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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
“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.
The ingredient is Whole Dried Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSF). Black Soldier Flies are native to North America and do not bite or sting. The larvae are high in protein and fat, and grow quickly. Enterra’s Marketing and Operations Manager says BSF are renewable and environmentally-friendly, consuming pre-consumer food waste that would otherwise go to landfill, composting or waste-to-energy operations where the food nutrient value would be lost. Victoria Leung also notes that BSF larvae will consume a wide range of waste food, from fruits, vegetables and stale bread to grains and grocery store waste.
All of the company’s production processes were developed in-house by Enterra’s research and engineering teams over the course of several years. “The adult flies are grown in cages under controlled environmental conditions,” Leung explains. “Once the larvae mature, they are either sent back to the cages to emerge as flies or they are harvested as product.”
When asked about the potential reaction a consumer might have to eating chicken that has been fed dried fly larvae, Leung says that “based on our experience, we are not too concerned…Insects are a natural source of nutrients for chickens, fish and other animals – it’s what they eat in the wild. Free-range chickens, for example, naturally forage for insects.”
The biggest barrier to commercialization of BSF has been clearing regulatory hurdles to achieve approval as a feed ingredient. “However, we are now seeing very good progress on this front, first with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S., and now with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) as well,” Leung explains. CFIA approval this summer came after four years of work, during which time the agency reviewed BSF as a ‘Novel Feed Ingredient,’ did a data review and a complete safety assessment (livestock, workers, food and the environment). “CFIA has a very thorough review process that involves assessing the product for safety, microbiology and efficacy for each target animal type, for example salmon, broilers and so on,” says Leung. “We also needed to show the product worked equivalent to or better than feed ingredients currently on the market.”
Enterra is working with the CFIA and FDA to have its BSF approved for use in other animal feeds as well, including poultry layers, other poultry (turkeys, ducks), trout and salmon. Approval is anticipated in mid-2017. The firm is also working to develop new products from dried larvae such as oil and high-protein meal.
Because it’s a natural ingredient, we asked Enterra if inclusion of BSF in chicken feed will help with bird gut health, for example perhaps reducing incidence of coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis. Leung responded by noting that “insects contain chitin as part of their exoskeleton structure. Researchers have proposed that inclusion of chitin or chitosan in poultry diets may improve poultry health; however, more research is needed.”
Dr. Bob Blair, nutritional scientist and Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia (UBC), has studied BSF. “The meal is closest in composition to fish meal and is a valuable feed ingredient,” he says. “It contains 40 to 60 per cent crude protein, depending on the amount of oil extracted during processing.” He has found no issues with blending it into feed, though he notes the high-fat product may have to be stabilized. “I do not have first-hand experience of feeding the meal to poultry since UBC no longer has the requisite facilities, but based on my talks with the company and my understanding of research conducted on similar products elsewhere, I regard it as an excellent poultry feed ingredient. Its main limitation is the cost - can it compete economically with other protein feedstuffs or will its cost limit it to more expensive feeds such as fish feed?” Blair adds that since BSF excrement can be used as fertilizer, the whole BSF production process “is to be welcomed as a sustainable way of producing a valuable feed ingredient from vegetable waste that would otherwise be dumped.”
Enterra is currently selling BSF to both Canadian and U.S. customers in the poultry and pet food industries. Scratch and Peck Feeds in Bellingham, Washington began purchasing BSF in April 2015, shortly after it became available on the U.S. market. “We wanted it to package as a poultry treat as an alternative to meal worms which are predominantly grown in China,” explains owner Diana Ambauen-Meade. “One of our company’s values is to source our ingredients as locally/regionally as possible so we don’t buy anything offshore. And we value that they feed the larvae pre-consumer food waste that would normally end up in a landfill as it is a very effective way to close the food waste loop.” She says she fully intends to integrate BSF into her feeds as an alternative protein source to the fishmeal currently used.
When asked about the potential to have widespread inclusion of BSF in U.S. and Canadian poultry feeds, in terms of the environment impact that would have on diverting landfill waste and in the avoidance of other feed ingredients which have greater impact, Leung has a positive outlook. “There is a big potential for our insect ingredients to become a standard inclusion in livestock diets,” she says. “Our company plans to expand far beyond our Langley facility – anywhere there is an abundance of food waste, it is possible to build a commercial insect-rearing facility to upcycle the waste nutrients into sustainable feed ingredients.”
Ontario-based AbCelex Technologies has developing a line of non-antibiotic, non-hormonal products that eliminate or significantly reduce pathogens in the chicken gut such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. “Since these innovative products are based on natural antibodies, there is no risk to human health and no possibility of antibiotic resistance,” says President and CEO Saeid Babaei. “The products will be delivered as a feed additive. Chickens simply ingest the antibody and it selectively neutralizes the bacteria. Our results in live chicks show 95 per cent inhibition of the Campylobacter pathogen, far higher than any other pre-harvest method used in industry and what expected by regulators.”
