Poultry Research
February 22, 2017 – The program for the 3rd Annual Western Poultry Conference is out.

The conference will take place in Red Deer on February 27, the day before the Alberta poultry industry’s annual meetings.

While intended for all poultry producers, broiler producers will find this year to be very well worth their time. There will be presentations on Salmonella management, coccidiosis, selecting a barn sanitation program, euthanasia, antibiotic-free production, ventilation strategies for extreme conditions, and more.

The presentations are designed to be practical and to give producers plenty to think about.
 
Participants must register for this event independent of registration for the annual general meetings. Please go to the meeting website to register (www.westernpoultryconference.ca). Tickets are reduced for groups of four or more.

Click here to view the full program.

 

Published in Business & Policy
February 17, 2017 – Biomin welcomed 145 delegates from 23 countries representing the feed and poultry sectors over several days in mid-February in order to address how to solve the antibiotic-free production puzzle.

With the subheading of “Guidelines for a responsible use of antibiotics in the modern broiler production,” the event afforded participants the opportunity to consider a host of different viewpoints.

Expert speakers explored the role of genetics, nutrition, biosecurity and farm management.

Highly interactive exchanges throughout the event converged on the idea that a holistic approach is the way forward in reducing antibiotics while maintaining high performing flocks.
Published in Health
Although the table egg industry is significant in Canada, it remains vulnerable to shifts in consumer attitudes and perceptions. Eggs are washed prior to retail sale, to remove potential pathogens from the eggshell surface. However, cases of Salmonella poisoning do occur.  
Published in Research
According to Statistics Canada (StatsCan), over the last several decades, the per capita consumption of animal protein in Canada has changed dramatically. Figure 1 shows the consumption of three different meats from 1980 to 2014.
Published in Meat - Broilers
Over one hundred years ago the wild turkey was a familiar sight in North America. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss decimated their population in Ontario but that has since changed. In 1986, approximately 4,400 wild turkeys were re-introduced, and according to Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs figures from 2007, that population has reached over 70,000 and continues to grow.
Published in Turkeys
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
February 9, 2017 – The global poultry probiotics market size was estimated at over $750 million (US) in 2015 and is likely to be valued at $1.2 billion (US) by 2023, according to Global Market Insights.

The global probiotic ingredients market size is likely to cross $46 billion (US) by 2020.

North America, especially the U.S. probiotics market for poultry, is likely to grow at steady rates owing to increase in meat consumption, particularly chicken. Europe is also likely to grow at steady rates owing to ban on antibiotic feed supplements. Asia Pacific probiotics market is likely to grow owing to increase in awareness of benefits in meat production.

Globally, antibiotics are used to prevent poultry diseases and pathogens required for improving egg and meat production. Dietary antibiotics used in poultry applications have encountered some problems such as drug residues in bird bodies, drug resistant bacteria development, and microflora imbalance. Increasing application in poultry market is likely to counter the aforementioned factors and promote demand over the forecast period.

Probiotic species belonging to Bacillus, Streptococcus, Lactobacillus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacterium, Candida, Saccharomyces and Aspergillus are used in poultry applications and are expected to have beneficial effects on broiler performance.

Poultry feed accounts for almost 70 per cent of the total production cost and, therefore, it is necessary to improve feed efficiency with minimum cost. In the poultry industry, chicks are subjected to microflora environment and may get infected. Broiler chickens can also succumb to stress owing to production pressure. Under such a scenario, synthetic antimicrobial agents and antibiotics are used to alleviate stress and improve feed efficiency. However, antibiotics in poultry applications are becoming undesirable owing to residues in meat products and development of antibiotic resistant properties.

Europe has banned use of antibiotics as a growth-promoting agent in poultry application owing to several negative effects. These aforementioned factors are expected to drive probiotics demand in the poultry market. Antibiotics failure to treat human diseases effectively has led the European Union (EU) to ban low doses of antibiotics in animal feed. This factor has also led the U.S. government officials to restrict antibiotics use in animal feed.

Poultry probiotics products are available in the form of power and liquid feed supplements. Commercial products in the market may be comprised of a single strain of bacteria or single strain of yeast or a mixture of both. Chicks/broilers/layers require a dose of around 0.5 kg per ton of feed whereas breeders require close to 1 kg per ton of feed.

The global probiotics market share is fragmented with the top five companies catering to more than 35 per cent of the total demand. Major companies include Danone, Yakult, Nestle and Chr Hansen. Other prominent manufacturers include Danisco, BioGaia, Arla Foods, General Mills, Bilogics AB, DuPont, DSM and ConAgra.
Published in Emerging Trends
February 2, 2017, Atlanta, GA – More than 31,000 poultry, meat and feed industry leaders attended the 2017 International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) from all over the world.

In addition, the show featured more than 533,000 of net square feet of exhibit space and 1,275 exhibitors.

Sponsored by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, the American Feed Industry Association and the North American Meat Institute, IPPE is the world's largest annual feed, meat and poultry industry event of its kind.

“This year’s tremendous exhibit floor and attendee and exhibitor numbers are a compliment to IPPE’s unmatched education programs, ample networking opportunities and diverse exhibits,” the three organizations stated in a joint press release. “The excitement and energy displayed by this year’s attendees and exhibitors will continue to safeguard the success and growth of future IPPEs.”

The central attraction was the large exhibit floor. Exhibitors demonstrated the most current innovations in equipment, supplies and services used by industry firms in the production and processing of meat, poultry, eggs and feed products. Numerous companies highlighted their new products at the trade show, with all phases of the feed, meat and poultry industry represented, from live production and processing to further processing and packaging.

A wide variety of educational programs complemented the exhibits by keeping industry management informed on the latest issues and events. This year’s educational line-up featured 25 programs, ranging from a conference on Listeria Monocytogenes prevention and control, to a program on FSMA hazard analysis training, to a program on whole genome sequencing and food safety implications.

Other featured events included the International Poultry Scientific Forum, Beef 101 Workshop, Pet Food Conference, TECHTalks program, Event Zone activities and publisher-sponsored programs, all of which made the 2017 IPPE one of the foremost annual protein and feed event in the world.
Published in News
Do turkeys respond the same way as broilers to transportation? That’s the question professional engineer Trever Crowe has been investigating at the University of Saskatchewan (UofS).

“Animal welfare is the greatest impetus for our work,” Crowe told the audience at the Poultry Industry Council 2016 Research Day in Guelph, Ont., with his work focusing on the transportation of turkeys to market. The turkey industry is facing increased demands from regulatory agencies and consumers but current broiler data may not be directly applicable to turkeys.”
 
