Health leaders around the world are using words like “historical” and “possible turning point” to describe a declaration passed by the UN General Assembly aiming to slow down the spread of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. The declaration requires countries to come up with a two-year plan to protect the potency of antibiotics. Countries also need to create ways to monitor the use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, start curbing that use and begin developing new antibiotics that work.
Published in Health
Over one hundred years ago the wild turkey was a familiar sight in North America. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss decimated their population in Ontario but that has since changed. In 1986, approximately 4,400 wild turkeys were re-introduced, and according to Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs figures from 2007, that population has reached over 70,000 and continues to grow.
Published in Turkeys
In several parts of Ontario, poultry production is quite concentrated, which doesn’t bode well for preventing spread of disease in the event of an outbreak. Because of that, Tom Baker, project manager and incident commander at the Feather Board Command Centre (FBCC,) is co-ordinating a special project.
Published in Health
Nov. 30, 2016 - A local company has developed an electronic logbook system that can help the livestock industry quickly and easily track movement on and off farms – information that is absolutely critical for preventing or minimizing costly disease outbreaks.

Currently, a paper-based visitor register is the global standard for keeping track of who entered or left a farm property at what time and where they’d been previously.

A manual system is slow and leaves room for error, however, neither of which is helpful during a disease emergency, especially in the early days when spread can still be prevented or contained.

“It’s not just livestock that are affected by catastrophic disease outbreaks, it’s just as important for crop and horticulture growers to keep unclean vehicles moving from farm to farm,” says Tim Nelson, CEO of Be Seen Be Safe Ltd. “Uncontrolled disease populations increase exponentially and that’s why control is so important.”

Be Seen Be Safe uses predetermined geo-fence boundaries around a farm business to automatically record movements on and off the property, either through a mobile phone app or an in-vehicle GPS system used by the individual accessing or leaving the premises.

Property owners can download and review their electronic visitor records using a personal login; no movements outside of the pre-determined geo-fence around the property are recorded.

The information is collated and analysed to predict disease spread, and can then be used to electronically contact people within the surrounding area of a possible outbreak, a process that currently is done manually.

It runs in tandem with the company’s customizable Farm Health Monitor software, which lets farm staff record clinical signs of disease on-farm before there is a formal diagnosis as part of regular or special herd visits. The software also allows for inventory management of antibiotics on-farm, by letting users record both purchase and actual use of antimicrobials.

“This is a proactive decision support tool for farmers,” explains Nelson. “The Farm Health Monitor gives you the clinical signs, Be Seen Be Safe provides the movement, and when you overlay the weather on a network of properties, you can start to show risk that you can alert people to.”

“Everybody is worried about catastrophic diseases, but this is also powerful for production-limiting diseases that can be carried from farm to farm,” he adds. “If livestock and poultry sectors start to see cost benefit from this because it is reducing the rate of production-limiting illness, people will get used to observing and preventing instead of diagnosing and treating disease.”

First steps have been taken to build a farm sector-led biosecurity community with the hosting of a successful information day in Guelph recently.

The system is being trialed in the Ontario poultry industry, as well as with large poultry integrators in the United States, and an agreement is in place with a Spanish partner to roll it out to the swine industry in the European Union.

A pilot is also underway with the wine industry in Australia to track the spread of fomites, which can carry disease.

Be Seen Be Safe has received support from the Bioenterprise Seed Funding program funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. The Ontario poultry industry trials are supported in part through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.
Published in Biosecurity

The objective in vaccinating chickens against Campylobacter is to reduce intestinal colonization and contamination of chicken meat products. Existing experimental vaccines are not able to induce a sufficiently strong immune response, and provide no or little of protection against Campylobacter colonization. There is no commercially available vaccine against Campylobacter for chickens despite many attempts to develop one.