AbCelex is now moving forward with young adult field studies to be followed by large broiler trials to support regulatory submissions, with a goal of market launch in late 2018 or early 2019. “Being the first product of its kind, we will work with various regulatory agencies in getting our products approved,” Babaei notes. “Our commercialization strategy is to directly market to large poultry producers/processors as well as co-marketing opportunities with larger animal health companies…We have already partnered with one of Ireland’s largest poultry producer/processor, Carton Group, which may be involved with commercial farm studies and product registration in Europe.”
The very small antibodies (also called single-domain antibodies or nanobodies) employed by AbCelex occur naturally only in the blood of cameloids (camels, llamas and alpacas) and sharks. “The discovery of this novel class of antibodies stems from the early 1990s,” Babaei explains, “when Belgium scientists were studying the blood of cameloids and they noticed that the immune systems of these species produced a unique type of antibody around a tenth of the size of usual antibodies — small enough that they were orally bioavailable, whereas conventional antibody drugs must be injected to enter the bloodstream.” The nanobodies’ small size and flexibility for molecular engineering also allows for cost-effective mass production.
In the past several years, AbCelex has increased the resistance of its lead products to the acidic conditions of the animal digestive tract, and also significantly improved their resistance to heat (required in poultry feed preparation). In the past year, they have also produced their lead antibodies in various micro-organism systems, such as yeast. In July 2016, AbCelex received an investment of $3.4 million through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s ‘AgriInnovation Program’ to support further product development. Babaei says this will be conducted in collaboration with Canadian and international academic institutions, companies and contract research groups.
Elijah Kiarie hasn’t lost sight of the fact that the poultry industry is a business. He knows farmers want to maximize their income and they want their farms to be sustainable. As the newly appointed assistant professor in poultry nutrition in the department of animal biosciences at the University of Guelph, he intends to lead the establishment of a world-class program in poultry nutrition with a focus on improving feed efficiency to help that important bottom line.
As farmers know, feed is more than 60 per cent of the cost of production. In Ontario alone, Kiarie estimated that with 200 million 2.4 kg broiler birds, improving feed efficiency by just one per cent would save the farmers in Ontario about $3 million. Across the country that would translate to $10 million in savings over half a billion birds per year.
But when Kiarie uses the term “feed efficiency,” it’s not just your typical feed to gain ratio. Feed efficiency can mean so much more than that.
What if birds could get more from their feed? The typical excretion rate on a corn/soy diet is up to 15 per cent. What if that could be reduced to 10 per cent? That would be more efficient. As hens are housed in larger spaces, will more nutrients be directed to activity rather than productivity, reducing feed efficiency?
Bone health is also a huge issue: the early nutrition received by the chick plays an important part in the strength of the skeletal system. That is part of a field called epigenetics – a field of research investigating how genes are expressed, right from pre-hatch. Can the chick get a better start?
What about antimicrobial use? Both governments and consumers are looking for alternatives. Can probiotics provide a solution? While Kiarie acknowledges manipulating the gut microflora involves more than just nutrition, with management factors also coming into play, what if slight changes in feed can reduce the need for antimicrobials in the first place?
These are just some of the questions to which Kiarie will be seeking answers. So far he has defined several issues that may be implicated in sub-optimal production, from variability in feed ingredients and the ability of the bird to digest their food, to water quality issues, high gut microbial loads, subclinical and clinical disease, leg problems, and environmental stress from ammonia. For both eggs and meat, these issues may represent areas where commercial production can be brought closer to genetic potential through nutrition.
All of these issues can be traced back to gut microbes. There are more than 400 species of bacteria in the gut – how can we make them happy? When you feed the bird you feed the chicken but you’re also feeding the gut microbes: improving efficiency means you want to only feed the bacteria the chicken needs. As Kiarie says, “If you’re feeding the wrong microbes, you’re wasting feed.“
The chicken is affected in a 360-degree cycle, he explains, starting with the fundamentals: a strong gut and skeletal system to perform. If you don’t have a good gut and skeleton you’ve missed an opportunity to deal with what he calls an “addressable gap.” In this cyclic pattern a chick grows on maternal nutrition, so the mother needs to be healthy; we can’t just look at the chick in isolation. With this cycle in mind, Kiarie is looking at the broiler breeders to address egg size and body weight management.