Travelling Turkeys
Crowe’s objective was to investigate the response of turkey hen and tom physiology, behaviour and meat quality to different temperatures and humidity levels during simulated transport.

Crowe, the associate dean in the College of Graduate Studies and Research at the UofS and a faculty member in the department of mechanical engineering, was the principal investigator, along with his research assistant, Catherine Vermette, graduate student Zoe Henrikson, and a platoon of other casual workers helping to collect
the data.

Environmental simulation
Researchers mimicked a typical farm-rearing environment at a barn on campus with 120 12-week old turkey hens and 120 16-week old turkey toms, growing them for a week with ad lib feed and water under 16 hours of light. After reaching market age the birds were crated and exposed to simulated transportation conditions where they were randomly assigned to one of five treatments: two warm treatments at 28 C with 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, two moderate treatments at 20 C with 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, and one cold treatment at -18 C, all at a stocking density of approximately 83 kg/m2. Crated birds were placed inside a pre-conditioned environmental chamber for eight hours under these experimental conditions before being processed at a mini slaughter plant set up at the university’s College of Engineering.

Experimental measures included live shrink; core body temperature; behavioural observations during exposure such as sitting, standing, huddling, shivering, panting, pecking, ptiloerection and preening; blood glucose levels before and after exposure; heterophil/lymphocyte ratio and the meat quality – the pH and colour of the breast and thigh.

Hypothesis
In terms of meat quality, Crowe hypothesized that warm exposure would result in pale, soft, exudative (PSE) meat, demonstrating a decline in pH and subsequent water holding capacity that results in tougher, paler meat. He also expected that cold exposure would result in dark, firm, dry (DFD) meat, due to an increase in muscle pH. There was the potential that meat exposed to cold would provide a larger yield, reduced drip and cook loss, with improved texture and taste scores.

Results
The results indicate that toms tolerate the cold better than hens but hens did better in the warmer conditions.

For cold transport at -18 C, hen live shrink was greater, core body temperature tended to be lower, thermo-regulatory behaviours such as huddling, shivering, ptiloerection increased, both breast and thigh pH tended to increase and became darker when compared to both treatments at 20 C. Under the same cold conditions the blood glucose of toms had a tendency to decrease, thermo-regulatory behaviours increased and thigh pH increased.

Comparing warm transport conditions, the opposite was true. Crowe found overall, that hens were less susceptible to the effects of warm transport than toms. Comparing both 28 C treatments to 20 C treatments at 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, hen live shrink was greater and thermo-regulatory behaviours such as panting increased at 28 C. For toms live shrink increased, core body temperature increased, thermo-regulatory behaviours increased and breast pH increased under 28 C treatment compared to 20 C.

Research conditions
Crowe suggested that the exposure conditions were not extreme enough to cause consistent and widespread physiological changes but that changes in core body temperature indicate birds were possibly beginning to reach the limit of their thermal coping abilities. Crowe pointed out that the research was conducted under ideal conditions, with all birds healthy and dry.

Turkey physiology and behaviour were affected to a greater degree than meat quality measures; meat quality was not compromised and defects did not occur in cold or warm transported hens or toms.

Crowe suggested that the large size of turkeys relative to broilers and size differences between hens and toms likely account for some of the variation in results and make it difficult to extrapolate work done with broilers to turkeys. As he says, turkeys are not just big chickens.

Funding Partners
This work with turkeys was one of the Growing Forward II projects sponsored by Turkey Farmers of Canada and Agriculture Canada.  Crowe is now looking ahead to do similar work with end-of-cycle hens in a collaborative project with Karen Schwean-Lardner and he has also explored the possibility of similar work with broilers.  There are no immediate plans to extend this work on turkeys, although there are other turkey-related projects ongoing at the UofS.
Published in Meat - Turkeys
Jan. 11, 2017 - The National Chicken Council (NCC) is urging consumers, the foodservice industries and non-governmental organizations to invest in studying the impact of the growing market for "slower growing" broiler chickens in the United States (U.S). 

A study released by NCC details the environmental, economic and sustainability implications of raising slower growing chickens, revealing a sharp increase in chicken prices and the use of environmental resources - including water, air, fuel and land.  NCC is also calling for more research on the health impact of chickens' growth rates, to ensure that the future of bird health and welfare is grounded in scientific, data-backed research.   

"The National Chicken Council and its members remain committed to chicken welfare, continuous improvement and respecting consumer choice – including the growing market for a slower growing bird," says Ashley Peterson, NCC senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. "However, these improvements must be dictated by science and data – not activists' emotional rhetoric – which is why we support further research on the topic of chicken welfare and growth rates."

Environmental implications

In assessing a transition to a slower growing breed, the environmental impact is an important component often left out of the equation.  If only one-third of broiler chicken producers switched to a slower growing breed, nearly 1.5 billion more birds would be needed annually to produce the same amount of meat currently produced – requiring a tremendous increase in water, land and fuel consumption: 
  • Additional feed needed: Enough to fill 670,000 additional tractor trailers on the road per year, using millions more gallons of fuel annually.
  • Additional land needed: The additional land needed to grow the feed (corn and soybeans) would be 7.6 million acres/year, or roughly the size of the entire state of Maryland.
  • Additional manure output: Slower growing chickens will also stay on the farm longer, producing 28.5 billion additional pounds of manure annually.  That's enough litter to create a pile on a football field that is 27 times higher than a typical NFL stadium.
  • Additional water needed: 5.1 billion additional gallons of water per year for the chickens to drink (excluding additional irrigation water that would be required to grow the additional feed).
Economic implications

If the industry did not produce the additional 1.5 billion birds to meet current demand, the supply of chicken would significantly reduce to 27.5 billion less chicken meals per year.

The additional cost of even 1/3 of the industry switching to slower growing birds would be $9 billion, which could have a notable financial impact on foodservice companies, retailers, restaurants and ultimately – consumers.  This will put a considerable percentage of the population at risk and increase food instability for those who can least afford to have changes in food prices.

A reduction in the U.S. chicken supply would also result in a decreased supply to export internationally where U.S. chicken is an important protein for families in Mexico, Cuba, Africa and 100 other countries.

NCC's commitment to welfare and consumer choice

"Slower growing," as defined by the Global Animal Partnership, is equal to or less than 50 grams of weight gained per chicken per day averaged over the growth cycle, compared to current industry average for all birds of approximately 61 grams per day. This means that in order to reach the same market weight, the birds would need to stay on the farm significantly longer.