A collaborative project between the laboratories of Prof. Shayan Sharif and Prof. Mario Monterio from the University of Guelph was initiated to try to develop an effective vaccine against Campylobacter in chickens. A prototype vaccine consisting of capsular carbohydrates of C. jejuni conjugated with a carrier (CPSconj) developed by Prof. Monterio, formed the basis of the vaccine development in the current study.  Prof. Mopnterios’ CPSconj carrier has previously shown efficacy in a primate model. The efficacy of vaccination for reducing C. jejuni colonization of chicken intestinal tissues was assessed. Three administered doses of the prepared CPSconj vaccine resulted in a detectable antibody response in 75 per cent of specific pathogen free birds.  Whereas vaccination of commercial broiler chicks resulted in a detectable antibody response in 33 per cent of orally challenged birds.  Overall, the in vivo findings show CPSconj vaccinated birds had significantly lower numbers of C. jejuni in intestinal tissue when compared to non-vaccinated birds.  

The study went on to identify an immune response enhancer which is termed an “adjuvant”, with the specific capacity to induce immune responses in cells of the chicken intestine for inclusion in the prototype vaccine or as a stand-alone prophylactic compound.  In vitro studies demonstrated that adjuvant CpG-ODN elicited the highest activation of cell signaling molecules prevalent in immune responses and was therefore selected as the optimum mucosal vaccine adjuvant.  To target the selected adjuvant to the intestine of chickens and ensure slow release of the adjuvant at the site of infection, a delivery system based on encapsulating the adjuvant into specific nanoparticles was employed.  Results demonstrated that CpG-ODN administration reduced bacterial burden in the intestine and encapsulation of the CpG-ODN resulted in a greater decrease of bacterial burden in the chicken intestine.

Overall, Dr. Sharif and his research team have demonstrated that it is possible to employ a subunit vaccine for reducing Campylobacter jejuni in chickens.  Additionally, the research team has provided evidence for CpG-ODN as a stand-alone anti-bacterial prophylactic strategy.    Dr. Sharif and his research team will continue to explore better ways for control of Campylobacter jejuni  through the use of vaccines, immune stimulants and probiotics.

Published in Broilers

July 25, 2016 - The H5 avian influenza A virus that devastated North American poultry farms in 2014-15 was initially spread by migratory waterfowl, but evidence suggests such highly pathogenic flu viruses do not persist in wild birds. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital led the research, which appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While wild ducks and other aquatic birds are known to be natural hosts for low pathogenic flu viruses associated with milder symptoms, the results of this study indicate that is not the case with the highly pathogenic flu viruses that are associated with more severe illness. The research suggests that wild ducks and other aquatic birds are not an ongoing source of highly pathogenic flu infection in domestic poultry.

"The findings provide a scientific basis for the decision by officials to use culling and quarantines to stop the 2014-15 outbreak in domestic poultry," said corresponding author Robert Webster, Ph.D., an emeritus member of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases. "Now, research is needed to identify the mechanism that has evolved in these wild birds to disrupt the perpetuation of highly pathogenic influenza." | READ MORE.

Published in Biosecurity

May 6, 2016 - Poultry barns provide an ideal environment for house fly populations to thrive if sufficient control methods are not in place. Controlling house fly populations is important for maintaining a healthy barn environment. Without control methods, large fly populations can:

  • •damage equipment and increase biosecurity risk
  • •decrease poultry production
  • •affect relationships with neighbours

Flies can also be carriers of food-borne diseases, carrying bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli from one location to another.

Controlling flies involves the combined use of different methods:

  • •barn management
  • •biological control
  • •mechanical control
  • •chemical control

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA) book, “House Fly Control in Poultry Barns,” describes integrated pest management practices and provides information on different control methods for effective house fly control. The book is a great resource that can help you tailor fly control strategies to match your unique farming situation.

Visit to download a PDF version of the book.  You can also order free copies from ServiceOntario at or 1-800-668-9938





Published in Researchers

Should a producer find him or herself facing avian influenza or another catastrophic disease event, Ontario turkey producer Bob McCauley has the following advice to share: “keep track of everything.”

McCauley manages the turkey farm that was the first to be infected with avian influenza (AI) in southwestern Ontario last spring. Speaking at a Poultry Industry Council (PIC) Producer Update in February, McCauley was candid about how stressful the experience of dealing with AI was, and the importance of keeping record of everyone he talked to, what they talked about and next steps. When under such stress, it’s not easy to keep track of who said what – and when your livelihood is at stake, you want to make sure everyone is held accountable and stay in control of your own operation.

