Profiles
Last month Statistics Canada released the results of the 2016 Census of Agriculture. Like many of you, I was eager to read up on the results and discover how our industry has changed in the five years since the last survey was conducted.

Some findings, such as the edging up of the average age of farm operators from 54 in 2011 to 55 in 2016, aren’t all that surprising. After all, aging is a fact of life. Other findings, however, gave me pause. For example, Statistics Canada found that even though the average age of farmers has increased, only one in 12 operations have a formal succession plan outlining how the farm will be transferred to the next generation.

In other words, the vast majority of Canada’s farm operators have not taken steps to safeguard the businesses they’ve worked long and hard to build.

Experts in the field agree there are many reasons farmers shy away from succession planning, including fear: fear of change, of creating conflict within the family, of losing one’s identity as a farmer, and of confronting the fact that not even the healthiest among us live forever. Then there’s the time required to craft a plan and implement it when there are still animals to feed, seeds to plant and suppliers and customers to work with, plus all the other tasks that contribute to a farm’s long-term success. Perhaps one of the most significant barriers, though, is the daunting scope of work the term “succession planning” entails.

Though we can’t do that work for you, the editorial teams behind Agrobiomass, Canadian Poultry, Fruit & Vegetable, Manure Manager, Potatoes in Canada and Top Crop Manager have partnered to help ease the way with our first annual Succession Planning Week.

From June 12 to 16, we’ll be delivering a daily e-newsletter straight to your inbox, packed with information and resources to help you with succession planning in your operation. Each e-newsletter will offer practical advice and suggestions you can use, whether you’re an experienced farm owner wondering if your succession plan needs some tweaking or an aspiring successor wondering how to start the succession conversation.

But that’s not the only conversation we want to kick-start. Share your succession planning tips and success stories on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #AgSuccessionWeek. The best of the best will be published on our website (FamilyFarmSuccession.ca) and included in Friday’s e-newsletter.

We hope Succession Planning Week offers valuable information to help you keep your operation growing, now and for generations to come.
Published in Farm Business
June 12, 2017, Hunstville, Ala. – Aviagen, the world’s leading poultry breeding company, has added nutritionist Dr. Elisangela Glass to its Global Nutrition Team (GNT).

Effective April 24, Dr. Glass joins a team of nine nutritionists on the GNT, which currently offers nutritional support to Aviagen broiler breeder customers worldwide. Dr. Glass will report directly to Alex Corzo, Aviagen’s director of Global Nutrition Services. Supporting the U.S. and Canadian markets, Dr. Glass will be located in Hunsville, Alta.

Her considerable education and background will make her an invaluable nutrition resource for U.S. pedigree, great grandparent and grandparent flocks, as well as Aviagen’s U.S. and Canadian parent stock customers.

Dr. Glass earned a B.S. in Animal Science from the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as well as an M.S. and Ph.D. (2007) in Animal Science with a focus on Poultry Nutrition for the University of Missouri in the U.S.

Before joining Aviagen, she worked with Cargill Animal Nutrition since 2007 in various roles such as nutrition manager for the U.S. turkey division, consulting nutritionist for global feed operations and consulting nutritionist for broiler operation in Central America.

“Aviagen customers and her colleagues on the GNT will benefit from Dr. Glass’s in-depth education and experience developing nutrition strategies at a global level,” says Dr. Corzo. “I welcome Dr. Glass to the Aviagen GNT and have great confidence that she will help us continue to offer cutting-edge nutritional advice to our team and customers.”
Published in Company News
May 18, 2017, Milton, Ont. - Three new members were elected to AgScape’s 2017 Board of Directors at the organization’s annual general meeting on May 3.

The 12-member board directs the organization’s mandate to advance specialized agri-food education in Ontario.

Jim McMillan, a farmer from Beamsville, Ont. joins the board in a community seat position.

Charlotte O’Neill from Elanco Animal Health and Stephanie Szusz from TD Canada Trust both join the board in corporate seat positions.

Peter Hohenadel from the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair was re-elected to the board in a corporate seat position.

Returning board members who are taking on new duties include Audrie Bouwmeester and Jennifer Peart. Audrie Bouwmeester – a dairy education program manager with Dairy Farmers of Ontario – is the newly appointed acting chair and vice chair, and holds a corporate seat position.

Jennifer Peart with Farm Credit Canada has been appointed acting treasurer and also holds a corporate seat on the board.

AgScape’s board includes three additional community seats held by past chair Lorie Jocius, Deb Campbell of Agronomy Advantage and Natalie Walt with Ceres Global Ag Corp.

Three additional corporate seats are held by Kathryn Doan of AgCareers.com, Mark Kerry with Monsanto Canada Inc. and Meaghan Ryersee from Syngenta Canada Inc.

The AgScape board also includes two advisors – Catherine Mahler with the Ministry of Education and Helen Scutt with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

AgScape is a not-for-profit organization providing reliable and balanced resources to Ontario schools on agriculture, food production, environmental sustainability and related topics.

AgScape, formerly OAFE, was created in 1991 with the mission of building awareness and understanding of the importance of our agriculture and food system. For more information visit www.agscape.ca.
Published in Company News
In the November 2016 issue of Canadian Poultry magazine, we published a story on building inclusive businesses: “Growing bottom lines with social impact.” The story was based on a talk given by Markus Dietrich, co-founder and director of Asian Social Enterprise Incubator Inc., at the International Egg Conference in Warsaw, Poland.
Published in Companies
In my first week as Canadian Poultry magazine’s new editor, I had the privilege of learning the lay of the land at the London Poultry Show. One message was clear from the many conversations I had: while there are a few challenges, the poultry industry is remarkably stable and producers are thriving.
Published in Company News
May 8, 2017, London, Ont. - Dr. John Summers, Professor Emeritus of the University of Guelph, has been posthumously awarded the 2016 Ed McKinlay Poultry Worker of the Year award.

This award is presented annually to outstanding individuals in the poultry industry and was presented on April 6th, 2017 at the London Poultry Show.