For decades, the chicken industry has evolved its products to meet ever-changing consumer preferences.  Adapting and offering consumers more choices of what they want to eat has been the main catalyst of success for chicken producers.

"We are the first ones to know that success should not come at the expense of the health and wellbeing of the birds," said Peterson.  "Without healthy chickens, our members would not be in business."

All current measurable data – livability, disease, condemnation, digestive and leg health – reflect that the national broiler flock is as healthy as it has ever been.

"We don't know if raising chickens slower than they are today would advance our progress on health and welfare - which is why NCC has expressed its support to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association for research funding in this area," says Peterson. "What we do know is there are tradeoffs and that it is important to take into consideration chicken welfare, sustainability, and providing safe, affordable food for consumers.  There may not be any measurable welfare benefits to the birds, despite these negative consequences.  Research will help us identify if there are additional, unforeseen consequences of raising birds for longer."

NCC in 2017 will also be updating its Broiler Welfare Guidelines, last updated in 2014, and having the guidelines certified by an independent third party.  The guidelines will be updated with assistance from an academic advisory panel consisting of poultry welfare experts and veterinarians from across the United States.

"NCC will continue to be in the business of providing and respecting consumer choice in the marketplace," Peterson concludes.  "Whether it is traditionally raised chicken, slower growing breeds, raised without antibiotics or organic, consumers have the ability to choose products that take into account many factors, including taste preference, personal values and affordability."

For additional information and resources about how chickens are raised, visit www.chickencheck.in

Study methodology

The study was conducted August-September, 2016 by Elanco Animal Health, in consultation with Express Markets, Inc., using a simulation model that estimates the impact of slow-growing broilers on feed, land, water utilization, waste/manure generated, and production cost.  The model used average values of conventional vs. slow-grow broiler for mortality, grow-out days, feed conversion, days downtime, and placement density.  A full copy of the study is available here.
Published in Production
Jan. 5, 2017 - New research conducted by the University of Adelaide shows there is no greater risk of Salmonella contamination in the production of free-range eggs due to hot summer weather, compared with other seasons.

Despite a higher number of cases of Salmonella poisoning from eggs and egg products during the hot summer months, researchers at the University's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences say the egg production process itself is not to blame for the increase in cases.

The findings are further evidence that the hygiene around egg handling in the supply chain and in household and restaurant kitchens is critical to reducing food poisoning from eggs.

Researchers conducted a study of four Australian commercial free range egg farms, with the results now published online ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

"Eggs and egg products have been associated with an increased risk of Salmonella contamination. Because the use of free-range eggs by consumers is on the rise, we felt it was important to better understand the risk factors at the production stage," says lead author Kapil Chousalkar, from the school of animal and veterinary sciences at the University's Roseworthy campus.

"Birds raised in the free range production system could potentially be exposed to weather extremes, and the free range environment is not as easily controlled as in cage egg production. Therefore, it has been assumed that hot weather has a role to play in the potential contamination of eggs at the site of free range egg production.

"Our results show that the types and levels of Salmonella found in and around free range egg farms, and on the eggs themselves, is highly variable, often dependant on the specific husbandry and management practices employed by each farm. However, we found that there was no direct association between hot weather and increased prevalence of Salmonella at the production stage, even when data was collected in the hottest month of February," Chousalkar says.

"This helps to reinforce a simple health safety message: that it's important for people to wash their hands before and after handling eggs, whether at home, in a restaurant, or while working in the supply chain."

The bacteria Salmonella Typhimurium – the most common cause of Salmonella poisoning from eggs and egg products in Australia – was the second highest type of Salmonella found at free range egg production farms. The most prevalent, Salmonella Mbandaka, is generally not associated with egg or egg product-related food poisoning cases in Australia.

As well as renewing calls for people to practice good hand hygiene when using eggs, Chousalkar says there is a need for nationwide standards and uniform practices on the surveillance of egg contamination and safety.

"Currently, each of the states has their own food safety and surveillance programs. Because of its implications for public health, we believe the incidence of Salmonella contamination needs to be monitored in a standard way across all farms," he adds.
Published in Eggs - Layers
Research strategy review
The Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) facilitated development of the National Research Strategy for Canada’s Poultry Sector (the Strategy) which was released in 2012 (view it at cp-rc.ca/research/). The Strategy identified nine priority research categories including (not in order of importance):
  1. Economic viability
  2. Genetics
  3. Food safety
  4. Animal health products
  5. Poultry health
  6. Poultry welfare
  7. Environment
  8. Functional and innovative products
  9. Poultry feedstuffs
Industry’s goal was identified for each category and, rather than identifying specific projects, research target outcomes were listed.  For example, industry’s goal for the animal health category is to “continue to  promote the prudent use of antimicrobials and reduce their use where possible and increase the use of alternatives to antibiotics.” One of the research target outcomes is “alternatives to currently-used antimicrobials.” This approach to identifying and stating research priorities leaves it to researchers to propose projects that will address the results industry would like to achieve from its investment in research activities.

CPRC uses the Strategy as a guide in its annual calls for Letters of Intent and as a basis for development of the poultry science cluster, a five-year research program co-funded by industry and government. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) contributed $4 million to the $5.6-million poultry cluster under the AgriInnovation Program, part of Growing Forward 2, with the balance of funds from industry and provincial government funding.  That program runs from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2018.

CPRC’s board of directors has decided to review the Strategy to identify changes in existing priorities and new issues that have arisen in the past four years that should be included in an updated Strategy.  The review will include a broad consultation with poultry research stakeholders including producer groups, researchers, government, input suppliers and processors.  Many of these stakeholders are represented by CPRC’s member organizations.

The review is not designed to generate a research strategy from scratch but to build on the two-year process that led to the 2012 document.  The priorities identified in that process remain valid but issues may have evolved over the past four years and new research opportunities (such as precision agriculture or climate change impacts) may have appeared.  The Strategy review is targeted for completion so that the CPRC board can act upon a final draft at its March 2017 meeting.

Potential new research cluster
The science cluster program is part of the five-year federal-provincial agreements that include risk management, market development and research funding programs.  The science clusters were introduced in Growing Forward and continued in Growing Forward 2. Inclusion of a third science cluster program in the next federal-provincial agreement is not certain; however, AAFC has received good reviews from industry and government.