Despite having robust biosecurity plans for poultry facilities in place, unfortunately avian influenza can still find its way into a barn (see comments from Jim Dean, CEO of Center Fresh Group, on page 37). While good biosecurity practices focus on keeping a pathogen such as AI out of a barn, since the AI outbreak in British Columbia in 2004, much work has been done in Canada to understand how to minimize its spread to other facilities once a pathogen does get into a barn. Just as McCauley wanted to keep track of what was going on at his farm during AI recovery, it’s crucial that industry track everything and everyone that had been on his farm in the days before his birds showed symptoms.

Service providers, suppliers and other vehicles moving from farm to farm pose a significant risk of disease spread. This has been looked at extensively and much work has been done to understand and mitigate this risk. At the same PIC Producer Update meeting in February, Tom Baker, incident commander of the Feather Board Command Centre (FBCC), said that connectedness through people, equipment and service providers caused avian influenza to spread rapidly in the U.S. last year, and was “much more significant than airborne transmission.”

But performing a traceback to determine which farms may be at risk from contact through a shared provider is not instantaneous. The Canadian poultry industry as a whole has gotten much better at reducing the time required to perform such a traceback. This can be seen in the reduced number of farms infected in B.C. in 2014 versus 2004, and the fact that AI was limited to three premises in Ontario in 2015.  

While executive director of the PIC, Tim Nelson wanted to find a more immediate solution. After several years of working with a technology partner, Nelson, now CEO of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC), is seeing his vision become reality. The “Be Seen Be Safe” app (see full story on page 10) acts as a virtual logbook, recording the movement of who comes on and off a farm and logging the information in a central database. During an emergency, Be Seen Be Safe can quickly analyze visitor information obtained from an infected property and plot the movement of visitors to that property throughout its infectious period, where they came from and where they went in order to identify potentially infected secondary properties.  

While the app is not meant to replace good biosecurity practices on-farm, it offers industry the potential to keep AI incidents rapidly contained so that, hopefully, disease incidents can be kept to one or two farms and the industry can get back to business sooner.

Published in New Technology

February 17, 2016 – New research has shown that tackling antibiotic resistance on only one front is a waste of time because resistant genes are freely crossing environmental.

Analysis of historic soil archives dating back to 1923 has revealed a clear parallel between the appearance of antibiotic resistance in medicine and similar antibiotic resistant genes detected over time in agricultural soils treated with animal manure.

Collected in Denmark – where antibiotics were banned in agriculture from the 1990s for non-therapeutic use – the soil archives provide an 'antibiotic resistance timeline' that reflects resistant genes found in the environment and the evolution of the same types of antibiotic resistance in medicine.

Led by Newcastle University, UK, the study also showed that the repeated use of animal manure and antibiotic substitutes can increase the capacity of soil bacteria to mobilize, or ready themselves, and acquire resistance genes to new antibiotics.

Publishing their findings in the academic journal Scientific Reports, the study's authors say the data highlights the importance of reducing antibiotic use across all sectors if we are to reduce global antibiotic resistance.

"The observed bridge between clinical and agricultural antibiotic resistance means we are not going to solve the resistance problem just by reducing the number of antibiotics we prescribe in our GP clinics,” said lead author David Graham, professor of ecosystems engineering at Newcastle University.

"To reduce the global rise in resistance, we need to reduce use and improve antibiotic stewardship across all sectors. If this is not done, antibiotic resistance from imprudent sectors will cross-contaminate the whole system and we will quickly find ourselves in a situation where our antibiotics are no longer effective."

Antibiotics have been used in medicine since the 1930s, saving millions of lives. Two decades later, they were introduced into agricultural practices and Denmark was among the leaders in employing antibiotics to increase agricultural productivity and animal production.

However, a growing awareness of the antibiotic resistance crisis and continued debate over who and which activities are most responsible led to the EU calling for the use of antibiotics in non-therapeutic settings to be phased out and Denmark led the way.

The Askov Long-Term Experiment station in Denmark was originally set up in 1894 to study the role of animal manure versus inorganic fertilizers on soil fertility.

Analyzing the samples, the team – involving experts from Newcastle University, the University of Strathclyde and Aarhus University – were able to measure the relative abundance of specific β-lactam antibiotic resistant genes, which can confer resistance to a class of antibiotics that are of considerable medical importance.

