Farmers’ Market).  

François is a director at co-operative meat processor Exceldor, president of the Syndicat des Producteurs de pommes de la région de Québec (Quebec City area apple growers), secretary-treasurer of the Club de Production Pomicole de la région de Québec (a technical club for apple producers) and second vice-president of his local UPA (provincial farmers’ union) chapter.

For the two brothers, there are no disadvantages to island farming – all agricultural services and slaughterhouses are only 90 minutes away.

“We are 20 minutes from Quebec City, in a protected historical district. We are able to show our neighbours and all the tourists that drive by that poultry production respects the environment and that farmers are good citizens,” adds Luc.
Published in Producers

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