CPRC is hopeful that the science cluster program is included in the next agreement. The cluster program fits well with CPRC’s system.  It is a five-year funding commitment and allows CPRC to cooperate with other organizations to combine funding and design a more extensive research program than is the case with CPRC’s annual funding, which is usually for two or three years.  This approach allows CPRC to target longer-term objectives, such as vaccine development, in the cluster but still respond to more immediate issues, or those closer to the end user, with the annual funding calls.

Updates to the research strategy will provide information that will help CPRC and its industry partners develop a strong cluster proposal that will include research based on industry-identified priorities.

CPRC, its board of directors and member organizations are committed to supporting and enhancing Canada’s poultry sector through research and related activities.  For more details on these or any other CPRC activities, please contact the Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, ON K1R 7S8. Phone: 613-566-5916, fax: 613-241-5999, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at www.cp-rc.ca.

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 Research
The Poultry Industry Council (PIC) funded several research projects in 2016.  The following project addresses the layer sector of the poultry industry directly.
 
Grégoy Bédécarrats and his research team from the University of Guelph will be performing research which investigates the control of reproduction in poultry, within the context of a continuously evolving genetic makeup.

HPG axis
Specifically, the study will seek to reveal whether intensive genetic selection of commercial layer chickens has impacted control of the reproductive or HPG axis. HPG axis refers to the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and gonadal glands as a single system because these glands often act in concert.

In an interview, Bédécarrats described recent research in which he observed that modern strains of layers no longer fully fit the accepted neuroendocrine models.  He hypothesized, “While doubling egg numbers laid per hen, the past 50 years of genetic selection may have altered the normal physiological controls.”  

Key questions
Bédécarrats highlighted the key questions being formulated through recent analysis of commercial layers, “Why do they tend to mature without stimulation?  Why do they display extended laying persistency?  Is there desynchronization of the ovulatory process?”

Purpose of the strain
The proposed research aims to answer these questions by comparing a strain not selected for egg production versus a modern commercial strain selected for egg production.    The approach is to compare production parameters and relate these to molecular events.  Differences in the function of the HPG axis between the two strains will be identified.  Bédécarrats explains “Identifying differences between strains will give insight into the understanding of the actual mechanisms responsible for maturation, ovulation and persistency of lay.  This will show how genetic selection may have impacted the reproductive axis.”

Study objectives
The initial objective of the study will be to determine the relative importance of photostimulation versus metabolic status to initiate sexual maturation in commercial layers.  The study will then go on to investigate if a previously observed second estradiol peak is specific to modern commercial strains and correlated with laying persistency.  The study will conclude by determining if the second estradiol peak is the result of activation of the entire reproductive axis as opposed to independently ovarian activation.

Outcomes
“Outcomes of this research will assist in adjusting and/or refining on-farm management procedures and could help update codes of practice as it relates to layer flock turnover,” Bédécarrats said.

This research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Discovery Program and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs - University of Guelph Research Program.
Published in Genetics
Next time you go into a livestock barn, stop, look, listen and smell. How is one species of livestock different from another? Or better yet, how are all livestock species the same?

The answer to that question may just hold the key to the future of research. The days of independent, species-specific research may be changing to a new model, bringing together not only different livestock species but also different sectors of research and industry.

“It’s time to start thinking outside the shell,” said Tim Nelson, “and think very big.” Nelson is the CEO of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC) – a new hive of cross-disciplinary research based in Guelph, Ont.

The new network is an assembly of Ontario Livestock and Poultry Organizations that are betting the future of agriculture on well designed and directed research. Their mission is to provide, “a single portal through which collective investment in livestock and poultry research conducted in Ontario, is able to generate the best possible outcomes and return on investment for our sector and the Province.”

Times are changing, explained Nelson. Funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food is holding steady but overall investment in poultry research is declining and industry funding is flat. Government funding is pulling back at a time when their target outcomes are moving to a focus of creating jobs, although Nelson has high hopes with a new government that believes in science.

That’s not the only change.  The agriculture and food industry is changing too, looking for economies of scale. Industry is relying less on publicly funded research to pursue their goals of efficiency, while large corporations in areas such as genetics and pharmaceuticals continue to consolidate and do their own research.

Meanwhile research priorities are also changing. “We’ve gotten good at producing eggs,” said Nelson. In 1951 a hen would give us 150 eggs; in 2006 that number had risen to 325 eggs, using only 1.4 kg of feed compared to 3.4 kg. The feed to gain ratio in broilers has dropped from 6:1 to 1.6:1. “Do we still need to be doing this,” he asked?

Society is changing too, said Nelson, and their push for change is powerful. Many suggested production practices have no science to guide them. It’s one thing to ask to ban cages but what do the birds need in alternate production systems such as aviaries to ensure they’re getting a better deal?

At the researcher level, one measure of success is the number of patents issued, which potentially may delay transfer of technical information, adding to cost and reducing the desire of the industry to invest in late-stage research.

What opportunities can cross-disciplinary research create in this changing environment?

Nelson makes a strong case for collaboration.

When it comes to addressing societal needs, for example, Nelson suggests that the ‘silo’ model just doesn’t work. Social and ecological problems are far too complex. In response, research ‘clusters’ are becoming more common, allowing for the spreading of costs and creating a synergy to address common interests. Nelson cautions though that they need to be more than a grouping of researchers in one building, each working on their own projects. Just calling a grouping of researchers a ‘cluster’ doesn’t necessarily follow his definition of cross-disciplinary research.

So what does? Let’s consider what topics are important to poultry research right now. Nelson has condensed them to three areas: animal welfare, antibiotics in feed and food safety. None of these are what he calls “single discipline issues”.  Each has components that could be cross-funded by more than one sector, working in collaboration.

Could solutions to treat salmonella in pigs, for example, also be applied to poultry? Why not to dairy and beef as well? The advantages of shared research are clear: costs can be spread, bigger industry funding can be leveraged to better government funding, more tech transfer will be encouraged and private investment will be exposed to more opportunity.

But what about the language? Will researchers talking in ‘pig language’ be able to communicate with those talking ‘chicken’? Nelson says yes, once an early solution gets to the point where it needs to diverge it will need individual attention. “This is a paradigm shift,” said Nelson, which may not apply to all research but it is a way forward that will help the agriculture industry.

Nelson wants to target the resources of LRIC at what he calls the ‘Blue Sky/ Discovery stage’: “Start thinking about opportunities early.” LRIC is there to find commonalities in research, searching proposals and issues to find common ground.