Prior to 1960, the team found low levels of the genes in both the manured soil and that treated with inorganic fertilizer. However, by the mid 1970s, levels of selected β-lactam genes started to increase in the manured soils, with levels peaking in the mid 1980's. No increase or change was detected in the soil treated with inorganic fertilizer.

"We chose these resistant genes because their appearance and rapid increase in hospitals from 1963 to 1989 is well-documented," explains Professor Graham.

"By comparing the two timelines, we saw the appearance of each specific gene in the soil samples was consistent with the evolution of similar types of resistance in medicine. So the question now is not which came first, clinical or environmental resistance, but what do we do about it?"

Following the ban on non-therapeutic antibiotic use in Danish agriculture, farmers substituted metals for antibiotics, such as copper, and levels of the key β-lactam genes in the manured soils declined rapidly, reaching pre-industrialization levels by 2010.

However, at the same time the team measured a 10-fold rise in Class 1 Integrons. These are gene carrier and exchange molecules – transporters that allow bacteria to readily share genes, including resistance genes.

These findings suggest the application of manure and antibiotic substitutes, such as copper, may be 'priming' the soils, readying them for increased resistance transmission in the future.

"Once antibiotics were banned, operators substituted them with copper which has natural antibiotic properties," explains Professor Graham.

"More research is needed but our findings suggest that by substituting antibiotics for metals such as copper we may have increased the potential for resistance transmission.

"Unless we reduce use and improve stewardship across all sectors – environmental, clinical and agricultural – we don't stand a chance of reducing antibiotic resistance in the future."

Published in Environment

July 30, 2015 - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has removed the final Avian Influenza Control Zone, located in the counties of Oxford and Waterloo, Ont.

The quarantine on IP2 (infected premise #2) has been removed at the completion of the 21-day waiting period that followed the cleaning and disinfection process under CFIA oversight.

The information table for infected premises has been updated on the Agency's website.

Permits are no longer required for the movement of birds and bird products in Ontario.

Removal of Avian Influenza Control Zones is a Canadian domestic measure and has no impact on export of poultry or poultry products.

A 3-month enhanced surveillance period following the cleaning and disinfection of all IPs is required by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) before a zone will recover its avian influenza free status.

The cooperation and support of the Province of Ontario, the poultry industry and the owners of the infected birds were critical to the successful control of this outbreak and the removal of the control zones.

The CFIA continues to remind poultry owners to take an active role in protecting their flocks by employing strict biosecurity measures on their property, and immediately reporting any signs of illness.

For more information on avian influenza and measures poultry farmers can take to protect their flocks, please visit the CFIA website at

Published in Biosecurity

July 30, 2015 - For months, Canadian farmers have endured a concerted attack on the system that brings Canadians the dairy, poultry and egg products they trust. As the pressure to conclude the TPP negotiations in Hawaii this week mounts, so does rhetoric and the proliferation of misperceptions surrounding supply management through certain attacks in the media, and by some think tanks and those with vested interests.

In this light, farmers would like an opportunity to address these myths.

Supply Management does not raise prices for consumers

We do not set retail prices. Retailers and restaurants charge what they feel the market will bear. They set the price for food – and for everything else – for many reasons that have nothing to do with how much the farmer receives, including retailer competition, brand positioning, cost of competing items and specials to get consumers in the store.

Despite that: Chicken is currently the least expensive meat protein. Over the last two years, the price of chicken has risen by only 3 per cent, compared to over 20 per cent for other meats, freely traded at that.

A Nielsen study showed that in 2014, consumers paid an average of $1.30/litre for fresh milk in Canada, as compared with $1.83 in New Zealand, $1.81 in France, $1.15 in the U.S, $1.19 in Germany, and $2.35 in China.
The average annual retail price for whole frozen turkeys in Canada over the last 15 years was $2.92 per kg, vs. $3.34 per kg in the United States; sometimes a little higher – more often lower,  but not ever wildly out of range with the U.S.

You can buy a dozen eggs, the most complete protein source available for less than the price of a latte.
The biggest determinant of how much we pay for dairy, poultry and egg products isn't supply management – it's where and when we shop.