Kiarie earned his PhD at the University of Manitoba and his undergraduate and masters degrees at the University of Nairobi. He has been a research scientist at DuPont Industrial Biosciences since 2011. In his new role at the University of Guelph he will pull together students, researchers, and funding from industry and government for projects and ultimately develop industry workers, bringing all these minds together to work as a team to help to place Ontario as a leader in collaborative, world-class poultry research.
The current specific areas of focus for the poultry nutrition plan include neonatal nutrition, immunity and epigenetic responses; dietary factors that affect gut function and health, performance, and product quality; feed additives to improve gut health and feed utilization; researching alternatives to anti-coccidials and antibiotics; and looking at feedstuffs and processing methods.
Kiarie continues to work closely with monogastric and gut microbiology colleagues from the University of Manitoba where he researched different feeding strategies to improve gastrointestinal health and nutrient use in pigs and poultry.
During the first several months of his new job, Kiarie has met with producers at regional meetings, with industry groups and has spoken with feed company representatives and nutritionists to establish what issues are relevant to the Ontario and Canadian poultry industry. From here he will begin to generate letters of intent for research projects while continuing to publish his own research. While his task is complex, he says his greatest joy still involves answering questions from producers and training students.
His professorship position was made possible thanks to a donation by Ontario poultry farmers James and Brenda McIntosh to the university in 2013.
The swell of demand from North America’s largest food companies for cage-free eggs is a stunning example of why public trust in our country’s food system matters.
The huge number of cage-free commitments from food makers, retailers and restaurants in Canada and the U.S. stems from how these companies perceive overall consumer opinions on hen housing – the fact that consumers do not trust that farmers know best with regard to housing systems that provides the best life for hens.
While these North American food companies (see sidebar) are no doubt being influenced by cage-free commitments already made by their subsidiaries or peers in Australia, the UK and the EU, their promises to only source cage-free eggs in these other parts of the world are again based on consumer perception, largely influenced by animal activist groups.
The united cage-free front of North American food makers, restaurants and retailers suggests that cage-free housing is inevitable in both Canada and the U.S. There are simply no major egg buyers who want anything else. “This is a done issue in the U.S.,” says Josh Balk, senior director for food policy at the Humane Society of the United States. “I can’t see the Canadian scenario being any different.”
However, whether egg farmers in either country will be able to meet the deadlines is far from certain.
Eggs Farmers of Canada (EFC) has currently committed to reaching 50 per cent cage-free production within eight years (2024), 85 per cent within 15 years and to have all hens “in enriched housing, free-run, aviary or free-range by 2036, assuming the current market conditions prevail.” This does not line up with North American food industry timelines of sourcing only cage-free eggs by 2025 or sooner. For example, Retail Council of Canada members such as Loblaw and Wal-Mart have committed to 2025, and David Wilkes, Retail Council senior vice-president of government relations and grocery division, says they “will continue to work with producers and processors to transition to this housing environment.”
Burnbrae, sole egg supplier of McDonald’s Canada, is switching all its production for that customer to cage-free to meet the restaurant chain’s 2025 deadline. In the U.S., Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Farms, the country’s second and third largest egg producers, are already converting to cage-free barns.
A&W Canada currently stands alone among North American food industry companies in its support of enriched housing. The fast food company says it “has worked very hard to have our eggs come from hens that live in enriched cages,” and that it “will continue to serve eggs from enriched housing while we work towards better cage-free housing.” The chain recognizes that Canadians want their eggs to come from hens housed outside of cages, but adds that “there are currently no viable commercial cage-free housing options that meet our strict standards.” To that end, in March 2016 A&W announced it wants to work with Canadian charity Farm & Food Care to bring egg industry partners, retail and food service from across Canada together with the U.S. Center for Food Integrity’s Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply to discuss all issues impacting sustainable eggs (including food safety, environment, hen health, worker health and safety and food affordability), and determine areas that the Canadian egg sector feels funding would be best spent. A&W has offered a grant of $100,000 to further this research. For it’s part, EFC recognizes research that shows each production system comes with trade-offs. We asked EFC about the fact that for any Canadian egg farm to convert to enriched cages and keep the same production level, new barn(s) will likely have to be constructed because the same number of birds cannot be housed in enriched cages in a given barn as were housed in battery cages. Does EFC see this as a particular challenge for Canadian egg farmers in terms of costs and the land required? “There are many factors a farmer needs to consider when evaluating the realities of transitioning an operation,” EFC states. “What’s important to keep in mind is that every farm is different (e.g. size, location, etc.) and until farmers start working through the implications of their transition—carefully considering his/her requirements—any estimation of cost is speculative.”