Ed Verkley, chair of the Poultry Industry Council stated, “Dr. John Summers was a leader in the poultry nutrition field. He taught and mentored many individuals who went on to work in the Ontario poultry industry, and his continuous contact with industry resulted in his research work being relevant and timely for direct application into the sector. Dr. Summers is very deserving of this award.”

Dr. Summers originally joined the University of Guelph’s Department of Poultry Science in 1956. Following the completion of his PhD from Rutgers University, New Jersey in 1962, he returned to the Department and remained there until his retirement in 1987. Dr. Summers was appointed Chair of the Department of Poultry Science in 1969.

His research focus areas and accomplishments were quite diverse, and he served as a Technical Adviser to many organizations throughout his career. Dr. Summers passed away in August 2016. His son, Dr. David Summers accepted the award on his behalf.
Published in Researchers
May 3, 2017, Guelph, Ont. - Carolynne Griffith of Alvinston has been named the 2017 recipient of the Farm & Food Care Ontario Champion Award.

Griffith is an egg and crop farmer from Lambton County and a past chair of Egg Farmers of Ontario. Throughout her career as an egg farmer, she has answered thousands of consumer questions about eggs and egg farming at various events such as the Canadian National Exhibition, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Western Fair, local events and schools. She was also instrumental in helping to establish the Who made Your Eggs Today? Campaign.

As a past chair of FarmGate 5, Carolynne represented farmers on a global level in numerous trade negotiations around the world including meetings in Geneva, Hong Kong and Brussels.

Harry Pelissero, General Manager of Egg Farmers of Ontario, applauds Griffith for her strong agricultural advocacy through all positions. “Carolynne dedicates herself to all undertakings, and she shows her genuine passion and pride for farming with grace and quiet elegance. She consistently commits her time, knowledge and experiences to engaging industry members, students and Canadians in general.”

Lambton Federation of Agriculture spokesperson Al Langford says Griffith has been instrumental in the agriculture sector, having supported many local and provincial farm organizations in a wide variety of ways – from organizing events and serving as a board member and past Chair of Egg Farmers of Ontario, to actively engaging the Canadian public. “

The Champion Award has been presented annually, since 1999, to worthy agricultural advocates.

Farm & Food Care Ontario is a coalition of farmers, agriculture and food partners proactively working together to ensure public trust and confidence in food and farming.

For more information visit www.FarmFoodCareON.org.
Published in Producers
April 28, 2017, Toronto, Ont. - Pecking Order, a new documentary film set at the 2015 New Zealand National Poultry Show, takes viewers into the world of competitive poultry pageantry and examines the politics in the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club in its near 150-year history.

Competitive poultry pageantry is not only a highly entertaining hobby—it’s an obsession. For members of Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club in New Zealand, it’s also way of life.

Senior member, Beth Inwood, and president, Doug Bain, have tasted the glory of raising perfect rosecomb cockerels and rumpless pullets, while newbie teenagers Rhys Lilley and Sarah Bunton enjoy the good clean fun. But feathers start to fly when infighting breaks out in the club during the run-up to the 2015 National Poultry Show.

As energetic as any sport film and as comedic as you’d imagine Best in Show chicken pageantry to be, Pecking Order serves up an endearing look at poultry passion.

Pecking Order is set to premiere at the Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto, Ont., on April 29.

For more information, visit: Pecking Order - Hot Docs International Film Festival
Published in Producers
April 19, 2017, Toronto, Ont. – Burnbrae Farms’ Egg Creations Whole Eggs was recently named as a finalist in the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix New Product awards by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC). 

The RCC revelled 100 finalists competing for the coveted award earlier this week. These grocery products are the most impressive of all the new grocery products introduced in 2016.   

Becoming a Canadian Grand Prix finalist can be a game changing experience for new products. Finalists receive direct and extensive exposure to key retailers, their buyers as well as consumers eager to try the celebrated new items getting all the attention and accolades.  

To ensure products were evaluated exclusively on quality and innovation, new to this year's assessment was that all products introduced in 2016 had an equal chance of becoming finalists, regardless of when in the year they were introduced and the size of their distribution.  

To become a finalist, a product needed to score at least 70% in judging.
Finalists and winners can use the Canadian Grand Prix logo on their packaging for two years. RCC also supports the awards with extensive consumer and trade support in Canadian Retailer. 

Egg Creations Whole Eggs from Burnbrae Farms Ltd., was named a finalist in the food category. To view a complete list of finalists, visit: http://www.rccgrandprix.ca/content/2016-finalists

The winners of the 24th annual Canadian Grand Prix Awards will be announced at the Gala on May 31, 2017 following the second day of Retail Council of Canada's Store Conference, Canada Biggest Retail Conference. 

RCC's Grocery Division represents Canada's largest grocery retailers, encompassing over 90% of all grocery sales. It is a source of information, advice and expertise on all matters affecting food retail, including food safety and recall, labelling, nutrition, health and wellness, product packaging, supply chain issues and environmental stewardship. READ MORE
Published in Company News
April 11, 2017, Calgary, Alta. - A mother-daughter duo from Alberta is capitalizing on the growing popularity of backyard farming by launching a rent-a-chicken business.

Megan Wylie works alongside her mother on their Millarville family farm to run, The Urban Chicks, a company aimed at providing customers with everything necessary to operate a backyard chicken coop.

Customers are given two chickens, a coop, organic feed, grit and oyster shells, feed dishes and cleaning supplies. In October, the chickens are picked up and returned to the Millarville farm. Wylie says this allows customers to acquire fresh eggs while avoiding caring for the chickens in the more tedious winter months.

The Urban Chicks even provide their customers with a ‘laying guarantee,’ where they will replace a hen if it stops laying eggs. READ MORE
Published in Companies
The Canadian pickup truck market is huge. It caters to the multiple needs of work, institutional and personal trucks - sometimes all of them in one package. In fact, pickups that serve the workplace and family are becoming the norm – this fact alone makes choosing the right one simply that much more complex.
Published in News
It’s been a year since Synergy Agri Group Ltd. (Synergy) in Port Williams, N.S. installed HatchCare – the first in Canada and the fourth company in the world to do so. And now, the company is currently producing 200,000 HatchCare broiler chicks a week.

