Poultry Research


New data analysis has shown there is a genetic link between pendulous crop in turkeys and how well the birds convert feed. This means certain birds may be more predisposed towards developing pendulous crops given their nutrition, management, environments, or combination of these.

This type of correlation is not uncommon in genetics when breeding for certain traits, and geneticists work hard to find balance between desired traits and resulting effects in other areas.

A pendulous crop is a pouch that hangs down lower than it should in poultry and becomes filled with feed and water that the bird can’t digest. Birds suffering from this condition will slow their growth and in some instances can become emaciated.

“Our research was aimed at determining what, if any, genetic relationship there might be between feed efficiency and pendulous crop in turkey, and if there was, whether we might be able to correct for this in a breeding program,” says Owen Willems of Hybrid Turkeys – the company behind the research.

“Avoiding pendulous crops in the turkey population is important to having an economically successful flock, as there is no recovery from this affliction,” he adds.

Researchers at Hybrid Turkeys examined eight years of data from their Ontario-based turkey breeding program in both a sire and dam line to come to their conclusions.

They discovered a small genetic relationship between pendulous crops and feed efficiency in the sire line, which over time, could cause a slight increase in occurrence of pendulous crop as the feed conversion ratios are improved through the breeding program.

In the dam line, however, there was no link, which shows that feed efficiency can be improved through that avenue without increasing the risk of pendulous crop.

Researchers concluded that the correlations between pendulous crop and feed efficiency traits show that pendulous crop should be included in the selection index whenever a feed efficiency trait is also included.

“Given the results of this work at Hybrid, we now have a clearer idea moving forward on how to decrease the incidence of pendulous crop in turkeys through genetic selection,” Willems says.

Pendulous crop is largely a seasonal problem, occurring particularly during hot weather, and is attributed to over-drinking and over-feeding or gorging.

To minimize the risk of birds developing pendulous crop, producers should:

  • Make sure birds have access to clean, cool water at all times
  • Sanitize drinkers regularly and monitor chlorine levels in the water
  • Monitor water consumption to determine if turkeys are drinking more or less water than usual
  • Maintain regular, consistent access to feed
  • Ensure poults don’t become overheated. During brooding, room temperatures should be 29-33C

Visit www.hybridturkeys.com for additional information.

“Prevention is key here as there is no economically viable treatment available for pendulous crop,” Willems advises.

The research was funded by Hybrid Turkeys (a Hendrix Genetics company), the Poultry Industry Council, and the University of Guelph. More information is available from Ben Wood at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or from the full abstract at https://asas.org/docs/default-source/wcgalp-proceedings-oral/120_paper_3657_manuscript_86_0.pdf?sfvrsn=2.




Published in New Technology


December 18, 2015 - Cranberry extracts, derived from the pulp of pressed berries, may be a promising, natural treatment to increase the life expectancy of young broiler chickens.

Healthier birds, with enhanced immunity from a natural source, could reduce production costs for farmers while meeting consumer demand for high-quality, antibiotic-free poultry products.

Dr. Moussa S. Diarra, a research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Guelph Research and Development Centre, is currently conducting trials to examine the effects of cranberry fruit extracts on the immunity of broiler birds during their first 14 days of life, a critical period when “they need something to build up their immunity” against infectious disease. “Young birds are fragile and can be hit by several types of infections” if preventive measures aren’t administered, he notes.

Cranberries have long been used in human nutrition and are reported to have various human health benefits because of their high antioxidant compounds and immune-boosting properties. “If they are good for humans, why aren’t they for other animals?” speculated Dr. Diarra.

“Results have shown that cranberry extracts could decrease mortality by 50% in the early life of broiler birds, when treated with 40 mg of cranberry extracts per 1 kg of feed.” - Dr. Moussa Diarra, Research Scientist, Guelph Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Dr. Diarra is the first research scientist in Canada to study the benefits of cranberries on the immune systems of broiler chicks. Since cranberries “are already accepted in human consumption,” it may be possible to satisfy producers’ needs for cost-effective, benign methods to increase animal health by using a food by-product, he notes.

Dr. Diarra and his team conducted a research study of broiler growth performance that was jointly funded by AAFC and the Canadian Cranberry Growers Coalition. The team fed commercial cranberry fruit extracts, derived from cranberry juice, to 1,200 one-day-old male broiler chicks. The chicks were studied in a sanitary facility, where mortalities were examined in comparison with non-treated chicks for up to 35 days. The results have shown that “cranberry decreased mortality by half” in one-to-10-day-old birds, when treated with 40 mg of cranberry extracts per 1 kg of feed.

Dr. Diarra explains that increasing birds’ resistance to the colonization of pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, while boosting overall birds’ immunity, can increase the sustainability of chicken production.

Currently, Dr. Diarra is leading a multidisciplinary team of scientists and farmers in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island to examine whether extracts, derived from the cranberry fruit waste (pomace), can replace the use of antibiotics in the young broilers. Pomace is otherwise discarded after the berries are pressed, but, “we can use this by-product,” to develop extracts instead, he notes.

Additionally, the trials will look at meat quality, because the antioxidants in cranberries could help increase storage time. This is because antioxidants prevent the oxidation of molecules in the meat, maintaining freshness, Dr. Diarra explains.

The study speaks to greater issues in animal production, including the increasing need for viable alternatives to using antibiotics as growth promoters and increasing antibiotic resistance. The anticipated results could be advantageous for both producers and consumers.

The Guelph Research and Development Centre is part of AAFC’s network of 20 research centres across the country. Located in Guelph, Ontario, the Centre is committed to specialized research in the areas of food safety, quality and nutrition to ensure Canadian-produced food is the safest and highest quality in the world.

Key discoveries (benefits):

Cranberry extract helps prevent early mortality in 1-to-10-day-old broiler chicks.

Current studies suggest it is a viable immune-boosting agent that could reduce antibiotic usage.

The antioxidant properties of cranberries may help enhance chicken meat quality.


Published in Nutrition and Feed


Like broilers, it is probable that daylength has an impact on both productivity and welfare in turkeys and therefore it is economically relevant to understand its consequences. Welfare issues seen in broiler research may be more pronounced in turkey production where age and bird size at market have changed considerably over the last decade.  These changes likely mean new challenges for modern strains as previous research was performed some time ago on birds that did not grow as quickly or reach the same market body weights.  The challenges include both bird productivity and welfare.  However, research and literature are lacking on the effects of lighting programs on modern commercial turkeys.  

M.Sc. student, Catherine Vermette, Dr. Hank Classen and the research team at the University of Saskatchewan aimed to determine the effect of graded levels of daylength on the welfare and productivity of modern commercial turkeys.  A more complete understanding of lighting effects can be achieved by using graded levels of daylength to allow prediction of response criteria associated with productivity and welfare.

Productivity and welfare parameters assessed included growth, mortality, meat yield, behaviour, bird mobility and leg abnormalities, skin lesions and ocular measures.  Productivity parameters assessed were not only economically relevant, but applicable to welfare when behaviour and bird health measures were incorporated.  These  measures together provide a description of welfare in turkeys.  Results will provide scientific evidence for recommendations on lighting programs that are known to positively affect the welfare of turkeys and optimize productivity in Canadian flocks.

Four graded levels of daylength (14, 17, 20, and 23 hours) were used to raise male and female turkeys to 18 weeks of age.  The research included two trials with two replications per trial.  Each trial consisted of 4 lighting treatments with two room replications for each lighting program. Productivity and welfare parameters were assessed at regular intervals during the course of the trials.