While EFC is currently looking into the financial implications of various alternative housing systems, we asked also if cage-free barns are less expensive than enriched cages, taking into account the possible requirement for new barn(s). “The decision to retool an existing barn or build a new barn is an important component of each farm’s individual transition plan,” EFC states. “Shifting to a new production system with different space requirements can impact the overall size of the flock. Typically, alternative housing systems have a larger building footprint and do not contain as many birds and conventional housing systems.”
Cost is a concern for the United Egg Producers, which represents those producing almost 90 per cent of American eggs, and for the National Association of Egg Farmers (NAEF), which represents about one per cent of U.S. production. NAEF is against mandated cage-free production for other reasons as well, including increased egg prices, increased mortality due to cannibalism and other factors, increased pecking injuries, higher risk of contamination due to prolonged exposure of eggs to litter and manure in nest boxes or on the barn floor, high dust levels and ergonomic challenges in egg collection.
Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) released the draft version of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Layers for public comment in June. The draft does not promote any type of housing over any other, but does include new recommendations for roomier cages.
In the end however, any attempt to convince the North American foodservice industry of the merits of any other type of housing except free-run/cage-free may be a lost cause. Marion Gross, senior supply chain management vice president at McDonald’s USA, may have summed it up best in her statement in January 2016 in the Chicago Tribune: “Enriched [housing] doesn’t mean anything to our customers, but they know what cage-free means.”
The recommendation follows new research that shows migrating birds can help to spread deadly strains of avian flu around the world.
Some strains of bird flu viruses are highly lethal in birds they infect and pose a major threat to poultry farms worldwide.
In rare cases, the viruses can also infect people and cause life-threatening illness.
Researchers investigated how a subtype of bird flu called H5N8 spread around the world following outbreaks in South Korea that began in early 2014.
The virus spread to Japan, North America and Europe, causing outbreaks in birds there between autumn 2014 and spring 2015.
Scientists analysed migration patterns of wild birds that were found to be infected with the H5N8 virus.
The team then compared the genetic code of viruses isolated from infected birds collected from 16 different countries.
Their findings reveal that H5N8 was most likely carried by long-distance flights of infected migrating wild birds from Asia to Europe and North America via their breeding grounds in the Arctic.
The researchers say their findings reinforce the importance of maintaining strict exclusion areas around poultry farms to keep wild birds out.
"Bird flu is a major threat to the health and wellbeing of farmed chickens worldwide," says Samantha Lycett with the University of Edinburgh. "Our findings show that with good surveillance, rapid data sharing and collaboration, we can track how infections spread across continents."
Greater surveillance of wild birds at known breeding areas could help to provide early warning of threats of specific flu virus strains to birds and people, they add.
Deadly bird flu strains – known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) – can kill up to 100 per cent of the birds they infect within a few days.
The study was conducted by the Global Consortium for H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses and involved scientists from 32 institutions worldwide.
This study could only have happened through bird flu researchers around the world pooling resources and working together," adds Mark Woolhouse, also with the University of Edinburgh. "We see this as a model for how scientists should unite to combat infectious diseases of all kinds.
The study is published in the journal Science and was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, COMPARE. The Roslin Institute receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
The objective in vaccinating chickens against Campylobacter is to reduce intestinal colonization and contamination of chicken meat products. Existing experimental vaccines are not able to induce a sufficiently strong immune response, and provide no or little of protection against Campylobacter colonization. There is no commercially available vaccine against Campylobacter for chickens despite many attempts to develop one.
A collaborative project between the laboratories of Prof. Shayan Sharif and Prof. Mario Monterio from the University of Guelph was initiated to try to develop an effective vaccine against Campylobacter in chickens. A prototype vaccine consisting of capsular carbohydrates of C. jejuni conjugated with a carrier (CPSconj) developed by Prof. Monterio, formed the basis of the vaccine development in the current study. Prof. Mopnterios’ CPSconj carrier has previously shown efficacy in a primate model. The efficacy of vaccination for reducing C. jejuni colonization of chicken intestinal tissues was assessed. Three administered doses of the prepared CPSconj vaccine resulted in a detectable antibody response in 75 per cent of specific pathogen free birds. Whereas vaccination of commercial broiler chicks resulted in a detectable antibody response in 33 per cent of orally challenged birds. Overall, the in vivo findings show CPSconj vaccinated birds had significantly lower numbers of C. jejuni in intestinal tissue when compared to non-vaccinated birds.
The study went on to identify an immune response enhancer which is termed an “adjuvant”, with the specific capacity to induce immune responses in cells of the chicken intestine for inclusion in the prototype vaccine or as a stand-alone prophylactic compound. In vitro studies demonstrated that adjuvant CpG-ODN elicited the highest activation of cell signaling molecules prevalent in immune responses and was therefore selected as the optimum mucosal vaccine adjuvant. To target the selected adjuvant to the intestine of chickens and ensure slow release of the adjuvant at the site of infection, a delivery system based on encapsulating the adjuvant into specific nanoparticles was employed. Results demonstrated that CpG-ODN administration reduced bacterial burden in the intestine and encapsulation of the CpG-ODN resulted in a greater decrease of bacterial burden in the chicken intestine.