HatchTech of the Netherlands developed its ‘HatchCare’ incubation and chick care system to better benefit chicks, the environment and poultry farmers. The company conducted years of testing on HatchCare before rolling it out to market in 2014. The total number of chicks now being reared under the system per year is over 680 million, in Australia, China, Europe, South America, the U.S. and Canada.

With HatchCare, the fertility of eggs is first checked using new lighting methods so that only 100 per cent viable embryos are incubated. Chicks are vaccinated while still in the egg.

In a standard hatchery, chicks are shipped after emergence and receive their first food and water after they settle in on the farm a day later. In the HatchCare system, chicks are immediately able to drink and feed, which  – several research studies have shown – results in higher body weight and breast meat yield. HatchTech also cites research findings showing HatchCare chicks to be 1 cm longer at hatch due to their incubation conditions.

HatchCare involves a unique and advanced handling system called HatchTraveller, where the chicks stay in small individual crates from hatching until delivery to the farm. The crates are then cleaned and disinfected for re-use. HatchTech representatives say this provides every chick with ongoing uniform conditions in terms of temperature, airflow and relative humidity. The highly energy-efficient HatchCare system also includes several features that enhance biosecurity, such as sealed incubators with filtered entry and exit air.

Synergy's Experience
Doug Kaizer, Synergy’s chief financial officer, is very positive about their decision to go with HatchCare. “We were expecting improvements in chick health, mortality, weight gains and feed conversion, but we did not expect the large improvement in early farm brooding,” he notes. “The chicks arrive ready to grow. We use lower initial temperatures, put less feed out on paper and generally treat the chicks as if they are a couple of days older than their age. This has shown to be a tremendous help in the older barns, where it was harder to get the proper conditions for the day-old chicks.”

Kaizer says the system has also helped the company’s less-experienced barn managers. “The chicks aren’t as demanding, arrive with no hatchery infections and already have a built-in pattern for eating, drinking and resting,” he explains. “It has really levelled the playing field among different-aged facilities and experience levels of the farm operator.”

With HatchCare, Synergy has also been able to significantly lower antibiotic use. Before the installation, an average of over 20 per cent of flocks had to be treated due to issues from the breeder flock/hatchery. With HatchCare, to date that’s less than five per cent, and in most cases, Kaizer says, the reason for the treatment has been identified and the issue removed at the hatchery level. He adds that their HatchCare hatchery will be the key component in their move to RWA (raised without antibiotics) broiler production.

Biosecurity
In terms of biosecurity, Kaizer describes the system as “very” biosecure, partially because the entire setup - from egg delivery to chick delivery - takes place in areas isolated from each other, and because every process has built-in biosecurity aspects. “One of the best features is the ability to clean and disinfect after each batch of eggs and chicks are processed,” he says.

With respect to fluff filtering, Kaizer notes that within the HatchCare setup, their processing room (take-off room) is extremely clean and by using a special storage area, they have reduced the size of the hatchery. Kaizer says they are adding to HatchTraveller by designing their own transport trailer, which will enable chicks to have feed throughout delivery, regardless of time or distance to the farm. “All chicks stay in the same box where they are hatched and do not undergo any of the stresses in traditional hatcheries related to handling by humans or machines,” he says. “The goal is to have an almost seamless transition for the chick from hatch to barn under perfect conditions.”

On the energy efficiency front, Kaizer says it’s hard to make comparisons with their previous setup, as HatchCare systems are very automated and also require a lot of fresh air to maintain the perfect environment for the hatchlings. He believes they are just beginning to understand all the benefits of the system.

Continuous improvement
“Every aspect of the hatchery will see continued improvements over the next few months and years,” he notes. “We are working on specific incubation parameters for young and old breeder flocks as well as specific setups to enhance the hatchability and health of eggs kept over longer periods of time. Our hatching egg farms saw an immediate gain of four per cent hatchability, but we know that this can be improved by another two to three per cent with flock-specific incubation.”

“We are continuing to experiment and adjust growing procedures in the barn as well the feed inputs for the broiler rations,” Kaizer adds. “Basically, we are examining every single aspect from the hatching egg farm to live transport to the processing plant to see how things can be improved for the chicks with the HatchCare system. The possibilities are almost endless.”

Besides the initial cost of the system and needing to keep a good inventory of spare parts, the biggest drawback of the system in Kaizer’s view, is digesting the amount of information that’s becoming available and almost being overwhelmed by the number of future trials they want to do.

Facility tours
In the past year, Synergy has hosted a lot of interested people who want to look at HatchCare in action. This has included staff from hatchery companies all over North America, South America, Europe and Australia. “As we say to all who have toured our facility,” Kaizer notes, “This is not an easy or cheap hatchery, but it produces the best chicks for the broiler farmer. If your organization’s goals are focused on health, animal welfare and broiler performance, this system is for you. But if your goal is least-cost hatching, you are better to look at the traditional hatchery systems.” However, he believes anyone thinking of building a new hatchery has to consider animal welfare and be concerned with traditional hatchers that don’t allow newly-hatched chicks access to food and water for many hours or days. He says all personnel at Synergy firmly believe HatchCare is the future of hatching for both animal health and animal welfare reasons. “When this system was unveiled,” concludes Kaizer, “we actually stopped our hatchery construction and redesigned the entire project to allow for the HatchCare system. Looking back, this was the best decision our company has ever made.”

Return on investment
Asked about the return-on-investment timeline, Kaizer says that as an integrated system, when they add the profitability of the hatching egg farms and broiler farms to the hatchery profits, they are very satisfied with the rate of return. “Our customers [farmers and shareholders] not only benefit financially, but take great pride in knowing that the chicks they grow are the healthiest and most humanely-hatched chicks in North America,” he says. “There is no better return as a farmer than when you go home each day and can tell your ten year-old daughter that we hatch the healthiest, happiest chicks in the
entire world.”
Published in Companies
The arduous review process is over and the award has now been bestowed. Of the various operations nominated for the 2016 Canadian Poultry Sustainability Award, Farmcrest Foods Ltd. (Farmcrest) is the winner.