This study’s findings show that daylength affected turkey productivity in an age and gender dependent manner and use of longer daylength during the production cycle of males and female turkeys also affected a number of other measures indicative of reduced welfare.

At young ages, growth rate increased with increasing daylength, although this was reversed in older birds, sooner in males than females.  In terms of mortality, shorter daylength treatments had beneficial effects on older birds and had a more pronounced effect on males.  Carcass characteristics were affected by daylength in an age, but not gender dependent manner.  Furthermore, the incidence of culling was increased with 23 hour daylength regardless of gender or age.  

In general, longer daylengths had negative welfare implications in regards to turkey health and behaviour for both genders, but with a more pronounced effect in males.  Mobility decreased with longer daylength for both genders, but the proportion of birds with poorer mobility associated with pain was only evident in males.  Similarly, the incidence of breast blisters increased with increasing daylength, only in males.    

Lighting program recommendations derived from this research for meat turkeys are dependent on gender and the age at which birds are marketed.  For both genders regardless of age beyond early brooding, 23 hours of daylength was found unacceptable due to reduced welfare, with birds experiencing poorer mobility, increased ocular size and increased mortality. In addition, for toms and older hens, the rationale for not recommending 23 hours daylength includes reduced growth rate.  

For hens marketed at a younger age, a maximum of 20 hours of daylength is recommended, while the recommendation for older hens and toms is between 14-17 hours of daylength.

This research was funded by the Poultry Industry Council, Lilydale Inc., Charison’s Turkey Hatchery Ltd, and CPRC.

For more details on any CPRC activities, please contact The Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, Ontario 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. n

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 Consumer Issues


Ontario now has a research study underway that will generate baseline information about the main pathogens – viruses, bacteria and parasites - present in non-commercial poultry flocks in the province.

Starting the first of October 2015 until the end of September 2017, small flock (non-quota, non-commercial) owners of chickens, turkeys, game fowl, geese and ducks, are encouraged to submit sick or dead birds to the Animal Health Laboratory in Guelph or Kemptville for post-mortem examination and diagnostic testing. Submissions must be made through a veterinarian, who will do the initial screening of submissions.  While there will be some veterinary fees involved at the farm level the lab testing itself will be done at a substantially discounted cost of $25 per submission. The tests would normally cost over $500.

“In general, there is not a lot of data,” said Leonardo Susta, DVM. “The number of small poultry flocks has markedly increased over the past few years in Ontario, however, there is a void of knowledge regarding the type and number of diseases that affect this segment of the poultry sector.”

Susta, who works out of the Department of Pathobiology at the Ontario Veterinary College, is leading this effort and is providing some of his own research funding to hire a graduate student for this project. Funding for the tests is provided by the Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) within the framework of the Ontario Animal Health Network within the Disease Surveillance Program.

Susta said there isn’t a lower limit on the size of the flock, with the upper limit of less than 50 turkeys, less than 300 broilers, less than 100 layers or 300 or fewer ducks, geese and game birds. Pigeons and doves are excluded from this study.

Through a brief questionnaire, researchers will gather information about common husbandry and biosecurity practices used by non-commercial flock owners. The data collected may help to identify diseases that are specific to the non-commercial poultry population, while helping vets better understand the needs of these flocks and producers. The results will be also tied with current surveillance studies at the Ontario Veterinary College (see page XX).

“We want vets to know and encourage owners (to submit birds),” Susta told a meeting of the Poultry Industry Council in August. He will also be advertising the program through the distribution of flyers at shows and through hatcheries.

Partners in the study include the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the University of Guelph, the Animal Health Laboratory and the Ontario Animal Health Network (Disease Surveillance Program).

For more information, visit:



or contact Dr. Leonardo Susta at 519-824-4120 x54323, email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

or Dr. Marina Brash at  519-824-4120 x54550, email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




Published in Consumer Issues


December 1, 2015, Toronto, Ont – During its official launch event held recently, Safe Food Canada (SFC), a not-for-profit organization focussed on modernizing the way industry and regulatory professionals learn about food safety, featured a panel discussion addressing food safety in today’s complex global food system.

The panelists were Dr. Bruce Archibald, president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Ted Bilyea, chair of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI), Michael Burrows, CEO of Maple Lodge Farms, and Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, professor at the University of Guelph's Food Institute.

SFC announced its initial strategy and founding partnerships for what it deems as the most compelling issue in Canada’s food system: the modernization of food safety training and education.

“Because of rapidly changing consumer demands and with the Safe Food for Canadians Act, both the Canadian food industry and regulators are now at a tipping point and must shift to more consistent, competency-based food safety training," said Brian Sterling, president and CEO of SFC. "Our mandate is to modernize the design and development of food safety and food protection training; we must bring together food professionals from industry and government and help them do that.”

“The CFIA recognizes the important role that Safe Food Canada can play in reinforcing Canada's reputation as a world leader in food safety training by enhancing compliance with regulations and reducing duplicated efforts and training costs for all parties”, said Dr. Bruce Archibald, president at CFIA.

SFC recently completed an exploratory study of industry spending and return on investment on food safety training in Canada. The company expects to publish the results early in the new year. SFC is already seeking participants across North America to conduct a more comprehensive benchmark study in 2016 so that food companies can compare their performance to the rest of the industry and understand the relationship between excellence in food safety training and its financial payoffs.

As part of its work to bring uniformity and quality discipline into food safety training, SFC is collaborating with the International Food Protection Training Institute and other businesses to create a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) for training design and content. The eventual result will be a training quality standard so that more consistent and comprehensive education can be delivered to industry and regulatory professionals.

SFC also announced its first founding sponsors and contributing partners that will serve as the basis of an advisory council to the company.  These leading organizations include, the Canadian Meat Council, the US Grocers Manufacturers Association Science & Education Foundation, Maple Leaf Foods, the University of Guelph’s Department of Food Science, and the World Bank’s Global Food Safety Partnership.


Published in New Technology

December 1, 2015 - Research underway at Ottawa’s Carleton University may make it easier and cheaper to detect toxins created by mold. Called mycotoxins, they’re found in everything from grains to fruit and can cause illness and even death in both humans and animals.

A mold called fusarium that can occur in wheat and corn is a particular problem for farmers as it impacts the quality of their crop and the price they can receive for that crop - contaminated grain or corn isn’t suitable for animal feed or human consumption, so it is rejected by buyers.

“Mycotoxins are produced by fungi found in crops and food. They’re very robust and can survive processing, so we need a cheap and reliable test to detect them,” explains Dr. Maria DeRosa, a professor of chemistry at Carleton who is leading the research.

She has been working with Dr. Art Schaafsma of the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus and Dr. David Miller at Carleton to develop a small test strip that will glow in the presence of mycotoxins when illuminated with a handheld UV light.

The device uses aptamers that DeRosa and her team have identified, which are small, single-stranded nucleic acids that can bind to large or small target molecules – in this case, mycotoxins.

“It’s a simple spot of nanoparticles on paper, a test that can be done on the spot at the grain elevator,” says DeRosa, adding the device can currently detect quantities as minute as 40 parts per billion.

Farmers are doing their part to prevent fusarium, such as monitoring temperature and moisture levels in their fields to predict when their crops might be at risk for developing the mold and deciding when to apply fungicides, but the mold continues to pose a challenge.