Overall, Dr. Sharif and his research team have demonstrated that it is possible to employ a subunit vaccine for reducing Campylobacter jejuni in chickens. Additionally, the research team has provided evidence for CpG-ODN as a stand-alone anti-bacterial prophylactic strategy. Dr. Sharif and his research team will continue to explore better ways for control of Campylobacter jejuni through the use of vaccines, immune stimulants and probiotics.
Chickens, like all vertebrates, are governed by a circadian rhythm that is governed by the natural light/dark cycle of day and night. As such, chickens mostly rest and are inactive at night, especially when it is dark. Although they do rest during the daylight hours, most of their feeding and activity is performed during this time.
Studies show that just as in humans, major abrupt changes to the day/night cycle of the chickens, such as waking up the chickens at night with loud noises, will lead to stressed and anxious chickens.
In addition, studies have shown that loud noises such as found near airports, rail road tracks or loud hydraulic or pneumatic equipment and machinery close to the chickens leads to lower egg production, stunted growth, higher blood pressure, stress and fatigue in the birds. A study has shown that loud noise simulating noisy ventilation fans and operational machines found at slaughterhouses led to increased plasma corticosteroids, cholesterol and total protein.1 This study recommended the control of noise pollution near the chickens and chicks.
Other studies show that noise levels past the 85 dB level can lead to a decreased feed intake of between 15 to 25 per cent. Lower feed intake stunts chicken growth — something the poultry farmer or processor does not want.
But all is not lost. Below are some tips and advice to reduce the noise level to an acceptable and healthier level leading to happier and healthier chickens – both psychologically and physically.
First identify the sources of noise pollution equipment. Use a sound measuring tool if necessary.
- Erect sound barrier secondary glazing in windows.
- Establish your chicken farm in a quiet area away from airports and industrial areas and rail yards.
- Maintain your ventilation fans and feeding machines making sure they are not producing excess noise.
- Try to buy machines that produce the least noise possible.
- Avoid repairs and renovations with noisy equipment, especially during the rest and sleep hours of the chickens
- Muffle noisy equipment.
- Make sure that family members do not honk the car horn too often during chicken sleep hours.
- Investigate “active noise control” - a noise cancelation anti-noise system that produces sound waves of the same amplitude as the noise pollution, but in opposite polarity causing a cancelling of the noise pollution.
- Train employees and family members to respect the sleep hours of the chickens - they should not be screaming out to each other, joking etc. around sleeping chickens.
We simply see that it’s about common sense and respect. We need to respect the fact that chickens are living beings that need many of the same things that we need, including a good night’s sleep and some peace and quiet during the day. We just have to sensitize ourselves by imaging how we feel when we are woken up while we are asleep. We feel grouchy the next day and are less productive in the office. If we internalize this reality, we will treat the chickens with more respect, which not only is the proper thing to do, but it is actual good business sense.
The results will be healthier, bigger chickens. Thus, everybody gains by respecting the chickens needs not to be exposed to high levels of noise pollution: the commercial poultry farmer, the backyard chicken farmer enthusiast, the processor and the chickens.
1Stress in Broiler Chickens Due to Acute Noise Exposure (2009) Chloupek et. Al Acta Veterinaria Brno, 78:93-98.
Under this project, the Poultry Research Chair at the University of Montreal's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine will assess various alternative strategies and their effects on flock performance. The latest research into anti-microbial resistance (AMR) builds on a previous project, also funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and will seek solutions that can be applied across the entire poultry industry.
This contribution has been made through the AgriInnovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a five-year, $698 million initiative.
AAFC supports the development and adoption of industry-led initiatives regarding biosecurity and animal care to support the prudent use of antimicrobials.
Pierre-Luc Leblanc, President, Les Éleveurs de volailles du Québec said in a release “the Quebec poultry industry is committed to developing cutting-edge farming methods while maintaining strict, rigorous animal welfare standards. Flock health and the quality of consumer products are top priorities. Working with the Poultry Research Chair, we are taking the necessary steps to preserve and enhance these priority areas by building on research and development."
Activation of innate immunity
The emergence and spread of resistant bacteria are rendering current antibiotics less useful. Furthermore, the controversial practice of prophylactic use of antibiotics encourages the emergence of antibiotic-resistant microbes. Therefore there is a need for the development of novel alternative strategies to antimicrobials for infectious disease control.