The enterprise was started in 1999 and is owned by Richard Bell and his brother-in-law Alan Bird, whose families both originate from Ireland and came to Canada looking for new opportunities. In addition to Richard and Alan, members of three generations of the families currently help out on the farm, including Richard’s father Cecil (a retired farmer), brother Henry and sons Henry Jr. and Jack.  

The operation includes: a hatchery and poultry barns (in addition to growing their own birds Farmcrest also contracts 16 new entrant growers to supply chicken to their processing plant); feed mill; processing plant; rendering plant (renderings are not used on the farm but sold for animal feed); enclosed mechanical composting for bird mortality, and crop production (200 acres of owned land and 400 acres of leased land farmed with potatoes, sunflowers and soybeans). Farmcrest also has its own poultry retail store. In total, the operation employs 45 people.

The farm itself is situated on soils ranging from clay and loamy clay to sandy loam with some peat areas in a relatively flat river bottom area near Salmon Arm, B.C.

“It is also very close to Shuswap Lake,” Bell explains. “We therefore need to be very careful with the amount and type of nutrients applied to this well-drained area to prevent runoff.”

Farmcrest’s regular nutrient management practices include using a concrete pad (contained to prevent runoff) for manure storage. There is also virtually no runoff of nutrients from the fields (and little odour) as manure is worked in with a disc or ploughed under immediately after application.

“We only apply the manure to the fields needing it for the seed that is being planted,” Bell notes. “Our soil health has improved steadily in the last five years since these measures were put in place.” No commercial fertilizers are used.

Farmcrest has an environmental farm plan and has used expert advice from a certified crop advisor since 2011. In 2013, Farmcrest also began a working relationship with Poultry Partners, a team of technicians, production specialists, veterinarians and nutritionists based in Airdrie, Alta., which offers a variety of agricultural industry services. The firm supported Farmcrest’s nomination for the sustainability award through a letter of recommendation - as did the British Columbia Chicken Marketing Board.

“They’ve done an excellent job farming intensively in a very ecologically-sensitive area,” Shawn Fairbairn, Poultry Partners general manager says. “They have committed to improve soil fertility, optimize production and most importantly, reduce chemical and pesticide use and virtually eliminate synthetic fertilizer to ensure the surrounding ecosystem remains undisturbed. There is on-going monitoring and testing of the manure, soil and crops to ensure their goals are being reached. The investment in new equipment to allow for less soil disturbance and odour when poultry manure is applied is one example of their forward-thinking.”  

Fairbairn also notes that farm equipment is continuously upgraded at Farmcrest so that the most precise technology is used with the most fuel-efficient engines. “By growing about 85 per cent of all the feed ingredients their chickens consume, they have dramatically reduced the carbon footprint of their operation,” he adds.

Farmcrest also uses moisture and pH meters for soil testing to understand when conditions are optimal for manure application.

An overall goal to achieve air quality improvement (reductions in odour, ammonia and particulate matter inside and outside the barn) has been achieved by ensuring an optimal level of nitrogen is available to the birds. Ingredient and feed sampling are conducted on a regular basis to track this, and tests to track soil nitrogen levels are also completed annually. Because of all this monitoring and adjustment (not to mention an on-farm feed mill that makes immediate changes in the ration possible), Farmcrest has seen improvements in bird growth as well as air quality and soil improvement.

No irrigation is used at Farmcrest, and as much water as possible is conserved through the use of an ‘air chill’ system in the processing plant, nipple drinkers in the barns and a misting system for barn disinfection. Farmcrest has built 14 new poultry barns in the last five years, and Richard says their goal with each build is to be as energy efficient as possible. This includes the use of R60 insulation, LED lighting, high-efficiency electric motors and radiant tube heating.

Product differentiation
Farmcrest was the first in its region to grow grain corn and now non-GMO grain corn. This led to the operation breaking new ground on a national level by being the first poultry operation in Canada to market non-GMO chicken (verified through nongmoproject.org). Poultry Partners assisted with further development of products. “[Farmcrest] listened to their customers and have proactively responded to the demand that was there in their local market. This has been extremely good for their business and the long-term financial viability of their operation.”

Fairbairn describes the Bird and Bell families as having a “tangible passion” for poultry and farming. “We love working with clients that are ‘hands-on’ and engaged,” he notes. “And the folks at Farmcrest are extremely engaged. Their work ethic and commitment to the environment and their local community is easy to grasp when you spend time with them. They are big believers in continuous learning and improvement. There is on-going reinvestment in all aspects of their operation to allow for improved welfare, safety and production efficiency for the birds, workers and the food they produce.”  

Team effort
The fact that the Farmcrest owners directly work alongside their employees every day has created, in Fairbairn’s view, a culture of hard work and high standards. “It is also unique to see three generations of family all working together towards a common goal,” he notes. “The youngest generation is actively involved in working and planning and will be well prepared to continue the legacy of this agri-business. The owners are always looking for new technologies and ideas. They literally travel the world to attend trade shows, farm tours and crop production events to ensure they are on the leading edge of agriculture. As a consulting group, we are extremely fortunate to have a client like Farmcrest.”

Bell says he feels honoured that Farmcrest has won the 2016 Canadian Poultry Sustainability Award. “It is very much a team effort,” he notes. “I wish to thank my staff and our team for their dedicated efforts each and every day.”

Visit farmcrestfoods.ca if you would like to read in more detail about the business.
Published in Profiles
Hybrid Turkeys, a division of Hendrix Genetics, has built a new breeder facility between Berkeley and Markdale, Ont. The name of the farm, “Berkdale” is a mix of the two.

While construction of a new turkey breeder farm might not seem terribly newsworthy, this one is, firstly because of its location. The site was chosen at a significant distance from the company’s other operations in southern Ontario, mainly for biosecurity reasons.