Current mycotoxin testing methods at Canada’s network of grain elevators – where farmers take their crops to market – involve both a visual inspection and taking and analysing a random sample from a load of grain or corn.

Not only is this time consuming and expensive (each test can cost between $50-80), but it is also far from accurate: taking samples from different parts of a single load of grain can yield very different results.

Aptamers can be made in a lab very uniformly and at a low cost compared to the mouse antibodies used in current available tests, which means they’ll provide accurate and consistent test results without great expense.

“The needle-in-the-haystack nature of the current sampling process is the problem that we’re trying to address,” says DeRosa, adding that the sheer volume of grain and corn produced in Canada means a testing method also has to be quick and cheap.

After early successes in the lab, her team’s next step is to now move testing of the new technology to a larger scale beyond the lab and into a commercial setting.

Published in Nutrition and Feed

Agricultural operations contribute to the atmospheric burden of pollutants, mainly in the form of ammonia (NH3), particulate matter (PM) and greenhouse gases (CH4 and NO2).     Poultry operations are major emitters of PM and NH3 whereas other pollutants are emitted to a lesser degree.  Much still remains unknown about the variability in the emissions of pollutants.

Additional issues are evident with PM that relate to its composition, toxicity and pathogenicity. PM2.5 are typically secondary particles formed by the reactions of specific gaseous pollutants that create fine airborne salts and liquid aerosols. Secondary inorganic aerosol (SIA) formation chemistry typically involves NH3 as an alkaline precursor gas.  As NH3 is produced in poultry houses, SIA particles may be partly responsible for the high PM2.5 levels observed. Thus, if SIA are being formed, it may be feasible to reduce the toxic PM2.5 levels in the house by targeting gaseous NH3 and/or the other reactive gases directly with control methods and thus reduce exposure to both poultry and barn workers.

Dr. Bill Van Heyst and his team from the University of Guelph’s School of Engineering conducted a study to determine some of the impacts poultry production has on our environment.

The study investigated the indoor concentrations and emissions to the atmosphere of a variety of air contaminants from different poultry production systems.  Measurements included:

  • Air emissions from poultry housing units
  • Air emissions from litter storage facilities
  • Ammonia emissions from land application of litter
  • Assessment of nitrogen loss via emissions from deadstock composting

The overall objective of this project was to provide a sound scientific knowledge base regarding actual agricultural air emissions.  Contaminants focused on included: size fractionated particulate matter (PM), NH3, SIA concentrations and emissions as well as that for CH4 and non-methane volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide and other
gaseous gases.  

Air emissions from poultry housing units:
a)    Broiler and Layer facilities
Actual pollutant emissions were determined for broiler chicken (NH3, PM2.5, PM10 and CH4), layer hen (NH3 and PM2.5 and PM10), and turkey grow-out (NH3 and PM2.5 and PM10) housing units

NH3 and PM10 emissions peaked during the winter months, while PM2.5 emissions peaked during the summer months in the layer hen facility

b)    Efficacy of a sprinkler system to control NH3 and PM levels
Use of a sprinkler system reduced pollutant emissions more so for PM10 and PM2.5 than NH3 emissions.

c)    Effectiveness of Poultry Litter Treatment (PLT) application Poultry litter treatments reduced ammonia emissions

Measurement of air emissions from litter/manure storage facilities:
a)    Broiler litter storage facilities emit more CH4 than that from cattle manure but less than liquid swine manure storage facilities.  

b)    Broiler litter storage facilities emit more N2O than that from cattle manure and liquid swine manure storage facilities.

Measurement of air emissions from land application of manure/litter:
a)    NH3 losses from the broadcasted broiler manure were found to be 22 per cent and 25 per cent of the NH4-N applied after 72 and 132 hours respectively.

Measurement of nitrogen loss via ammonia emissions from deadstock composting
a)    The NH3 emissions for piles using poultry litter were greater than that of the control (wood chips) and the finished/mature poultry compost, whereas the CH4 emissions were the lowest.

Dr. Van Heyst’s research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Poultry Industry Council and CPRC.

Aviagen Inc. renewed its Research Sponsorship for 2015. CPRC appreciates Aviagen’s continued support of poultry research through the Research Sponsorship Program (www.cp-rc.ca).  Aviagen funds have helped support more than $8 million in poultry-related research through both CPRC’s annual funding call and as part of the Poultry Science Cluster since 2012.


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, Ontario, 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.





Published in Housing

November 19, 2015 - UC Davis today unveiled its new Pastured Poultry Farm, home to 150 young laying chickens and a living laboratory where students and researchers hope to develop innovative solutions benefiting pasture-based poultry farms, integrative crop-and-poultry farms, and backyard flocks.

Pasture-based chicken production offers many benefits as well as some challenges in terms of food safety, animal health and welfare, and environmental impacts, said Maurice Pitesky, a Cooperative Extension poultry specialist with the School of Veterinary Medicine and co-leader of the poultry project.

The new 4.5-acre farm, located about one mile west of the central UC Davis campus, includes a seeded, irrigated pasture, where the chickens can forage, as well as a bright red, student-built Eggmobile for protection and overnight housing. The pasture uses a portable electronic fence to protect against predators and is surrounded by a 50-foot band of uncultivated land to serve as a wildlife buffer.

"This is a unique innovation, research and outreach resource for the Western United States," Pitesky said. "The project includes faculty and students with expertise in veterinary medicine, husbandry, welfare, pasture management and engineering, which allows us to address issues related to predator control, welfare, food safety and food efficiency."

Debbie Niemeier, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and her team have already developed a number of innovations for the project, including a tarp-pulley system, portable-shade and predator-mitigation structures, an automatic watering system, and modular roll-out nest boxes.

New solutions for changing times

"The poultry industry is going through significant changes in how poultry products are produced -- including the manner in which the birds are housed," Pitesky said, noting that one of the nontraditional methods gaining in popularity is pastured production.

One of the advantages of the pasture-based system is the opportunity for a farmer to integrate chicken production with a farm's existing cropping system, with the chickens providing natural fertilizer for the crops.

"It's also a way for crop farmers to move into poultry production without expanding their land or adding nitrogen fertilizer to their farming system," Pitesky said.

Students driving demonstration project

Pitesky is quick to point out that the new project is largely driven by students, who designed and constructed the red and white Eggmobile -- a mini chicken-barn on wheels. The mobile barn includes 32 nest boxes, each capable of accommodating several chickens. It can be moved to different locations in the pasture, gradually fertilizing the grass with chicken droppings as it goes.

Students also seeded the pasture, developed and installed a pasture irrigation system, and have been caring for the young chickens since they arrived in early October as day-old chicks.

The student and faculty research teams will be delving into issues involving diseases and chicken health, predation by wildlife, and occupational health for workers.

Participating students are drawn from the School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Engineering, and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Eggs for the community

Eggs produced by the project's flock will initially be donated to food shelters. The potential for eventual egg sales to the community is being explored.

"We really want this to be a local and regional demonstration project," Pitesky said, noting that producers and community members are welcome to stop by and view the project and will be invited to future educational events at the site.

Eventually, the research team hopes to construct multiple Eggmobiles with different designs, in order to optimize cost, ergonomics and sustainability. And in time, the researchers would like to expand the project to include broiler chickens as well as cropping systems that integrate poultry, in order to fully maximize the potential of the land for food production.