CPRC has recently funded a project that will investigate an innate immune-based method of disease protection as an alternative strategy to antimicrobial use. During initial exposure to pathogens, birds are reliant on their innate immunity for protection against infection. Innate immune responses are not pathogen-specific but are activated by features/patterns characteristic of pathogens. The innate immune system is capable of limiting a variety of infections once activated. Although the innate immune system of chickens is developed at hatch, it is not activated; therefore, microbial agents (particularly bacterial pathogens) can infect chicks at the time of placement in the barn.
Professor Susantha Gomis, from the University of Saskatchewan has studied the effects of a pattern characteristic of bacterial DNA, known as CPG-motifs to induce or activate the innate immunity. Research has shown that synthetically generated CPG-motifs or ‘CpG-ODN’ as an immune system stimulant is capable of protecting neonatal chickens against specific bacterial infections. Results obtained to date show that intranasal delivery of CpG-ODN is advantageous to in ovo delivery as innate immune stimulation coincides with the first week of the birds’ life, which is the most vulnerable period for bacterial infections. Dr. Gomis’s current research will develop an effective method of intra-nasal delivery of CpG-ODN at hatch. The research approach will be to initially develop a CpG-ODN delivery prototype for intranasal delivery of the CpG-ODN to neonatal chicks followed by field efficacy and safety trials.
This research is also funded by NSERC, Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan, (Saskatchewan Chicken Industry Development Fund), Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd., Western Economic Diversification Canada, Sunrise Poultry Hatchery, BC and Prairie Pride Natural Foods Ltd., SK.
Activation of adaptive immunity
Respiratory viruses have a negative impact on the poultry industry. Although vaccination against respiratory viruses is used to control these common viral diseases, “vaccine failures” remain common.
CPRC has recently funded a project that will investigate the use of innate immune stimulants to induce adaptive immunity against respiratory viruses. Adaptive immune responses are pathogen-specific and recognition of the pathogen results in both antibody-related and cell-mediated immunity. Adaptive immune responses are slow to develop and may take up to a week before the responses are effective.
Associate Professor Faizal Careem, from the University of Calgary, has studied the effects of synthetic Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs) in activation of innate immune responses. Research has shown that these PAMPs are effective in reducing the impact of a number of avian bacteria and viruses. PAMPS are also a known to increase the immune response of experimental vaccines when incorporated with these vaccines as ‘immune response enhancers’.
Dr. Careem, will investigate the role of innate immune stimulants in the induction of adaptive immunity to respiratory viruses. Results obtained in his prior research have demonstrated that in ovo delivered PAMPs can reduce a specific viral load in the respiratory tract of embryos and neonatal chicks. in ovo delivered PAMPs also increases innate immune cell responses in neonatal chicks. These responses have been shown to promote the development of adaptive immune responses in mammals. Overall, this study will determine the efficacy and mechanism of in ovo delivered PAMPs in inducing pathogen specific adaptive immune responses against respiratory viruses. The approach is centralized on stimulation of the innate immunity to reduce the viral replication at the site of entry allowing birds to acquire adaptive immunity.
This research is also funded by NSERC and Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd.
August 11, 2016 - Twenty-one U.S. land-grant institutions and partner organizations are collaborating to provide researchers, Extension professionals, regulators, feed industries, and producers with up-to-date, research-based information on the nutrient needs of agricultural animals. Since forming in 2010, the National Animal Nutrition Program has created a database of animal feed ingredients. The database is a vital tool to inform cost-effective production decisions, animal welfare policies and procedures, and to guarantee the safety and nutritional value of consumers' food.
"Feed is the largest livestock and poultry production expense, and better information on animal nutritional needs and feeding strategies is key to making livestock production sustainable and effective," stated Merlin Lindemann, project leader fromUniversity of Kentucky.
Activities conducted by the program aid in the development of feeding strategies and research to enhance animal health, which allows for better productivity and lowered costs. Consumers will also benefit from safer, more nutritious meat, dairy, and eggs.
"The significance of this data is vast," says Phil Miller, project participant from University of Nebraska. "It shows how we can use the byproducts from biofuel grain production in animal feed more economically. It also reveals how modified animal diets can reduce the emissions from livestock that contribute to global warming."
So far, the program has collected and sorted 1.5 million feed ingredient records to create a reliable database that is used by organizations in over 30 countries, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
The National Animal Nutrition Program is a National Research Support Project supported by the Agricultural Experiment Stations with funds administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The feed database is only one of many accomplishments of the NANP since its inception in 2010. For more information, visit https://nanp-nrsp-9.org/
The participating land-grant universities include:
University of California, Davis
University of Connecticut
University of Guelph
University of Illinois
Iowa State University
University of Kentucky
Michigan State University
Louisiana State University
University of Maryland
University of Nebraska
North Carolina State University
Ohio State University
Pennsylvania State University
Texas A&M University
Texas Tech University
Virginia Tech University
Washington State University
University of Wyoming
In the poultry industry we discuss cost/profit/loss in terms of hundredths of pennies. Those same pennies in a year equate to millions of dollars.