“Five years ago we wouldn’t have even considered a location so far away from our other farms,” says Hybrid Turkeys’ farm division manager, Marek Mirda. “To ensure secure supply to our customers, especially during disease outbreaks and establishment of quarantine zones, we looked for an area with distance from our own and other poultry farms. During disease outbreaks there can be an impact on healthy farms due to restriction of movement within quarantine zones, so we want to minimize or eliminate this potential risk.”

Hybrid Turkeys began its search for a location by examining a Canadian Food Inspection Agency map of Ontario that pinpoints all types of livestock operations. “We evaluated this area on the map to choose a location with the least amount of poultry operations,” Mirda notes. “After working with real estate firms, we found this property between Berkeley and Markdale.”

New design
Location aside, Berkdale has other important biosecurity aspects, with the most significant being a farm design that connects the barns.

In the past, Hybrid Turkeys would have designed the farm so the egg house and lay barn (for example) were separate buildings, and staff would therefore have to change clothing and boots every time they would go between.

“A system of separate entry and exit not only adds risk of picking up outside organisms, but is also difficult during winter months in Canada,” Mirda explains. “The new system has staff go through biosecurity procedures once and then they have safe access to the entire barn system.” Hendrix Genetics is in the final stages of upgrading a layer breeder facility in Ontario that will have the same design, he adds.

In addition, Berkdale (and a Hybrid Turkeys pedigree facility as well) have a dry shower and other additional measures to keep foreign organisms as far away from the barn as possible - on both the brood/grow side as well as lay barn side. Upon arrival at the farm, staff and any visitors must enter the dry shower facility, which requires individuals to change out of street clothes into farm clothing and footwear. Next, individuals exit the dry shower into a neutral air pressure zone before accessing the completely enclosed wet shower rooms. After using the shower facilities, individuals change again into new farm clothing and boots, ready to enter the clean zone of the farm.

Outside the buildings, there is complete separation of the clean and dirty zones. Dirty zone roads are for external suppliers to deliver fuel and other supplies without entering the farm area. Clean zone roads are only for internal clean vehicles that transfer staff or supplies between barns. All the buildings’ mechanical equipment can be accessed from the dirty zone so that contracted service technicians have quick access in case of urgent need. Hybrid Turkey employees have access to a storage garage in the clean zone with equipment only to be used within the clean zone, and one on the dirty side for use only in the dirty zone.

Additional biosecurity was gained through filling any saw cuts on concrete with caulking to prevent particulates from settling in. “One of the project members suggested we used ‘an entire truckload of caulking’ to ensure no cut was missed!” Mirda reports.

In addition, as part of the ventilation system, the farm features darkout hoods large enough for a person to fit inside, which makes it easier to ensure proper cleaning of these areas. There is also a wash station for vehicles on the ‘lay side’ of the farm.

Berkdale also features an innovative truck-loading dock for the egg cooler, complete with dock-levelling equipment and seal for the truck. This system allows for the use of trolleys to transfer eggs from the storage room into the trucks rather than the traditional moving of eggs by hand.

“Temperature shock is avoided,” explains Mirda, “and there is also no need for an outside connection, in that the delivery driver can stay in the cab while the eggs are loaded by internal staff. It’s a best-practices system that improves worker health and safety and minimize the handling of eggs.”

Results so far
Berkdale began operation in August and all systems are running smoothly with birds doing extremely well. Mirda says the winter season is when staff expects to see the new design of this facility to show its full benefits. This will be in part because use of the barns on the lay side (that are connected between egg house and laybarn) will begin then, and also, from a comfort and efficiency standpoint, workers will not have to go outside as much during the harsh weather.

When asked what factors other poultry operators should consider in building a similar facility isolated from all other farms in the company, the Berkdale staff had good input. They pointed to the decision of whether to try and relocate current employees or search for new employees close to the new facility who may need a lot of training and support. They also pointed out that you have to be ready for staff and equipment from other company facilities to be dispatched as needed for hands-on assistance at the ‘orphan’ facility.

Scott Rowland, general manager, Americas at Hybrid Turkeys says that although this facility came at a significant cost, the company leaders feel that the investment in Berkdale is the next step in biosecurity for both customers and staff.

“The features of this facility were designed to secure the supply to meet our customers’ needs, while ensuring excellent health and safety of our workers,” he says. “This investment signifies our dedication to continuous improvement. By spreading out our operations, we are working towards the next generation of biosecurity.”

Hybrid Turkeys also has production and research facilities in several other locations in Canada, as well as in the U.S., France, Poland and Hungary.
Published in Companies
What to do with the males of a species when the females are all that are needed is an issue various agricultural sectors grapple with.

In poultry, the question of what happens to male chicks when only females lay eggs continues to beg a satisfactory answer. Although cull is the current widespread solution, research is underway into alternatives, such as work by Dr. Michael Ngadi at McGill University (see page 24 this issue)   Egg sexing research is also underway in Germany, supported by a national animal welfare initiative that aims to ultimately phase out culling of male chicks altogether. In the German state of Lower Saxony, a trailblazer in animal welfare regulation in that country, the practice is slated to be banned by the end of 2017.

Some farmers in Germany have built an alternative market for their male chicks, under the banner of the “Bruderhahn Initiative” – which literally translates into English as “the brother rooster initiative”.

The concept, explained Christine Bremer of Bauck-Hof Klein Suestedt, located in the Lunenburg Heath about 100 kilometres south of the city of Hamburg, involves raising the male chicks 18 to 22 weeks of age and selling them for meat the way broilers are.

Because their genetics are focused on egg and not meat production, raising the males for consumption is an expensive venture. “The males are very active and we need 5.5 kilograms of feed for one kilogram of gain, which is not a good conversion,” Bremer told international agricultural journalists touring her farm this past summer, adding this means her farm needs a subsidy of 7.50 to 10 Euros per “brother” to make the economics work.

Unlike most farms, though, Bauck-Hof Klein Suestedt was able to get that money from the market place – but through egg sales instead of a premium on the meat, which is dark and has a taste similar to pheasant.