Funding the project

The Pastured Poultry Project received $40,000 in startup funding from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

In addition, several stakeholder organizations have contributed a total of nearly $20,000 and donated feed, birds and equipment. A list of donors and other information about the UC Davis Pastured Poultry Farm can be found at:http://bit.ly/1O0qCv2


Published in Layers


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Published in Health

 Canada’s Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey has been testing wild birds for the AI virus since 2005

The 2015 Avian Influenza outbreak was the largest animal health event in U.S. history, affecting 48 million commercial birds at 223 farms in 15 states over six months. North of the border the outbreak affected 245,600 birds across Canada, at 11 farms in BC, three in Ontario.

But it was minus forty degrees when the AI virus first appeared in poultry flocks in the Midwest U.S. How did the wild birds interact with the poultry in that extreme cold? Are the wild birds really to blame?

While the experts still shake their heads about the reasons why the outbreak got out of control or even got started, Jane Parmley, Epidemiologist with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC), continues to investigate the role of wild birds in the spread of the Avian Influenza (AI) virus.  

Parmley has been part of Canada’s Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey coordinated by the CWHC since 2005. From 2005 through 2014, over 50,000 wild birds have been tested for the AI virus in Canada. The first screening determines if the birds carry AI of any type. Positive birds are then further tested for H5 or H7 specifically; further positive tests then lead to investigation of the origin and pathogenicity of the AI virus.

Does the detection of low pathogenic AI in wild birds indicate a risk to domestic poultry? “We tend to blame wild birds when we don’t have an easy explanation,” Parmley told delegates at a Poultry Industry Council Health Day in Stratford, Ont., but would early detection of the AI virus in wild birds could provide a sentinel to poultry producers?

It’s a global story: the high pathogenic H5N8 strain was originally identified in South Korea in 2014, showing similarities to a virus detected in 2014 in China, eventually reaching birds in Russia, North America, Europe and Japan.  There were three HPAI virus strains seen in North America in 2014/15: H5N8 Eurasian lineage, H5N1 and H5N2. It is believed that the North American viruses came across the Pacific because of their closer similarity to the Asian strain than the European strain, and the timing of arrival made more sense, said Parmley. So far the virus is not considered zoonotic, but that could shift quickly.

Wild birds that are considered as natural reservoirs of low pathogenicity strains include waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans), and shorebirds (such as waders and gulls). There are four flyways across North America – the Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic – connecting wintering and breeding grounds in every part of the continent, from Alaska and Greenland through to Mexico and the Caribbean.

Over 75 per cent of Canadian wild bird species spend at least half of the year outside of Canada; representatives of all of these species are in all the flyways. Because the greatest number and variety of viruses have been seen in waterfowl and shorebirds and their large population, these birds have been the focus of live bird surveillance; most of the live birds sampled have been ducks.

On average, 16 per cent of live birds and one per cent of dead birds have so far tested positive for the low pathogenic North American viruses during the survey period. So far in 2015, 1134 live birds have been tested across Canada, with 93 positive for AI and three for H7 viruses that are not HPAI. In Ontario alone, 624 live birds have yielded 86 positives with no H5 or H7 so far. Also in 2015, 1576 dead birds have been tested across Canada, with 16 positive, four H5 and one H7 (not HPAI); in Ontario alone 266 have been tested with two positive and no H5 or H7. The updated results are available on the CWHC website at http://www.cwhc-rcsf.ca/data_products_aiv.php

But Parmley says that the surveillance effort has varied over the past ten years for several reasons. Survey objectives have changed and available resources have changed; sample sizes are low compared to real populations, and samples are taken haphazardly across the country, often piggybacking on bird banding procedures that may not necessarily be anywhere near poultry farms. We also need to be careful when extrapolating past results over a wide geographic region to the viruses of today.

Moving forward there are still many questions. Will virus based warnings even work? Can wild birds be sentinels? Ultimately we’re trying to develop an early warning system to predict risk and see how the virus is evolving, said Parmley, something she called “incredibly hard to do.” To better protect poultry farms, Parmley says this effort will take more resources – people, time and money.

When is the best time of year to test? How early do we disseminate findings to react in a timely manner? Does wild bird monitoring detect the risk sooner than monitoring the poultry population itself? Can we verify the signals and the risk associated with those signals to avoid an unnecessary response? Is there adequate infrastructure and political will to design and implement a sustainable system?

While wild birds are acknowledged as a reservoir for the AI virus, the relationship between hosts and virus remains diverse and complex. We need to further consider the epidemiological, climatological and agricultural differences across such a vast area, from the Arctic to the Caribbean, as well as at the interface between wild and farmed birds. So far we suspect that the virus can move through migratory birds, but it can also move through trade in poultry and poultry products as well as other human activities.

Nationally, for 2015/16, the goal of testing 1500 dead wild birds has already been exceeded. In Ontario the plan is to test 1500 live wild birds. One live trap site has been set within the control zone of the central Ontario AI outbreak in the spring of 2015.

Despite the challenges, so far Parmley reports a greatly improved understanding of the ecology and epidemiology of AI.  We now have a better understanding of the role of waterfowl as a source and vector, the activity of the virus itself within the host, and a better grasp of how the virus is shed.

Beyond 2015, Parmley suggests a thorough process review to identify gaps, identify locations and populations that may be more vulnerable to infection, to help target both resources and surveillance.  A national strategy would clarify roles, responsibilities and performance expectations.

“The virus keeps changing and so we need to keep learning,” said Parmley. The question that remains from the 2014/15 outbreaks in North America is how the virus got into poultry? “We can’t look at wild birds and domestic poultry separately – it is the points and places where these populations intersect where we need to focus our attention if we hope to prevent and prepare for the next outbreak.”




Published in Housing

Study using genetic lines of Virginia Tech chickens reveals evolution happens faster than previously thought

November 4, 2015 - A critical component of an experiment that proved evolution happens 15 times faster than was previously believed relied upon genetic lines of chickens from Virginia Tech.

The discovery utilized the DNA of lines of White Plymouth Rock chickens that have been developed for more than 50 years.

The research was published recently in Biology Letters, a journal of Royal Society Publishing. The discovery involved researchers from several universities, including the University of York, Oxford University, the University of Sydney, Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Virginia Tech.

“This experiment and many others involving everything from animal appetites to genetics could never have been done without the pedigree lines here at Virginia Tech,” said Siegel, distinguished professor emeritus of animal and poultry sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  “This experiment was also an excellent example of international collaboration between six countries that was necessary for the success of the study.”

Siegel, along with Ben Dorshorst and Christa Honaker, also in the Virginia Tech Department of Animal and Poultry SciencesDepartment of Animal and Poultry Sciences, were co-authors on the paper.

The pedigree lines of White Plymouth Rock chickens were developed by Siegel, who began breeding them in 1957. From the common founder population, he produced two distinct lines of chickens selected for high- and low-body weight. Today, the high-weight line dwarfs its low-growth counterpart by an average of 12 times more by the time they reach the eight-week selection age.

In the latest experiment, researchers analyzed blood samples of chickens of the same generation using the most distantly related maternal lines to reconstruct how the mitochondrial DNA passed from mothers to daughters.

Mitochondria are specialized structures in the cells of animals, plants, and fungi that generate energy, synthesize proteins, and package proteins for transport to different parts of the cell and beyond.

Previously, estimates put the rate of change in a mitochondrial genome about 2 percent per million years,” Greger Larson, professor of archaeology at Oxford University, said in a news release. “At this pace we should not have been able to spot a single mutation in just 50 years, but in fact we spotted two.”