“Cross-disciplinary research is already a reality; cross-sectorial research will become a reality,” said Nelson. “It will become a necessity.” Don’t be shy, he says, talk to LRIC and find out who else would benefit from or fund your work.
Published in Research
Every day nearly 62,000 cockerels are culled in Canada. That’s 22.5 million birds each year. While the number sounds shocking, it is the harsh and unavoidable reality of Canada’s egg industry. In the developed world, that number reaches over a billion chicks. The birds that commercial egg farms purchase are bred specifically for egg, not meat, production, which means that while the females are highly coveted, male chicks have absolutely no value.

This is not only a serious animal welfare issue, but also an issue of waste. But technology developed by the Egg Research Development Foundation (ERDF) could change all that.

Hatcheries in Canada run a tough business. According to Tim Nelson, Chief Executive Officer of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC), when you take into consideration their losses, they run at 50 per cent efficiency. For one, some 10–15 per cent of all eggs are infertile, and hatcheries are forced to dispose of them as waste. Of those that do hatch, cockerels make up 50 per cent.  The chick must then be identified, culled and disposed of by the hatchery. On top of the waste and animal welfare issues this raises, the hatchery must foot the bill for their incubation, as well as the labour and energy associated with raising them.

In 2007, the industry started working towards a solution. Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) has been funding research for a new technology, tentatively called “Hypereye,” that uses hyperspectral imaging to identify infertility and gender in day-of-lay eggs. If successful, Hypereye could be a game changer for Canada’s egg industry.

Hypereye uses spectroscopy, which is technology that allows hatchery personnel to identify eggs that are infertile. More importantly, though, it allows them to determine gender of the day of lay. Since day-of-lay eggs are essentially the same as regular table eggs, early identification could mean a new source of eggs. The potential, said Nelson, is huge.

Dr. Michael Ngadi, a food and bioprocess engineer at McGill University, is the head researcher on the project. In a recent interview, he explained how the Canadian technology differs from similar technology being developed around the world. A team in Germany, he said, is also using spectroscopy, although their approach is much different.

“We combine spectro-image data, so that’s why we call it the hyperspectral imaging,” explained Ngadi. “It’s a combination of broad spectral image signatures that we get from the egg. Then we put that through a fairly complex mathematical analysis where we are using some deep learning techniques to identify or relate those spectral and image data to the specific attributes that we are looking at – in this case, whether it is fertile or not and whether it is male or female.”

Dr. Ngadi said that they have chosen not to go into the infrared range for a number of reasons, mostly because he doesn’t see it as commercially feasible to operate at that wavelength. “Also because you will not be able to get an image at that wavelength,” he added.

Hypereye is almost ready for market. In fact, Nelson said that it could be ready as early as mid-2017. At present, the bench-scale model operates at an accuracy of 99 per cent. On a commercial scale, Hypereye must be able to process 30,000–50,000 eggs per hour. Currently, it’s nowhere near that speed, said Nelson, although he’s confident that speed won’t be an issue. “It’s just a case of ramping up the software,” he said. “Speed is important, but accuracy is more important. Right now we’re not worried about speed.”

The Poultry Industry Council in Ontario first provided funding for the project in 2007. Preliminary results were so successful that EFO decided to invest in further research, which is now being conducted through the McGill University in Montreal.

Currently, ERDF is looking for a qualified commercial partner who will assist taking the technology into production, and then market and service it around the world. ERDF believes that there will be considerable interest in the technology, especially since the approach they take keeps the eggs intact. Other systems, explained Nelson, involve invasive DNA testing. Not only is DNA testing time consuming, but it also requires putting a hole in the egg. There is greater risk of contaminating the eggs with bacteria and transmitting disease between eggs, and partially incubated male eggs and incubated infertile eggs have to be destroyed.

Since Hypereye will enable hatcheries to determine gender and infertility on the day of lay, eggs need not be wasted. Theoretically, said Nelson, the egg industry could take a large number of hens out of production. This is unlikely, though, especially as new egg markets are opening up. One such market, said Nelson, is the pharmaceutical industry. In recent years, EFO committed $1 million to Relidep, an antidepressant drug that requires thousands of fertile eggs each day. Nelson said the food processing market will take them as well.

Harry Pelissero, EFO’s general manager, says Canadian egg producers need not worry about production loss. “The non-female eggs could be used either for other uses such as table or breaker markets, vaccine egg production or for production of anti-depressants,” he said. “Given the ever-increasing use of eggs as a source of protein, existing egg farmers should not be worried about any reduction of egg production as a result of the implementation of this process.”

While the announcement is an exciting one for the industry, it could be a while before Hypereye is available commercially for large-scale operations.

“There are a whole lot of variables in the industry that we need to account for when we are actually putting this thing out there,” said Nelson. “Age of flock may make a difference, what the flock’s being fed may make a difference, and genetics of the flock may make a difference. So there’s a whole lot of things we have to take into account.”

The long and the short of it, though, is that the technology is there. “And because this is day-one and because it’s non-intrusive, it’s really important technology,” said Nelson.

Pelissero agreed. “We are getting closer to building a prototype, testing and will be in a position begin to take orders within the next two years,” he concluded.
Published in Production
Any method to preserve a species’ genetics is complex and costly. For poultry, raising generation after generation of a certain group of birds is one method, but because those who have been doing this don’t really receive any benefits that outweigh the costs, many are not continuing with it. In addition, relying on live flocks as a way to preserve genetics is also quite risky because something like a disease outbreak or a fire could always come along and cause the DNA to be lost forever.

A solution is therefore needed, preferably one that allows for the preservation of as much avian genetic diversity as possible. This will allow for genes from heritage breeds to be fully examined and characterized – genes which may hold great future promise in commercial breeding in terms of important traits like resistance to disease. American geneticist Dr. Janet Fulton has already demonstrated that there are some genes present in heritage poultry breeds that are not present in commercial breeds, and some of this heritage DNA (very much at risk of being lost at this point in time) may become crucial in future commercial poultry breeding enhancements.

But how is a central, efficient and secure way to preserve poultry genes to be developed? Cryopreservation (slow freezing) was tried because it works for mammalian sperm, eggs, embryos and more. But it turned out that cryopreservation of avian sperm significantly lowers its ability to fertilize eggs, and avian sperm doesn’t contain the entire bird genome anyway. While avian embryonic cells do, cryopreservation doesn’t work with them either.