Every egg sold from Bremer’s hens sells for four cents more than other eggs, and those funds, collected through the “Bruderhahn Initiative”, go back to the participating farmers to pay for the costs of raising and marketing the males for meat.

“If a hen lays 250 eggs and we get four cents more per egg, we can pay for the “brother”,” she said. “Our trader who buys our eggs communicated this to the organic shops where our eggs are sold. In 2013, all eggs were increased by four cents and a label was added to explain why – and we had no loss of customers.”

Unsure of whether consumers would be interested in the darker, more flavourful meat, Bremer’s first customer was actually a baby food processor.  “We weren’t sure people would buy this meat but gradually people start asking for it,” she said, adding that due to her farm’s rural location and resulting unreliable internet infrastructure, their marketing is done at point of sale as opposed to through social media.

“As farmers, we need the help of traders and retailers to sell our products, and if our trader had said no, we couldn’t have done this,” Bremer said. “What customers are paying for is to not kill the bird at birth and that this animal is worth keeping alive longer.”

The male layer for meat program is part of Bauck-Hof Klein Suestedt’s overall approach to agriculture. The operation is the second oldest organic farm in Germany, having farmed in this manner since 1932. More specifically, it’s one of Germany’s 2,000 certified Demeter farms.

Demeter is the brand for products stemming from biodynamic agriculture and is well recognized by German consumers, which Bremer says has been helpful in supporting the marketing efforts around meat from the male layers.

Bremer installed her first mobile poultry housing 13 years ago, and now has six mobile layer barns and four mobile broiler barns on her farm that are regularly moved to new locations on the fields and permit birds to roam and express natural behaviours.

“We use genetics that grow slower and the birds can choose whether they want to be inside or out,” she says, adding that farmers who build mobile poultry housing can have 40 per cent of their costs covered by the European Union.

Under the leadership of state Minister of Agriculture Christian Meyer, Lower Saxony has doubled state support for organic production from 137 Euros per hectare in 2013 to 273 Euros by the end of 2016. Subsidies for converting conventional farms into organic production have also increased, from 262 Euros to 403 Euros per hectare during that same time.

Meyer, who represents the Green Party, is a proponent of organic agriculture and has also introduced some of the strictest animal welfare regulations in the country since he took office in 2013, including banning beak trimming of laying hens by the end of 2016, and phasing out caged egg production completely by 2025.

“The supermarkets dictate and they are very strong. For example, although Lower Saxony is ending beak trimming, we can’t stop imports unless the retailers are supportive,” Meyer said, adding that retailers are supporting cage-free egg production by not selling eggs from hens in cages in countries like Poland and the Ukraine.

The state has also committed to reducing antibiotic use in agriculture by 50 per cent in five years, resulting in farmers having to notify the government each time they purchase antibiotics for livestock use.

Lower Saxony is one of Germany’s livestock powerhouses, home to 18 million laying hens that produce about half of the country’s eggs.
Published in Health
In Lower Saxony, Germany, Stefan Teepker has just spent 25,000 € (approximately $36,500 CAD) on a new on-farm visitor gallery complete with food vending machine, video system and 24-hour viewing area on one of his poultry farms.

It’s not that he’s expecting the vending machine to be a big money maker – he needs 15 € a day in sales to make the venture work – but he’s hoping it will attract the non-farming public to his farm to learn more about how broiler chickens are raised, housed and treated in Germany.

Teepker unveiled his concept to a group of visiting international agricultural journalists who were touring northern and eastern Germany this past July.

It’s not easy being a farmer in Lower Saxony, where agriculture minister Christian Meyer represents the Green Party. Strict animal welfare rules, limitations on new barn constructions and looming new clean air laws mean farmers have a lot more to worry about than just raising healthy, quality livestock and poultry.

To Teepker’s way of thinking, that’s precisely why someone has to show people where their food comes from, and there’s nobody better to do that than farmers themselves.

“We have to show how we produce the meat people eat and with this new viewing area, people can come here any time to watch our birds,” he explained while looking into his bright, modern barn filled with healthy, contented birds. “Some farmers say we can’t do this job, someone else should – but who else would that be?”

Doing nothing is not an option as the pressure from those opposed to livestock farming is already making itself felt.

For example, even enriched poultry cages will be phased out entirely in favour of all cage-free production by 2025, beak trimming will be banned by the end of 2016, and culling of male chicks will no longer be permitted in Lower Saxony by the end of 2017.

The state has also committed to reducing antibiotic use in agriculture by 50 per cent in five years, resulting in farmers having to notify the government each time they purchase antibiotics for livestock use.

And according to Teepker, Lower Saxony is no longer issuing building permits for new livestock barns, citing environmental concerns, and that it is very difficult to even secure permission to renew existing facilities. Farmers who wish to expand their production have no choice but to buy existing farms or relocate to other parts of Germany, he said.

“We built our first barn in 2009, where we got a permit in 12 months and built in six – it was two years in total from thought to bird. Now it is up to six years,” he said.

New clean air laws from the European Union designed to reduce emissions from intensive livestock operations will mean new costs too, he added.

Teepker farms together with his younger brother Matthias near Handrup, Lower Saxony, about 360 km north of Frankfurt. He’s in charge of the broiler side of their operation, which also includes pigs, biogas production and 350 hectares (approximately 865 acres) of crops.

In 2013 he purchased the farm where he has added the viewing gallery and renovated the 10-year old facilities. And although he considered expansion into Eastern Germany several years ago, he ultimately decided against it due to the high cost of farms.

Teepker is not alone among farmers in Germany adding viewing galleries into their livestock barns, but notes that his goes above and beyond the simple window and information card that most provide.

Videos available on demand, for example, demonstrate other aspects of his farm and the life cycle of his birds. Feed samples show what birds eat and feeders and waterers are on display to demonstrate how they eat and drink.

And the vending machine, which Teepker has stocked with chicken products, can sell anything from a single egg to a five kilogram bag of potatoes. This particular farm happens to be on a busy public cycling trail, so Teepker hopes his location – and the cold drinks he is including in the vending machine – will help draw people in.