Properly evaluating any input — such as breed choice, equipment or feed additives -- at the broiler level can only be done with a properly designed commercial broiler trial within your complex.
Basing decisions on data collected from another complex or research is only a part of the story. In many cases it’s the beginning of the story, but can lead you down the wrong path for too long if not tested within your complex using your own system.
It might be tempting to follow the path of another complex, but more often than not there are nuances within your complex that will impact the end result. Most of the time you only have part of the other complex’s success story. You don’t have the same inputs or outputs.
A difference in live operations (inputs) and product mix (outputs) can greatly influence the profit/loss that might be generated by following the same path within your own complex. You need to write your own story to make the best decisions for your complex. That story is best told through a commercial trial.
The value attached to the decisions made based on the commercial trial results warrant a properly designed, communicated and executed trial.
A properly designed trial takes as many variables out of the equation as possible, except those you are comparing. For instance if you are testing different breeds, you want to have a farm with:
- Identical houses in equipment and design
- Two houses per treatment
- Same breeder flock ages
- Same hatchery and set date
- Same light, ventilation, feed and water programs
If there is a variable that could have influenced your data there will always be questions and concerns regarding the validity of the trial. The reason for at least two houses per treatment is that it allows you to choose one house from each treatment that closely mimics the other treatment in regards to mortality, morbidity and growing conditions. This takes out more of the variables that may have occurred during the growing cycle. Some of those variables that have been witnessed during the growing cycle are: running out of feed in one or more houses; environmental conditions; and chick quality
It is also recommended to repeat the trial or multiple trials for the same reason, but this is not always practical. Multiple trials help make the end picture clearer.
A properly communicated trial involves including many departments within your complex in a planning discussion weeks in advance. Having every department on board before the birds are set in the machines will result in the best outcome. Departments that need to be involved include: breeder department; hatchery; feed mill and delivery; broiler department; live haul; processing plant; and government institutions.
Communication about the trial will help minimize one of the biggest variables to a trial -- human error. Assign a trial point person or persons to follow the trial through the process. All departments need to take ownership and understand the importance of the trial results.
A properly executed trial generates the quality data needed to make the right decision. Typically the data needed is from live as well as plant performance. To obtain accurate live data you should select a random sample of birds from one house for each treatment, as discussed previously, the day before processing.
The weight samples should be kept separate by sex, and collected from three areas of the house: Back, Middle and Front. Either record individual weights, or use scales with the capability to calculate the standard deviation. Once you have your mean (average) and standard deviation for body weight (by sex), you can fill in the boxes that define the weight category cut-offs on either side of the mean (middle) weight (See image page 22). You will need to find the appropriate number of males and females for each weight range seen in the histogram below. In the end, you will have four males and four females that are between 1 and 2 standard deviations below the average weight, eight males and eight females that are between the average weight and 1 standard deviation below the average, etc..
These birds should be tagged and followed the following day to the plant. At the plant the birds should be reweighed and this individual plant weight will be your live weight. The birds should then be sent through your processing plant. This allows for you to see what the treatments will achieve in your operation. Typically, the carcasses would be removed from the line just before the chiller to take the variable of water uptake out of the equation.
The next step is to have a person that is well trained to debone the carcass and to collect the individual parts with the correct bird tag. Another person will need to record the weight for each individual deboned or whole part for each tag/band number. The data generated by your complex can then be analyzed.
Once you have the results from the well-executed trial, you can start working on the economics to help in your decision. The economic model should help you answer questions on how the inputs you are testing influenced your bottom line. These are some of the factors your economic model needs to consider:
- Will the change result in more/less housing needs?
- How did the change influence live performance? (FCR, mortality, growth rates
- How did the change influence processing performance? (Meat quality, yield, condemdation)
- Will the change result in updating your system? (Hatchery, feed mill, processing plant)
Take into account all the departments involved in the trial itself. Sometimes decisions may result in a positive for one department and a negative for another department. If you answer how each of those departments will be affected, your goal will have been met - the scenario that results in the most hundredths of pennies for your complex.
A link is provided below on how Cobb recommends performing a commercial yield trial:
August 4, 2016 - Dr. John David Summers, Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph, passed away August 2, 2016.