Finding a reliable way to preserve poultry genetics is also challenging because of the trickiness involved with manipulating bird eggs and sperm, explains Dr. Carl Lessard, curator of the Canadian Animal Genetic Resources program (CAGR) at the University of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan. “What’s required is to open a small spot in an egg shell and deposit desired embryonic cells into the host embryo without killing it,” he notes. “That’s very difficult. So, while freezing embryonic blastodermal cells is a good way to preserve the entire genome of a species, it just doesn’t allow for easy usability of that genome in poultry.”  

In 2006, Dr. Fred Silversides (now retired from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) tried some new thinking. What about preserving the gonadal tissue (testicular and ovarian tissue) where sperm and eggs are created and stored? Might it be possible to develop a relatively efficient way to remove gonads, chill and store them, and then thaw and transfer them, resulting in the hatching of a chick with the desired genetics and not any from the surrogate mother hen?  

Instead of the slow freezing involved with cryopreservation, Silversides tried vitrification, where a gonad is removed from a day-old chick, treated with lots of cryoprotectant and chilled rapidly through a plunge in liquid nitrogen. The gonad is never technically frozen (there’s no ice crystal formation) but maintained in a glass-like (vitreous) state at a very low temperature. Once thawed, the gonad is surgically transferred to a day-old chick recipient that has had its gonad totally or partially removed.

At the same time, Silversides and his team developed ways to preserve the viability of the tissues during and after thawing and transplantation, such as treating the recipient chick with immunosuppressants to avoid rejection of the graft.

Success was achieved! Over time, the work of Silversides and his colleagues at AFFC was transferred to CAGR, where Lessard became curator in 2014. Since that point, Lessard and his team have been working hard to move all aspects of poultry genetics preservation forward.



What’s happening now
The technique for chicken testicular tissue is now well-established, and Lessard and colleagues are currently optimizing Silversides’ technique for ovarian tissue. “The ovarian grafts are not growing the way we need them to, so we are now trying to find a new chicken line recipient,” Lessard explains. “The bird line we were using likely has an immune response that’s too high. We didn’t see this with the testicular tissue grafts in that line.”

With turkeys, Lessard has established a reliable protocol for freezing gonads from newly-hatched chicks, with the next step to optimize the surgical procedures and immunosuppressive treatment to obtain successful growth of the grafts. In terms of the team’s preliminary genetic analysis, they’ve found turkey breeds have a lot of genome ‘admixture’ (many shared genes alleles between breeds), but more samples are needed to confirm this finding. Shared alleles, says Lessard, make it harder to characterize the entire genetic diversity of turkeys and establish what is, and what is not, pure turkey genetics.

Once vitrification of male and female gonadal tissue for chicken and turkeys is complete, the team will launch a national call in 2017 to request genetic samples of fertilized eggs from commercial and heritage breeds. They will also move on to other poultry breeds such as ducks.

Lessard and his colleagues are also creating a germplasm repository (sperm, eggs, gonads, embryos) for other types of livestock from all across Canada. “We are looking for donations from purebred animals in all areas of the country,” he says, “including bison, cattle, sheep, goat, horse, pig, deer, elk and more. It’s going well, and we’re getting more and more participation from livestock associations and individual producers. Right now (in September and October 2016), we are in Ontario and Quebec gathering samples from sheep, goat and beef cattle.” A website letting the public know what has been contributed is being developed and Lessard is looking for more Canadian and international graduate students to tackle all the work.

“We need many samples for poultry and everything else produced in Canada,” he explains. “Genetic characterization of commercial and heritage poultry breeds is extremely important and we need to establish the true diversity of the different poultry breeds produced here. The number of heritage breed birds is shrinking every year, and it’s very important to capture genetics as soon as possible.”

Silversides’ vitrification preservation technique has so far been adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture ‘Agricultural Research Service’ Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Lessard says individuals at that organization have already used the technique to preserve the genetics of several U.S. commercial and heritage breeds. In terms of other groups beyond CAGR working on gonadal transfer, a team in Hungary is currently working to master it.

To make is easier for them and other researchers around the world learn how to successfully complete surgical transfer of vitrified gonads, Lessard has been working on a free tutorial e-book featuring detailed video and audio descriptions of each step. “This strategy (vitrification and gonadal transfer technique) has great potential to preserve the entire genome of a poultry breed and also use that genome fairly easily,” he explains. “We want it to be available to everyone.”
Published in Genetics
Dr. Elijah Kiarie is a newly appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Bio–sciences at the University of Guelph. Dr. Kiarie has recently secured partial funding for two research projects and will be investigating the optimal feed structure for pullets. His research will be designed to investigate optimal feed structure (by using oat hulls and limestone particle size) for enhanced gut and skeletal development in pullets and subsequent effects on egg production, hen bone health and integrity and livability.

Oat hulls
Modern layer diets have been refined to improve intake and efficiency. The implications of these strategies are diets with low fiber and overall structure.  Poultry require a certain amount of fiber for optimal development and physiology of the gastrointestinal tract. Low fiber diets have negative consequences on the development and functioning of the gut, particularly the gizzard. Addition of insoluble fiber could be a practical solution of increasing diet structure.  

In an interview, Dr. Kiarie explained the problem at hand. “It remains unknown whether it is beneficial to introduce fiber at the rearing phase or laying phase, or indeed both phases,” he said.  

 “Modern pullets have a propensity to reduce intake at the onset of lay. Stimulation of gut development at the pullet phase may lead to birds with improved appetite for satisfactory laying phase performance,” he said. “This may be particularly strategic for alternative housing where the birds may have increased nutrient requirements over and above normal maintenance and
still meeting the requirements for egg production.”

Diets will be designed with oat hulls to create feed structure and fed to pullets throughout the grow-out period. During the laying phase, birds will be maintained on diets with or without the addition of oat hull. Gut and skeletal development will be evaluated during the grow-out phase and egg production and quality will be measured during the laying phase.  

Limestone particle size
Proper skeletal development is essential for high levels of egg production in all poultry housing systems.  

“Studies to improve skeletal health often focus on manipulating the birds’ environment and nutrition during the layer phase.  Unfortunately, at this phase it might already be too late to improve bone quality,” Dr. Kiarie explained.  “Earlier interventions by stimulating bone development at pullet stage could lead to a bird with sound skeletal structure for satisfactory laying phase performance in alternative housing.”  

“Pullets undergo fast bone formation during rearing, and nutritional strategies during this phase could have a major impact on bone quality and skeletal integrity of hens,” he added.  

The proposed research will evaluate the effect of limestone particle size on pullet skeletal development and subsequent effects on layer performance, bone health and integrity in hens housed in conventional and furnished cages.  