If the viewing room and vending machine are successful on the broiler barn, there are plans for a similar installation on one of their pig barns too.

Facebook is his biggest audience, where “Landwirtschaft Teepker” and regular posts of photos and updates about farm activities have garnered more than 2,100 likes, but he’s also a keen supporter of video. His most popular online video, called a look into chicken production, has logged more than 78,000 views to date.

“YouTube is the new Google so you need to have video even if it isn’t the best,” he believes.

But nothing beats a face to face connection, which is why the Teepkers have also reached out to local schools, starting about five years ago with inviting kindergarten classes out to the farm and expanding to include twice yearly classroom visits with small birds. They also sponsor children’s soccer jerseys in the community.

And those public education efforts seem to be paying off.

“We are noticing changes in attitudes with parents and teachers – “where are the cages” is now the most asked question,” Teepker said, adding the most people don’t know that German broilers are not raised in cages. “I think and hope that we are doing a good job.”

Yet despite some success, Teepker is also a realist about the public pressures facing farmers and the challenges of reaching out to consumers who are increasingly distanced from farming and food production.

“This is a first step, but the discussion will never finish,” he believes.
Published in Consumer Issues
Dec. 2, 2016 - Each year the Canadian Animal Health Coalition (CAHC) presents the Carl Block Award to an individual nominated by his or her peers for outstanding contributions in the field of livestock animal health. This award is in memory of Carl Block, who was chair of the CAHC when he passed away as the result of a small plane crash in May 2002.
 
The CAHC has named Dr. Grant Maxie of Puslinch, Ont. as this year’s recipient of the award.  Through his hard work and dedication, Dr. Maxie has made many significant contributions to the Canadian animal health industry.
 
Maxie has been integrally involved in the laboratory management and surveillance scene both in Canada and internationally over his distinguished career. Since 1997 he has been Director of the Animal Health Laboratory (AHL), University of Guelph and since 2007 co-executive director of laboratory services, University of Guelph. In these positions he has provided leadership in several national diagnostic and surveillance initiatives. 

Most recently, he has lead the Animal Health Lab and provided guidance to industry through the recent PEDV and Avian Influenza outbreaks in Ontario. He is the project chair for the Disease Surveillance Plan 2013- 2018, an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs project, administered by AHL that has enhanced the conduct of disease surveillance in Ontario and has contributed nationally as well.
 
Accompanying Maxie’s nomination for the Carl Block Award were several letters of support from both Canadian and international bodies, which is a testament to his influence globally.
 
In a news release, CAHC says that considering that the primary criteria to receive the Carl Block Award is that recipients demonstrate leadership, commitment and passion for enhancing animal agriculture in Canada, it is easily apparent why Grant Maxie is the 2016 recipient.
Published in Profiles
November 21, 2016 - Libro Credit Union (Libro) and the University of Guelph (UofG) have announced Ryan Gibson, PhD, as the Libro professor of regional economic development for southwestern Ontario. The professorship is a partnership between Libro and the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), focused on building economic development and innovation
across the region, through research, teaching, outreach and collaboration.

Gibson joins the UofG from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, N.S. He’ll be working through the OAC’s school of environmental design and rural development.

“Ryan’s expertise and experience are a perfect fit for this new position,” says Rene Van Acker, OAC dean. “His focus on community-engaged scholarship combined with his enthusiasm, assures me he will do great things while working with the communities of southwestern Ontario.”

Gibson’s research examines issues related to the future of rural communities and regions, and topics such as governance, immigration and revitalization. He is also president of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, a national organization committed to strengthening communities by creating economic opportunities that enhance social and environmental conditions.

Originally from rural Manitoba, Gibson has a deep respect for rural communities, rural people and the events that shape their futures. Growing up witnessing the transformations in rural development, agriculture and their influence on communities instilled a fascination and commitment to rural issues.

Libro has committed to endow the professorship with $500,000 over 10 years, which will be matched to existing donations, for a combined gift of $1 million.

Overall goals of the professorship include:
  • Establishing southwestern Ontario as a defined economic region of the province and identifying strategies to shape the future vision of economic development
  • Strengthening links between rural and urban communities to establish solutions for an integrated regional economy
  • Building a network among Ontario’s post-secondary institutions and research facilities to collaborate on initiatives to grow regional economic development
The professorship will be hosted at the UofG within the OAC, bolstered by the Ridgetown campus.
Published in Researchers

In 2014, Canadian farmers produced more than 595 million dozen eggs per year and had eight straight years of sales growth. According to a recent study by Egg Farmers of Canada, it takes 69 per cent less water and half the amount of feed today to produce a dozen eggs, while hens are producing nearly 50 per cent more and are living longer than they did 50 years ago.

Layer operations across the U.S. and Canada are progressing, and this fact is evident when visiting the layer operation at McGee Colony, recognized by Star Egg Company in 2015 with a first place finish in Saskatchewan for reaching the dozen eggs per bird and cost per dozen eggs quota.

As of 2014, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) listed the average Canadian flock size at 20,192 hens; however, Canadian egg farms can range from a few hundred to more than 400,000 hens. The average laying hen produces approximately 305 eggs per year (25.4 dozen). The Bovan standard is 353 eggs per hen housed at 78 weeks.

The flock of 16,200 Bovan White managed by Jerry Mandel and his father John Mandel boasted a production of 370 eggs per hen housed, with 106 grams of feed intake per hen per day at 78 weeks, in 2015. The number of eggs produced was above the Bovan standard, while the feed intake per hen per day was below the Bovan standard. Jerry and John emphasize that they had great help in earning the plaque from Star Egg Company that was presented to them at the Saskatchewan Egg Producers annual meeting.  

“Part of making this program work is good teamwork, with everyone making sure the hens get the best nutrition, health and management care,” said Jerry.

McGee Colony, located near Rosetown, Saskatchewan, is named after the site of the old village of McGee. The poultry barn and associated equipment are fairly new and well-maintained. Even so, there are challenges that need to be met.