The sampling scheme yielded 385 mitochondrial transmissions that were analyzed for linkages within the mitochondrial DNA.

The rate of evolution was calculated by analyzing the number of observed mutations in the approximately 16,000 samples of mitochondrial DNA in the genome over 47 generations.

The scientists then reconstructed the maternal pedigree based on the mitogenome sequences.

“Our observations reveal that evolution is always moving quickly, but we tend not to see it because we typically measure it over longer time periods,” Larson said in the news release. “Our study shows that evolution can move much faster in the short term than we had believed from fossil-based estimates.”

The experiment also determined that mitochondria are not solely passed down from maternal lines. Strictly maternal inheritance has long been thought of as the characteristic of mitochondrial genomes.

“The thing everyone knew about mitochondria is that it is almost exclusively passed down the maternal line, but we identified chicks who inherited their mitochondria from their father,” said Michelle Alexander, lead author. This finding supports the theory that “paternal leakage” is not such a rare phenomenon.

This is not the first time the scientific community has benefited from the research done on Virginia Tech’s high- and low-body weight chicken lines.

A 2010 article in the scientific journal "Nature" highlighted a breakthrough in genetic studies of animal domestication, thanks in part to these two lines.

In 2010, the American Poultry Historical Society inducted Siegel into the American Poultry Association Hall of Fame, the industry’s top honor. In 2011, he was given an honorary doctorate from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.



Published in Genetics

November 2, 2015 -  The Department of Animal Biosciences is pleased to announce Elijah Kiarie has been appointed as the McIntosh Family Professor in Poultry Nutrition. Kiarie will join the department as an assistant professor effective January 1, 2016.

“We are very happy to welcome Dr. Kiarie into this important role for the department and the poultry industry,” shares Jim Squires, chair of the Department of Animal Biosciences. “He has experience in both academia and industry, which will be vital in supporting his success.”

“His superior understanding of industry needs and priorities showcase he is a great match for the demands of the new position,” Squires adds. “He will be working collaboratively to develop a world-class program that address the research opportunities presented in poultry nutrition.”

Kiarie will focus on the digestion of feed and absorption of nutrients, which will help improve efficiency. For example, feed still represents the main cost of production in the Ontario poultry industry. Global changes affecting corn, soybean and other ingredients have increased feed prices, a trend expected to continue.

Kiarie attained his Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba, where he was also most recently an adjunct professor. He has been a research scientist at DuPont Industrial Biosciences since 2011. Both his master’s and undergraduate degrees are from the University of Nairobi.

A donation from James and Brenda McIntosh, owners of McIntosh Poultry Farms Ltd. in Seaforth, Ont., established this new professorship position.


Published in Nutrition and Feed


I was attracted to a review article on this topic in the September 2015 issue of the World’s Poultry Science Journal (Harlander-Matauschek et al, vol.71, pp 461-472).  It is the outcome of an International Keel Bone Workshop held in Switzerland in 2014. For local interest, I also reviewed the paper of Petrik et al in Poultry Science, vol.94, pp579-585.

Unusually for a review paper, this one is primarily targeted at what is not known, and mainly consists of 9 recommendations for further study.

Most scientists in the field, and also experienced managers of layers, intuitively know that the keels of laying hens are susceptible to damage during the laying cycle.  This was first brought to light several years ago when scientists in England examined carcases of spent hens following slaughter, and found a high incidence of keel damage and breakage.  The degree to which this causes pain or distress during the life of the birds is not known.

In live birds, damage to the keel can only be determined by palpation, and there is no recognized standard method, or protocol for evaluating or reporting the results.  There is also the distinction between actual fracture of the keel, and various levels of distortion or deformity.  Fractures usually result in a callus around the fracture site that can be detected on handling the bird.  So the first recommendation in the review paper is to develop a uniform method of evaluating keel bone damage so that future results will be comparable.  Petrik et al studied only keel fractures.

The second recommendation was to investigate the kind of event or bird activity that results in keel damage.  In non-cage systems, collisions with other birds and with furniture and equipment are thought to be some of the factors.  However, even in conventional cages, keel damage occurs, but the reasons are not known.

Another unknown is whether initial deviation or distortion of the keel, from whatever cause, may result in keel fracture.

Do birds reared in different environments have different potential for keel bone damage in adult life?  This is yet another unanswered question.  Growing birds in an environment where wing flapping is encouraged is thought to improve locomotor skills and thus may avoid some of the (also largely unknown) challenges that result in keel damage.

In non-cage laying systems, individual birds as well as groups may display escape reactions to events that result in panic or fright. This can result in keel bone damage.  These events may result from management activities and are thus susceptible to variation and potential improvement, but they must first be identified and studied.

As with any, even imprecisely measured, characteristic, there is always the question of a genetic influence.  Interestingly, these 21st century scientists managed to find a study reported in 1955 showing that the tendency to develop keel deformity could be altered by genetic selection. Whether the methods used in this selection experiment would be relevant to contemporary keel damage observations would need to be confirmed.

If genetics is involved, can nutrition also play a part in affecting keel bone damage?  The answer to this question is, of course, related to how nutrition influences bone development and maintenance.  And this in turn may be related to the interactions involved in egg shell deposition and bone integrity.  The likelihood of direct involvement of calcium balance as it affects shell deposition and keel bone integrity is probably low.  This is because the calcium flow from bones to the egg shell gland is from the long bones and not the keel.

There are large differences in keel fracture incidence between housing systems and even within similar systems.  Perches, although considered desirable from a welfare standpoint, seem to result in elevated keel damage and fracture.  But different materials used for perches result in widely variable keel damage.  Round metal perches seem to be inferior to other designs.  Petrik et al’s work in Ontario compared keel fractures in conventional cages with single tiered floor housing and found almost double the incidence in the floor systems.

The final recommendation from the Harlander-Matauschek paper in to investigate and quantify keel bone damage and production losses.  A new report (as yet unpublished) shows that birds with keel fractures laid eggs with reduced shell breaking strength.  This would represent a serious challenge if confirmed.  The fact that most of the keel fractures appear to occur during the period of peak egg production would suggest that the nutrient status of the affected birds is inadequate to support both maximum egg production and bone maintenance.  The inadequacy must be minimal though, since many flocks continue to lay at or near peak level for many months and if keel damage is compromising productivity, its effect must be very small.

In reading this research, one can sense the authors’ frustration at the lack of clear information. Obviously, much more research is needed before industry would be able to take firm action to deal with this problem.



Published in Welfare

Research from the University of Saskatchewan shows that the impact of beak trimming poultry at a young age, if done properly, is minor. This is compared to the greater impact on flock welfare of not trimming.

Researchers globally have studied the impact of beak trimming and beak trimming methods, as this practice has been criticized for its impact on bird welfare.

“Research in our lab and labs of others have found that when beak treatment is performed appropriately, with proper techniques and at young ages, the negative impact of the treatment itself is relatively minor in comparison to the larger animal welfare concern of feather pecking and cannibalism,” writes Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner in a report about the project.  

In terms of beak treatment she explains that infrared beak treatment (IRBT) birds are less impacted from a welfare perspective than birds treated with hot blade trimming. She adds that there is some suggestion that using IRBT does not seem to affect all strains of birds in the same way, particularly white versus brown feathered strains

A research team led by Schwean-Lardner and Dr. Henry Classen has recently completed a three year project which addresses questions regarding the need to adjust IRBT settings for specific bird breeds.  