Dr. Kiarie said the limestone particle size will be used as a method of manipulating the calcium supply form to create feed structure. Diets differing in limestone particle sizes will be formulated and fed to pullets throughout the grow-out period. During the laying phase, bird diets will be maintained in conventional and furnished cage housing systems. Skeletal development will be evaluated during the grow-out phase.  Egg production and quality and bone health and integrity will be measured during the laying phase.  

 “The long term objective is to explore nutritional means to improve gut health and function, skeletal integrity and feed utilization in pullets and layers,” said Dr. Kiarie in describing the anticipated outcomes of these studies. “Research results will be directly transferred into practice through partnerships with feed manufacturers and allied industries that serve the Canadian egg producers.”

Components of this research will be funded by the Egg Farmers of Ontario,  Egg Farmers of Canada, and the Canadian Poultry Research Council.
Published in Eggs - Layers
The Canadian Poultry Research Council, (CPRC) completed its 2016 funding process at the board of directors’ June meeting by providing funding approval for seven research projects that address several poultry industry priorities.  Final approval for some projects is based on the researchers securing full funding for their proposed research projects, while other projects are fully funded and ready to commence. The board also awarded the 2016 Postgraduate Scholarship.  Both the 2016 funding process and Postgraduate Scholarship were extremely difficult tasks, given the high caliber of the applicants.

LAYERS AND BROILERS
Three projects that received funding support from CPRC precisely address the layer, broiler and broiler breeder industries directly. Elijah Kiarie, a newly appointed assistant professor at the University of Guelph (UofG) will perform research investigating the optimal feed structure for promoting pullet gut and skeletal development for enhanced layers productivity. This study will determine the comparative effects of introducing diet structure at pullet and/or laying phases to test the hypothesis that introduction of diet structure in pullet rearing is beneficial to layer hen productivity.  

Doug Korver at the University of Alberta will research the effect of barn sanitation on performance, microbiological and processing traits of commercial broilers.  The research project will provide an understanding of the linkages between barn sanitation, innate immune activation, broiler productivity and processing traits, food safety and a thorough economic analysis of those characteristics.  

Martine Boulianne at the University of Montreal will perform a broiler breeder national survey on food-borne pathogen prevalence, antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial use.  This study will fill knowledge gaps in understanding the ecology of enteric organisms and antimicrobial resistant organisms and antimicrobial use in broiler chickens in Canada.

POULTRY HEALTH
The remaining four research projects encompass poultry health, a major industry priority. Douglas Inglis, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientist, will conduct research on alternatives to antibiotics using a novel symbiotic technology to mitigate enteric inflammatory disease.  The project objective is to develop tailored probiotics as a non-antibiotic treatment for these enteric inflammatory diseases.  Juan Carlos Rodrigues-Lecompte, an associate professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, will investigate nutritional regulation of genes associated with avian B cell receptors involved in innate and adaptive immunity.  The overall objective of this research is to establish a chicken model of nutritional intervention to regulate immunity through nutrients.  Shayan Sharif, also at the UofG, will perform research to determine if it is possible to control avian influenza (AI) virus transmission among poultry.  Avian influenza viruses are of great importance to poultry health and viability of the poultry industry in Canada and across the globe.  The research involves development of vaccine formulations that can effectively control virus shedding.  Another novel aspect of this research is combining experimental findings with modeling and cost-benefit analysis to inform decisions in regard to control measures against AI.  Joenel Alcantara, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Calgary, will research an inexpensive plant-derived multi-component vaccine for poultry coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis.  The research aims at expressing these components in plant organisms to reduce the cost of isolating the antigens from their native hosts.

SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS
Several strong applications were received for the 2016 CPRC Postgraduate Scholarship.  Charlene Hanlon, UofG graduate student under the supervision of Grégoy Bédécarrats, was selected by the CPRC board of directors as this year’s scholarship recipient.  Her research objectives are to clarify the dynamics of the reproductive system in layer hens and apply these findings to promote better management of pullets and adult birds.  Specifically, her studies will determine the factors behind the early start and extended laying period observed in commercial hens.


CPRC, its board of directors and member organizations are committed to supporting and enhancing Canada’s poultry sector through research and related activities.  For more details on these or any other CPRC activities, please contact the Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, ON, K1R 7S8. Phone: 613-566-5916, fax: 613-241-5999, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at cp-rc.ca.
Published in Research
Egg shell quality is extremely important to table egg producers.  Egg shell quality has a direct impact on profitability because any broken, cracked, or misshapen eggs will result in a loss to the producer.  Some of the factors that influence egg shell quality include: nutrition, feed management, stress, the age of the hens, and mechanical equipment.  Understanding these factors that affect shell quality will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Nutrition
Nutrition plays a significant role in minimizing cracks within the flock.  A properly balanced feed will give the laying hen the nutrients she requires to produce an egg a day, along with the shell needed to protect that egg.  The three main nutrients that nutritionists typically take into consideration when shell quality problems arise are calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3.  These three nutrients each play a crucial role in shell formation.  The calcium status of a laying hen is very important because the hen must consume enough calcium to lay down an egg shell each day, as well as supporting her health and wellbeing.  In addition to this, she must replenish the calcium stores within the body so calcium is available for use the next day.  The calcium required to create the shell is obtained from two different forms, the medullary bone reserves and directly from the feed she consumes.  Medullary bone reserves of calcium are located within the long bones of the body and the hen is able to mobilize these reserves to supply part of the calcium required to produce the egg shell every day.  The remaining calcium required for the egg shell is obtained from dietary calcium comes from the digestive tract and is directly absorbed into the bloodstream.  A deficiency in calcium will cause an immediate decrease in shell quality and if prolonged, the medullary bone reserves can become depleted.  A hen in this state will begin to suffer a deterioration in egg shell quality, mobility problems, and soft bones.  Phosphorus is also important as it plays a key role in the storage of calcium in the medullary bone reserves.  Calcium is stored in these reserves as calcium phosphate, and for that reason phosphorus must be available in order for these reserves to be replenished.  Finally, vitamin D3 plays an important role in egg shell quality because it promotes calcium absorption from the digestive tract into the blood stream of the bird.  Once absorbed, the calcium is available to become part of medullary bone reserves to be laid down as part of the shell or for maintenance calcium requirements used to maintain the existing skeletal frame of the hen.  Additional calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3.   can be added to the diet when egg shell quality issues arise on farm, however this should be done in close consultation with your nutritionist as any imbalances in these nutrients can cause further deterioration to egg shell quality.   While additional nutrients may help solve the problem, nutrition cannot be looked at in isolation as many factors contribute to these situations.  For example, if the hen is not consuming enough feed, changes need to be made in the barn to encourage this consumption.  Because shell quality issues are typically complex and have many contributing factors, nutritionists will focus on balancing the nutrition, while also considering environmental issues that may be contributing to the problem.