The well water’s pH level measures around 9. This is closely monitored and adjusted to 6.5 via acidification of the water on a continual basis. As a result, chlorination of the water is achieved with a more acidic pH, as chlorination works at its optimum for water sanitation with a pH around 5–6.5.

The flock is an integral part of the colony. The feed is produced on-farm in a computerized mill, and the grains are grown specifically for use by the flock. Being located in the Rosetown area means wheat is the cereal of choice, not corn. By milling their wheat, McGee Colony was able to change to a larger screen (a 1-inch screen) with several advantages:

  • There are less broken kernels. This reduces feed separation as it goes through the travelling hopper feed delivery system.
  • Whole wheat causes more feed grinding in the gizzard, so more endogenous enzymes are mixed with the feed. Feed passage is then slowed, allowing for better digestion and thus gut health.
  • Less electricity is required.
  • Faster feed throughput is achieved at the mill.

The integration of the poultry unit on the farm means the field crop operation is influenced by the poultry operation and the poultry operation is in turn influenced by the field crop operation. Manure is handled so that it is dried as rapidly as possible and initial moisture content is observed constantly.  Incoming water, as mentioned above, is treated to optimize pH as well as with chlorine. This combination helps to avoid excessively wet droppings.  

McGee’s rations do not contain meat meal, so their nutritionist at EMF Nutrition pays close attention to the osmotic balance of the ration, which also helps to reduce the fecal moisture. The inclusion of a yucca plant extract technology helps to reduce ammonia in the barn while also lowering the amount of ventilation required in the winter to remove ammonia, thus allowing for ease of maintaining daytime temperatures at 20 degrees Celsius and nighttime temperatures at 22 degrees Celsius in the winter.  

The manure, which is removed to the storage room at the end of the barn, has heated air from the barn drawn over it as it is exhausted from the barn. This also helps to further dry the manure. The dry manure is then removed from the storage area and allowed to cure before it is applied as fertilizer on the fields.  From this process, less nitrogen escapes from dry manure. The less the nitrogen escapes from the manure and the better bound the nitrogen is, the higher the nitrogen content is in the manure that is applied to the fields.  

McGee Colony also includes an enzyme technology in their rations to increase the digestibility of plant-based ingredients, thus reducing the need for supplemental phosphorus and decreasing the phosphorus levels in the manure. By lowering manure phosphorus and increasing nitrogen, McGee Colony can minimize the land required to accept the phosphorus while maximizing the amount of nitrogen applied from the manure. This nutrient management plan helps to reduce the nitrogen fertilizer required to meet the needs for next year’s crop.

Next year, the colony will be using a foliar-applied source of micronutrients on the land growing wheat for the poultry unit. This micronutrient application helps to optimize plant growth and harvest yield. Higher yield means less land required to grow crops for the poultry unit and more land for cash crops. Higher yield also means more nutrients removed, and the poultry manure can be spread over the land with less time and less fuel.

McGee Colony has also implemented some of the programs other successful layer operations have shared within the industry. Dave Coburn of Coburn Farms spoke about its “Best Flock Ever” (Canadian Poultry, April 2012), and mentioned including the Alltech Poultry Pak® program in addition to the use of large particle sizes to stimulate the gizzard. Both of these methods were implemented in the Coburn Farms program to improve gut health and ultimately egg production.   McGee Colony has also incorporated both of these programs to maximize their eggs per quota and feed efficiency. With these programs in place, in addition to improving soil management and yield with effective soil nutrient management, McGee Colony is successfully building a sustainable agricultural program.  

“The eggshells are better, even with the older 70 week birds, and we have less eggshell cracks than before,” said Jerry. “The birds are keeping their feathers longer and they always appear to be active.”

Published in Producers

April 13, 2016 – Andrew Campbell of Strathroy has been named the 2016 recipient of the Farm & Food Care Ontario Champion Award.

The award was presented at Farm & Food Care’s annual meeting on April 13 by Bruce Christie, a Farm & Food Care board member. Campbell was nominated for the award by the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture, with letters of support provided by Dairy Farmers of Ontario and writers from www.DinnerStartsHere.ca – a consumer-facing blog site populated by young Ontario farmers.

Middlesex Federation of Agriculture spokesperson Lucia Lilbourne describes Campbell as an eloquent individual who willingly takes every opportunity to engage consumers, and one who is very proactive in tackling challenges through a variety of channels. Justin Williams and Scott Snyder, farmers who write for Dinner Starts Here, says Campbell is “a true leader in the social media movement in Canadian agriculture.” They credit his hard work as the reason Dinner Starts Here is an effective consumer outreach initiative.

While active on a number of different media platforms, nominators cite Campbell’s #Farm365 initiative – a twitter campaign where he tweeted one photo a day from his farm – as a crowning achievement. The initiative, which lasted officially throughout 2015, was intended to give Canadians a look at dairy farming in Ontario; it garnered Campbell 17,500 Twitter followers, attracted international support and attention, and continues to be used by farmers and agricultural advocates in countries across the globe.

Campbell is also a dynamic speaker and volunteer, says Ralph Dietrich, chair of the board for Dairy Farmers of Ontario, which also participated in the successful program. Dietrich noted that Campbell has appeared on programs such as CTV and CBC News, CTV Canada AM, The Agenda with Steve Paikin and more. He and his #Farm365 initiative has also been the subject of many news articles, and he continues to act as a spokesperson for his industry in many formats.

Campbell is also an effective communications trainer and facilitator. According to the nominators, he is always willing to help others positively promote Canadian agriculture, whether through communications training, debate facilitation or volunteering his farm for events.

“Andrew is a true leader and an excellent representative for the next generation of farmers,” says Dietrich.The Champion Award has been presented annually, since 1999, to worthy agricultural advocates.

Farm & Food Care Ontario is a coalition of farmers, agriculture and food partners proactively working together to ensure public trust and confidence in food and farming. For more information visit www.farmfoodcareON.org

Published in Producers
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