The team worked with  two white and two brown feathered commercial strains of laying hens. Their work  looked specifically at beak morphology differences between the strains, and aimed to determine the impact of variation in IRBT settings on beak characteristics, healing and re-growth, production and welfare.  

“It is imperative to establish guidelines for infrared treatment use that result in the benefits producers expect, while maintaining the welfare qualities of this procedure.”

In their report, Classen and Schwean-Lardner describe the main findings of the research team:

“IRBT settings should be adjusted for specific conditions, including strain, but it also suggests that some variation in treatment settings does not have important welfare or production effects.”  

They went onto explain: “The effects of IRBT are short-lived and minor, and likely a reaction to the treatment and beak sloughing. The nature of beak sloughing due to treatment was quite different and the effect was strain specific. However, despite these differences, growth and production later in life were unaffected.”

“This research will hopefully produce consensus on the value of the technique, and will also refine the technique to permit ever increasing success in beak growth in an animal welfare appropriate way.”

This research was funded by the Poultry Industry Council.  The research team would like to thank  Clark’s Hy-line Inc., Brandon Man. for allowing them to work in their facility.

Published in Welfare


Cargill has launched a new proprietary feed formulating platform called the Cargill Nutrition System (CNS). It combines nutrient analysis of feed ingredients from all over the world, and is updated constantly with the latest feed research and Cargill ingredient sourcing – all to provide livestock producers with clarity and consistency in making feed decisions.

The database behind CNS is comprised of over 2 million nutrient samples, covering more than 200 ingredients and 10 million annual nutrient predictions, explains Dr. Jason Shelton, Cargill Animal Nutrition global technology application director. “This data is combined with the knowledge and experience of Cargill Animal Nutrition’s 18,000 employees, including more than 500 research and development professionals,” he says. “It’s all about providing customers with certainty in feed application to achieve the desired results, rather than just a ‘best guess.’”

What stands out about the CNS is that wherever producers are located in the world, and no matter what their production target goals, they will receive unique feed formulations. The system accounts for climate factors, nutrient-content requirements and cost considerations of available ingredients. Vitamin D and Omega-3 ingredients are included in the system. Shelton says that the specificity of CNS can help farmers achieve similar or better production results at a lower cost, at the same time reducing nitrogen and phosphorus supplementation with a consequent excretion reduction anywhere from 10 to 40 percent. Better for producers and better for the planet.  

Recently, poultry customers in Indonesia went through a CNS review process. It was discovered that by decreasing levels of crude protein and changing amino acid and fiber levels in the feed, farmers would see improved animal performance along with better feed cost per unit of production. The wetness of the litter was reduced as well when the feed changes were made. CNS was also instrumental in a recent trial in Switzerland, where a reduction in calcium and phosphorus levels and an increase in phytase in broiler feeds led to better feed costs per unit of production and easier compliance with local environmental legislation. The amount of phosphorus declared on the label of the feed was reduced by more than 10 percent, which allowed farms using the feed to meet government regulations relating to having a balanced nutrient input/output.

CNS is also built into Cargill’s MAX modelling system to provide producers with alternative options, if for example, a major crop failure occurs or the price of common ingredients like corn or soy spikes, Shelton explains. “In the U.S., Canada and Mexico, CNS employs the MAX modeling system in pork and beef in the U.S. and Mexico, and for dairy and pork in Canada,” he notes. “It is now being rolled out for poultry globally. A Canadian pilot project will begin late this summer/early fall and is slated for full deployment across North America during summer 2016.” Shelton says the MAX modeling system matches availability of supply for ingredients, with farm needs or predicted needs to meet production goals. “So, if you have this or that ingredient mix, MAX will give you the price change and the performance prediction change,” he explains. “It’s the CNS with a prediction model.” For its part, Cargill provides its own feed (under the Purina and Nutrena brands) and pre-mixes (under the Provimi brand) in every province, and all Cargill feed products are now being developed using CNS.

In addition to MAX modelling, CNS also supports ‘Reveal,’ a system that analyzes ingredient variability and nutrient content. It’s useful for farmers who make their own feed, which is gaining in popularity among Canadian poultry producers. It’s estimated that the percentage who make their own feed is as high as 30 to 40 percent, depending on the region. “The customer could have ten different corn meals, or ten different soybean samples for example,” Shelton says, “and using the analysis results, is assisted with choosing ingredients for his or her own formulations.” ‘Reveal’ is also licensed to feed mills.

In terms of specific environmental or regulatory issues in Canada that CNS helps solve, Shelton says that “By implementing CNS in Canada, emissions of nitrogen to the environment can be reduced. This is because CNS allows for a reduction of the total protein that is fed to animals, resulting thus in better utilization of dietary nitrogen, even with better performance of animals.”

“Reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus excretion are two important environmental concerns,” adds Dr. Bruno Marty, director of nutrition for Cargill’s animal nutrition business in Canada. “Excessive nitrogen excretion in poultry primarily results from an amino acid imbalance between feed supply and animal demand. Through the more accurate description of digestible amino acids, CNS reduces these imbalances and consequently waste.” Marty says the same concept applies to phosphorus, where contribution from plant-based feedstuffs is poorly digested by poultry. For this nutrient, CNS additionally estimates the quantity of phosphorus liberated by the application of phytase enzyme technology which enhances phosphorus digestibility and thus nutrient efficiency.

Marty agrees that every region in Canada faces specific feed challenges which change with shifting ingredient market conditions and CNS is designed to help with that. “A CNS analysis might find the best value may come from the use of non-traditional feedstuffs and by-products,” he says. “It’s all about helping producers to more accurately assess for digestible nutrients to support animal performance and long-term business goals.”




Published in Nutrition and Feed


Although only viruses of the Influenza virus A genus are known to infect birds, the complexity of this genus is increased by the possible combinations of the subtypes present, based on the antigenicity of surface glycoproteins hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA).  Each virus consists of one of the 18 identified HA antigens and one of the 11 NA antigens, generating a large number of virus subtypes.

Avian Influenza (AI) is classified based on the severity of the disease caused; highly pathogenic AI (HPAI) and low pathogenicity AI (LPAI).  HPAI is restricted to strains with H5 and H7 subtypes exhibiting a multi-basic cleavage site (MBCS) at the precursor of the HA molecule.  HPAI is a ‘dead-end infection’ in certain domestic birds and its effects are variable in domestic waterfowl and feral birds, in which it may or may not cause clinical signs and mortality. Viruses belonging to subtypes without the MBCS are maintained in feral bird populations and serve as an ever-present source of the virus.  A large portion of the influenza gene pool is present in waterfowl whereas shorebirds and gulls maintain a number of isolated subtypes of the virus.  These viruses cause LPAI when introduced into domestic bird populations.

Several mechanisms result in the virus mutating to HPAI once the LPAI (H5 and H7 subtypes) is introduced into poultry. However the factors that bring about this mutation are not fully understood and can occur at any time.  It is therefore imperative that both LPAI and HPAI should be controlled.

The complexity of the variants of the virus, their omnipresence in nature and the ability to mutate to a highly pathogenic strain from a low pathogenic strain all contribute to the challenge that this virus presents to the poultry industry.