He completed both his BSc. and MSc. from the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) and completed his PhD. at Rutgers. Most of his academic career was spent at the University of Guelph, initially in the Department of Poultry Science and later in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science. His ongoing contacts with industry ensured direct application of his research into various aspects of poultry nutrition that was always timely and insightful. For example, his pioneering work of nutrition and fat deposition in broilers, which is still important today, was started in 1974. His research spanned all the major poultry species, and John could always be counted on to ask penetrating questions at poultry and nutrition meetings around the globe. John was truly one of the pioneers of the golden age of poultry nutrition.
Together with his esteemed colleagues, he helped to develop what has become the foundation of our modern strategies of poultry nutrition. John had a close working relationship with Shaver Poultry in Cambridge, Ontario, and in this capacity visited over 50 different countries. John gave numerous invited lectures around the world where his insightful knowledge was always greeted with great enthusiasm, from both students and other professionals in the poultry industry. John authored over 400 research papers and co-authored 5 books on various aspects of poultry production. John became Professor Emeritus in 1990 and received the Order of OAC in 2013.
A celebration of life for Dr. Summers is taking place Monday August 15 at the Village Centre at the Village by the Aboretum in Guelph, Ont. from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
August 2, 2016- Canadian biotechnology company AbCelex has received an investment of $3.4 million from the federal government to develop a new line of anti-microbial feed additives to help control disease outbreaks in poultry flocks.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (AAFC), Lawrence MacAulay, made the announcement July 29.
The company is developing a line of innovative non-antibiotic, non-hormonal additives that are specifically targeted at Campylobacter and Salmonella, two of the most common food-borne bacteria that infect poultry. The new anti-microbials – called “nanobodies” – will result in healthier poultry and improve food safety.
AbCelex is a Canadian biotechnology company focused on developing livestock food additives that help improve animal health and food safety.
AAFC supports the development and adoption of industry-led initiatives regarding biosecurity and animal care to support the prudent use of antimicrobials.
This project will be conducted in collaboration with the International Vaccine Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Toronto and the Colorado Quality Research Inc. Funding for this project comes from the AgriInnovation Program (Research and Development Stream) as part of the Growing Forward 2 agricultural policy framework.
July 14, 2016 - The global poultry industry is increasingly utilizing dietary β-mannanase enzyme supplementation for poultry diets as a valuable option to enhance production. But are the purported benefits supported by the latest science?
New research results, unveiled at the 2016 Poultry Science Association (PSA) annual meeting, July 11-13 in New Orleans, call into question the value of single activity β-mannanase source formulations, particularly when used with soybean meal based diets representing the vast majority of global production.
The fresh knowledge presented at PSA centres around a newly completed study led by Dr. Anna Rogiewicz of the University of Manitoba – an institution recognized among the global leaders in novel feed ingredient and feed enzyme research. Program collaborators include the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland, and Canadian Bio-Systems Inc.
“We’re learning that the story around mannans and mannanase is more complex,” says Rogiewicz. “There are questions that need more validation in the context of a soybean meal based diet, including the theory that β-mannans in the feed trigger an energy-draining feed induced immune response that would be minimized by β-mannanase supplementation.”
The multi-component study included analysis of β-mannan content in soybean meal based diets, along with in vitro experiments to evaluate the affinity of several leading β-mannanase source formulations, specifically with soybean meal based β-mannans.
The study also involved an in vivo broiler chicken trial to further evaluate impacts with the β-mannanase source formulations added to soybean meal based diets. This component was designed to evaluate the immune trigger theory.
The results confirmed that the β-mannan content within soybean meal based diets is very low and that – as opposed to the high amounts of β-mannans present in guar, copra or palm kernel meals – this small amount in soybean meal is not likely to contribute to any increased intestinal viscosity in poultry fed corn/soybean meal based diets.
The in vitro experiments showed substantial breakdown of β-mannans due to β-mannanase activity. However, results with the in vivo study showed “no effect” in terms of growth performance. There was also no evidence shown to indicate that the level of soybean meal based β-mannans triggered a feed induced immune response. This was evaluated by analysis of the weight of immune organs and the level of immunoglobulins in serum and the intestine.
“The theory has been that because β-mannans have a molecular pattern similar to some pathogens, this triggers a feed induced immunity response, thereby consuming energy that would be preferably directed to growth and performance,” says Rogiewicz. “However, the results of this study would indicate no feed induced immunity response triggered by β-mannans in soybean meal based diets. This may be due to the very low level of β-mannans in soybean meal based diets, as opposed to the much higher levels in, for example, copra or palm kernel meal based diets.”
Broader research and analysis by the University of Manitoba program suggests the best pathway to address β-mannans, along with a full range of target substrates in poultry feed, is through a multi-carbohydrase enzyme approach that utilizes synergies between enzyme sources and activities to maximize feed nutrition capture. More information is available at www.canadianbio.com.
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