It takes approximately twenty-one hours for the shell to be laid on the egg and a significant portion of this high calcium demand takes place when the lights are off.  Consequently, feed management plays a key role in maintaining shell quality.  It is important to make sure that the feeders are being run close to when the lights go off in the barn to ensure the hen is able to consume adequate calcium to support egg shell formation through the dark period.  In addition to the importance of feed timing, the form of calcium being provided in that feed can impact the ability of the hen to create a high quality egg shell.  Providing large particle calcium as a portion of the calcium in the feed will give the hen a source of calcium that is retained for a longer period of time.  This is because large particle calcium is less soluble than fine particle and will remain in the gizzard longer, making it available during the dark period when the bird is not consuming feed.  Research has proven that the hen also has a specific appetite for calcium and her appetite changes throughout the day.  By providing a portion of calcium as large particle calcium, the hen is able to selectively regulate her calcium intake throughout the day as her appetite for calcium changes.  In the late afternoon, when the demand for calcium is highest in the hen, having large particle calcium available allows her to choose to increase calcium consumption to meet her needs.  

Stress
Stress is known to cause disruption to the egg formation process which can lead to misshapen eggs, wrinkled and thin shells, as well as discoloured shells in brown egg strains.   Stresses in the barn can come in many forms, including disease, heat stress, excessive and sudden noises, mismanagement or failure of lighting programs, poor barn environment, and aggression from other birds.  These types of stresses can cause a disruption to the egg formation process because they will cause the hen to either hold on to her egg or lay the egg too soon.  Because stress influences the timing of the egg being laid, there can be an ongoing effect in the following days as the sequence of eggs has been disrupted and it takes time to get this corrected within the hen’s body.  Taking the time to observe what is happening in your barn will help you in the long run.  This includes ensuring the inlets and fans are providing adequate air flow, double checking that the lights are going on and off at the times they are set for, and observing bird behavior to look for signs of disease or aggression.  Solving these problems as soon as possible by changing fan settings, adjusting lighting schedules, dimming lights to control aggression, and contacting a vet if a disease is suspected will minimize stressors in your barn and have a positive impact on egg shell quality.

Bird age
The incidence of cracks is also affected by the age of the bird.  When the hens are young and first coming into production, there can be some thin or shell-less eggs.  This could be caused by the immaturity of the reproductive tract.  Typically this only happens to one or two eggs before the reproductive tract begins to function correctly.  The incidence of thin shells can increase as birds get older because the eggs become larger.  As eggs get larger, the amount of shell material being contributed to each egg remains virtually the same. Consequently, the shell has more surface area to cover, which may lead to thinner shells that are more prone to cracks.  Using management and nutrition tools to manage the egg size within the flock will help minimize the increase in cracks as the flock ages.  This includes working with nutritionists to review the diets to ensure that the nutrients are being fed at the appropriate levels for the age of hen, stage of production, and egg size.  This will help prolong eggs in the large category, rather than encouraging an increase in egg size.

Equipment
Egg collecting equipment such as egg belts, transfer points, escalators, packers, and egg saver wires can also contribute to cracks in the barn.  Any aspect of these systems that contributes to the rough handling of eggs as they move through the system can increase the incidence of cracks.  Being diligent in inspecting and reviewing the equipment, as well as the frequency of egg collection, on a regular basis will help to minimize cracks being caused by mechanical damage.  A regular routine can be established by ensuring maintenance logs are kept with details of problems found and how they were fixed, as well as posting a regular maintenance schedule that all employees have access to.  

While it is impossible to completely eliminate all egg shell quality issues within a laying hen flock, a reduction in the numbers of eggs lost over time is possible.  Working closely with your nutritionist to use nutritional strategies is one option to maintaining optimum shell quality. Managing the many factors within your barn that can contribute to decreased shell quality, such as feed management, stress, and egg collection equipment, will also have a positive influence on shell quality.  Combining good management practices with respect to barn environment, and management as well as building a strong relationship with a nutritionist will optimize your chances of decreasing the number of damaged eggs being produced, which means a healthier flock and more money in your pocket.
Published in Layers
In 2007, when Dr. Michael Ngadi at McGill University developed a way of predicting chicken egg hatchability using hyperspectral imaging with 95 percent accuracy, no one noticed. Three years later an article appeared in a magazine asking, what happened to that research? No one answered.But in 2012, public concerns with chick maceration changed the question: could this technology determine the gender of the chick? No one had thought to ask until then, but the Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) decided to invest $50K to find out.

“It’s a testimony to funding early research,” said Tim Nelson, CEO of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC), a Guelph-based organization that acts as a catalyst to enable cross-disciplinary and cross-sectorial research.

Speaking to the Poultry Industry Council’s 2016 Poultry Health Day in Stratford, Ont., Nelson used Ngadi’s research as a prime example of how a piece of research can surface and become useful when exposed to the right timing and conditions.

By 2014, the technology had been developed to a point of 99 per cent accuracy of predicting gender at time of lay and almost 98 per cent accuracy of predicting fertility. Not only did this reduce waste, it also reduces the carbon footprint. “Every egg is useful,” said Nelson. The male eggs don’t have to be incubated, saving energy, and they’re still fresh enough to use in food service. For tom turkeys the cost effective sex separation could mean huge incubation and feeding advantages. The camera is non-intrusive, meaning no risk of contamination or disease transmission during testing.

In the summer of 2015 this project started “getting serious”, said Nelson, as the discussions and legal agreements swirled towards commercialization. “It takes a lot of time…longer than you think.” The inventor of the technology had to negotiate intellectual property agreements and royalties with his team, McGill University, and the EFO. The sensitive equipment capable of scrutinizing 30,000 eggs per hour was also picking up electrical interference, while the hatching equipment itself was developed in South Africa and required approval from the CSA. The PIC funded the original research; funding sources expanded to include further support from the EFO and the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC).

On May 28, 2016, an excited Dr. Ngadi e-mailed Nelson to announce that the prototype would soon be ready to begin industrial trials, and a partnership is being established with an EU organization to further develop and distribute the technology as the project partners seek worldwide distribution.

“It’s off the bench now,” said Nelson.
Published in Research
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