Transmission of the virus between birds is poorly understood, although research suggests that bird-to-bird transmission is extremely complex and determined by the virus strain, bird species and environmental factors.  Studies also show that the virus is present in considerable quantities in bird feces, to the extent that the virus can be isolated from untreated lake water in waterfowl habitats. Nonetheless, the primary route of introduction of AI virus in domestic poultry occurs through direct or indirect contact with infected birds affirming that implementation of biosecurity measures at the farm level can prevent AI infections.

CPRC has been funding AIV studies since 2006 and has committed almost $520 thousand to 11 research projects with total research budgets of more than $2.5 million.  This research has looked at a range of issues associated with AIV.  The issues studied included:

  • Identifying the molecular determinants that confer a bird’s immunity to the virus and the immune system cells that recognize these determinants. The project was also aimed at determining the dynamics of immune system cells in response to AI virus infection and the genetic pathways that control that response.
  • Three related-research projects from the first Poultry Science Cluster investigated adaptation of AIV from its natural reservoir in wild fowl to domestic poultry, how avian influenza is transmitted to domestic poultry and the bird’s immune response to AIV.  These projects provided information that is important to developing AIV controls and responses.
  • AIV vaccines are difficult to create because the virus is prone to change that interferes with a vaccine’s activity. Researchers investigated the use of RNA interference (RNAi), a natural mechanism present in many animals including birds, that can decrease the activity of specific cellular genes and has been shown to serve as a natural antiviral response.  This research could lead to improvements in a bird’s natural immunity.
  • An ongoing series of projects have been moving toward development of an effective AIV vaccine and delivery system to provide poultry with broad protection delivered efficiently and effectively.  This research is being continued in CPRC’s second Poultry Science Cluster and has already provided patentable results.
  • Present approaches to testing for exposure to avian influenza for the national surveillance program are based on taking blood samples from birds and sending them to a laboratory for analysis.  CPRC is supporting research that will evaluate a standardized test to use egg-derived immunoglobin for screening of antibodies to avian influenza to avoid the stress and cost associated with handling birds and taking blood samples.

CPRC and its member organizations will continue to support research on this important threat to Canadian poultry production in its ongoing research activities.


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, Ontario, 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.



Published in Researchers


Given the experience British Columbia has had with avian influenza (AI), the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture (BCMA) is now trying to develop an early warning system for the disease.

Because AI originates in wild waterfowl, BCMA environmental epidemiologist Michelle Coombe says the BCMA has started collecting and testing “pond scum” in wild waterfowl resting areas to determine the presence of AI. The hope is the environmental sampling can be used “as an early warning system for both poultry and human health,” she told the first annual B.C. poultry symposium, held May 27th in Abbotsford.

Since AI is shed in wild duck feces, testing the droppings is bound to be more efficient than waiting for dead wild birds to show up at the BCMA animal health lab.

“The results will tell us what strains are present in the environment and how prevalent they are,” Coombe said, adding the test results would be used to give industry green, yellow or red alerts similar to what is done during forest fire season.

BCMA avian pathologist Vicki Bowes said BC’s experience with its 2014-15 AI outbreak is “much different” than in 2004. “We had a very successful disease containment result.”

AI was detected on only 11 commercial premises and two backyard flocks in the Fraser Valley, leading to the destruction of less than 250,000 birds. The 2004 outbreak was only contained through a mass depopulation of over 18 million birds.

“Considering the density (of the Fraser Valley poultry industry), this is an incredible success story,” Bowes said. “The initial producers did what was right.”

She also credited the BCMA’s AI-certified Level 3 containment lab, telling producers “you’re so lucky we’re here.”

Dr. Stewart Ritchie of Canadian Poultry Consultants, the symposium’s chief organizers, acknowledged both the lab and Bowes’ own considerable contributions by giving her the first “B.C. Excellence in Poultry Service and Leadership Award” on behalf of a grateful industry.

While B.C. has learned the value of and benefitted from good biosecurity practices, American producers did not appear to heed those lessons.

“The United States is definitely a mess,” said COBB Vantress technical services manager Shawn Carlton of Arkansas. “We have already lost eight per cent of our total egg production.”

Between December and June, AI had been confirmed on over 200 commercial and backyard flocks in 15 US states, leading to the destruction of close to 50,000,000 birds. Almost 80 per cent of the cases were in Minnesota and Iowa, part of the Mississippi flyway. Only 10 were in the Pacific Flyway (which stretches from California to Alaska).

The best way to manage AI and other crippling diseases is to keep them out of a poultry flock in the first place, and that takes excellent biosecurity. Carlton says no one takes that more seriously than Cobb. As one of the world’s main producers of poultry breeding stock, their birds are among the most valuable in the world.

“Just one of our pedigree hens leads to 25,000 parents which leads to 3,000,000 broilers. It’s major dollars,” Carlton pointed out.

The first line of defense is to distance a flock from other producers. While that is difficult, if not impossible, to do in the Fraser Valley and many other poultry-dense production areas, Cobb has done that by locating its Oklahoma breeding facility on 500 acres in the middle of a 3,600-acre farm. It then restricts all movement on and off the facility and requires all workers to wear protective clothing and footwear and shower in and out of each barn.

“My record is 13 showers in one day,” Carlton said.

While AI dominated the symposium, several speakers touched on other diseases, such as Marek’s disease and IBD (infectious bursal disease), which may not spread as quickly as AI but can also devastate individual flocks.

Marek’s usually shows up when birds are about 13 weeks of age. During the 20 weeks it takes the flock to build up enough resistance to fight off the disease, it can cause reduced performance and up to 50 per cent mortality, says Hyline Chicks technical services veterinarian Dr. Danielle Botting of Iowa.

IBD generally infects younger chicks. It has variable mortality, increases the bird’s susceptibility to other diseases and may even lead to Marek’s. Botting recommends vaccinating birds for Marek’s on the day of hatch and for IBD at 18, 24 and 30 days of age using a live vaccine.

She stressed the need to use good vaccination practices as poor vaccination is sometimes worse than no vaccination at all. In a poorly vaccinated flock, a disease could nestle in unvaccinated birds and build up resistance to the vaccinations. She also strongly recommended thorough cleaning and disinfecting (C&D) and 4-6 weeks of downtime between flocks.

“We can’t reiterate how important C&D is,” Botting said, stressing a barn should be washed and dried before a disinfectant is used.

“Removing debris is most important. Disinfectants don’t remove dirt,” Carlton added.

Saying a barn has accumulated three million units of debris/square inch by the end of a flock, Merial Canada technical services vet Dr. Louis Coulombe of Quebec detailed the effectiveness of various C&D options. Blowing the barn down with air only reduces debris by 3.4%. Airing it out drops it down by 31%. Washing with water and detergent reduces the debris count to 100,000 while finishing up with a disinfectant drops the number below 1,000.

He recommends using a gel detergent, saying it does not drip like a foam detergent, can be left on the walls longer and is easy to rinse off. He also urges growers to use a product like CID 2000 to clean and disinfect the drinking water pipeline.

While University of Arkansas poultry science extension specialist Dr. Susan Watkins also advocates the use of CID 2000 between flocks, she said it should not stop there. She urged growers to add 25-50 ppm of hydrogen peroxide to their water lines as a daily cleaner.

“Poultry water systems are perfect for growing bugs,” she said.

Instead of just using antibiotics, also known as anti-microbials, (AM’s) to treat diseases when they occur, many poultry producers have been relying on them to prevent disease outbreaks and/or boost bird performance.

“We use more antibiotics in Canada than in the US,” asserted Jan Breckman of JEFO Nutrition.

However, that will change as jurisdictions outlaw their use in order to stave off building resistance to those antibiotics in humans and food processors and retailers, such as Pilgrim and Tyson Foods in the US and A&W in Canada respond to consumer concerns by promoting antibiotic free chicken.

“A&W says their current no hormones and no antibiotics campaign is their most successful ever,” Breckman noted.

Even though Saskatchewan epidemiological consultant Dr. Leigh Rosengren said it is “unfair” to point at agriculture for all of society’s ills, noting only three of the 17 resistant infections in humans are food-borne related, she said producers must “reduce your reliance on AM’s so we can retain their use in animals.”

Her list of ways to reduce AM usage includes preventing infections in the first place through good biosecurity, good hygiene and reduced stocking density and increasing disease surveillance to permit early detection.

She urged producers to work closely with their vets to “know what you’re treating, what you’re using and why,” and to support the Canadian Poultry Research Council’s research into alternatives.

Finally, she said producers must step up their communication with and education of consumers.

“Let’s find out what the public thinks or knows and talk about how and why we are using those products.”




Published in Barn Management

August 27, 2015 - Aviagen has announced it will continue its contribution to the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) through the CPRC’s Research Sponsorship Program. 

Aviagen has presented the CPRC with a check for $25,000 in support of the program. This check represents the fourth in a series of annual sponsorships contributed to the CPRC since 2012, qualifying Aviagen as a Platinum sponsor of the program. 

Established in 2001, the CPRC creates and implements programs for poultry research throughout Canada. The goal of the CPRC’s research is to effect discoveries that lead to improved food safety through enhanced poultry nutrition. The programs also focus on heightened environmental safety measures. 

“The CPRC has made invaluable contributions to the success of Canada’s poultry industry. Vast components of the poultry value chain stand to benefit from the research conducted by the CPRC, including producers, feed suppliers, animal health care companies, processors, distributors and ultimately, consumers,” explains Scott Gillingham, Canadian 

Regional Business Consultant for Aviagen. “Aviagen is proud to support the organization’s research efforts and we look forward to continued collaboration in the future.” 

CPRC Executive Director Bruce Roberts, Ph.D., says he values Aviagen’s support of the council. “Aviagen has helped fund 29 projects, enabling us to address critical issues such as poultry welfare, alternatives to the use of antimicrobials in poultry production, poultry health food safety and the environment,” adds Roberts. “As a premier sponsor of the program, Aviagen assists the CPRC not only financially, but also through cooperation and sharing of ideas and expertise. In addition to its value add to the CPRC, Aviagen supports Canadian university research activities outside of the CPRC. For these reasons, Aviagen should be commended for its strong commitment to advancing the poultry industry on a global basis.” 

Roberts concludes that efforts are currently underway for considerable future marketing and expansion of the CPRC’s Research Sponsorship Program.

Published in Genetics

August 17, 2015- Registration for the Poultry Service Industry Workshop (PSIW) is now open.  Celebrating its 40th year, the PSIW is recognized as one of the leading poultry workshops in North America, having a program that is focused on relevant, contemporary and practical topics.  For more information, visit www.poultryworkshop.com

Published in Researchers

August 4, 2015 - A new study with broiler chickens shows that supplementation with a multi-carbohydrase enzyme formulation can substantially boost the nutritional power of camelina meal, a unique feed source on the rise in Canada and the U.S.

Results were unveiled at the 2015 Poultry Science Association (PSA) Annual Meeting, July 27-30 in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Camelina is the new kid on the block as a feed option for poultry,” says Rob Patterson of Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.), who conducted the study along with Dr. Tofuko Woyengo and Dr. Ruurd Zijlstra of the University of Alberta. “Our study confirms it has a lot to offer from a nutritional standpoint and that using the right formulation of multi-carbohydrase is an effective way to capture more of that full nutritional value.”

While it’s one thing to have strong nutritional value, it’s another to make sure as much of that  value as possible is available for absorption and use by the animals, explains Patterson, CBS Inc. Technical Director. Multi-carbohydrase enzyme technology, with its multiple enzyme sources and activities, acts as a universal key that frees nutrients from a number of otherwise hard-to-digest feed components. “This supports the maximum nutrient extraction possible for energy and growth.”

Camelina, also known as ‘false flax’ or ‘wild flax,’ is an oilseed crop that initially experienced significant demand before the recent era of dominance of rapeseed and canola. The unique crop, recognized as an excellent source of Omega-3, is now enjoying a fresh resurgence due to its advantages as an option for healthy oils, biofuels, high-end bio-lubricants and bio-plastics, and even jet fuel. It grows well on the Canadian prairies and in key U.S. growing regions, where it is well adapted and has resistance to many common pathogens and pests.

“The rise in camelina production is now becoming a good news story for livestock and poultry industries, because the residual meal left over after oil extraction has shown an attractive nutritional profile for animal feed,” says Patterson. “As an added advantage, the high concentration of Omega-3 oils in the meal has been shown to produce Omega meat in broiler chickens – making it a great source not only of high quality feed but as an means of adding value to poultry products.”

The study highlighted at PSA 2015 focused on variations of a diet using corn and cold-pressed camelina cake (CPCC). Diets that included multi-carbohydrase supplementation showed a substantial increase in the standardized ileal digestibility (SID) of three different major amino acids – methionine, threonine and tryptophan – along with a strong overall boost to the apparent metabolizable energy, N-corrected (AMEn) value of the diet, which increased by 5.6 percent.

The AMEn value shows the difference between the gross energy in the feed and the gross energy in the feces, urine and gasses, to reflect how much energy is actually captured by the animal instead of passed through undigested.

“The results show multi-carbohydrase is effective with camelina meal and strong gains are possible,” says Patterson. “Indications are the level of advantage can be further increased depending on the level of multi-carbohydrase used and the overall diet composition. Each poultry operation can determine the ratios that work best economically and effectively for them, depending on their own specific objectives and feeding approaches.”

Earlier this year Canadian approval was granted for feeding cold-pressed non-solvent extracted camelina meal to broiler chickens at up to 12 per cent inclusion, and approval for inclusion in layer feed is also being considered.

Similarly, the U.S.-FDA has expressed “no objection” to feeding camelina meal to broiler chickens and laying hens up to 10 per cent of their final diet.

The CBS Inc. and University of Alberta study involved 600 male broiler chicks divided into 40 groups and fed five diets in a completely randomized design with eight groups per diet, from 15 to 21 days of age.Differences were observed among variations of a corn-based basal diet, the same basal diet with 30 percent replaced by CPCC, and both of these diets without or with multi-carbohydrase enzymes supplementation, as well as an N-free diet.

The corn-based basal diet was fed to determine nutrient digestibility and retention for CPCC by substitution. The N-free diet was fed to estimate basal endogenous amino acid losses, for determining the SID of amino acids.On a dry matter basis, CPCC contained 39.8 percent crude protein, 1.89 percent lysine, 0.70 percent methionine, 1.56 percent threonine 0.45 percent tryptophan, 12.7 percent ether extract, and 38.3 percent neutral detergent fiber. In addition to boosting the availability and absorption of methionine, threonine and tryptophan, multi-carbohydrase increased the AMEn value of CPCC from 1,533 to 2,072 kcal/kg of dry matter.

The specific multi-carbohydrase formulation used in the study was Omegazyme from CBS Inc. More information on Omegazyme is available at www.canadianbio.com.


Published in Nutrition and Feed

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