Supply management is not blocking the TPP

The Government of Canada has successfully negotiated twelve trade agreements with 43 countries since 1994 and all of these have opened up new markets, improved trade rules, and preserved supply management. This is a successful negotiating formula and we are confident that the government will be able to do it again at the TPP. It works because Canada is already the 6th largest importer of agri-food products and 1st on a per capita basis; we don't need to take any lessons on market access from other countries.Every single country involved in the TPP has something that they want to keep. The United States, for example, has a long history of restrictive import protection in the sugar and dairy industries; Japan has a long history of protecting the rice sector; and New Zealand has always vigorously defended its pharmaceutical program.

Supply Management is not subsidized

Canada's dairy, poultry and egg industries receive no government subsidies, unlike other agricultural sectors.  In countries without supply management (and even here in Canada), other sectors are heavily subsidized.Consumers pay twice for most food, once through their taxes (whether they buy it or not), and again at the grocery counter.  With dairy, poultry and egg products, you only pay for it if you buy it.

Canada isn't a closed market

Canada is an important market for countries the world over – even for supply managed products. Canada imports more chicken, for example, than six of the TPP countries (including the U.S.) combined.What's ironic is that New Zealand and Australia, the media darlings of international trade, whom we are encouraged to emulate, import no chicken.

Supply Management Makes a Difference to Canada's Economy

  • 16,667 farmers
  • 332,006 total jobs
  • $11.3 billion in farm cash receipts
  • $27.5 billion to Canada's GDP
  • $6.4 billion in taxes
Dismantling supply management will not lower consumer prices

In countries where supply management has been dismantled, such as Australia and New Zealand, prices have actually gone up for consumers, while revenue for farmers has gone down or stayed the same.The average domestic price for two litres of milk in New Zealand jumped 11.3 per cent from May 2013 to May 2015, despite being a major milk exporter, and having one of the lowest costs of production in the world.

Nielsen's global price comparison (52 weeks ending December 2014) shows milk is about $1.30 a litre for Canadian fresh milk, which compares well with the 1.83 in New Zealand, and 1.81 in France, 1.15 in the United States, 1.19 in Germany, while China's prices are more expensive at $2.35 a litre.

Even in Canberra, Australia's capital, 30 eggs cost $6.69 CAD while, at the same time, they cost $5.99 in Ottawa.
Presuming and promising lower prices prematurely assumes that retailers will pass on lower prices to consumers.

Supply management helps food safety systems work

Canadian farmers are known worldwide for their stringent food safety systems. Not all farmers outside of Canada adhere to the same standards.Dairy, poultry and egg farmers are obligated to follow strict on-farm programs that ensure that the highest on-farm standards are followed, from food safety to biosecurity—and supply management allows them to be enforced.

Supply management is risk management

Supply managed farmers are able to avoid bust periods that can happen for reasons like animal disease (both domestic and international), which often force other farm sectors to use government support programs and subsidies in order to ride out the storm.

In a recent interview, Ontario Agriculture Minister, Jeff Leal, credited supply management for saving rural Ontario from "total collapse" during an outbreak of BSE – because stable revenues from one sector allowed all the other businesses that serve farmers to ride out the downturn.

There are more than 1,000 egg farms in Canada in all parts of the country with an average flock size of about 23,000 compared to about 200 farms in the U.S. concentrated mainly in a few states with an average flock size of 1.5 million. Thanks to supply management, which has assured the stability of the family farm, when a crisis like high path Avian Influenza hits in Canada, farmers can contain, mitigate and buffer Canadian consumers and protect our animals, without the uncertainty of relying on imports.

Get the facts

Farmers are growing increasingly concerned about having their industries misrepresented in certain media.  It's time that people had the facts – or at the very least, the other side of the story.

For more information on how supply management works for Canada and Canadians, please refer to the following sites:

Dairy -
Eggs -
Chicken - www.chickenfarmers.
Turkey -

Published in Farm Business

April 6, 2015 - Preliminary testing by the Animal Health Lab at University of Guelph has confirmed the presence of a highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza in a commercial turkey flock west of Woodstock in Oxford County.

On behalf of the four feather boards, the Feather Board Command Centre is issuing a heightened biosecurity  advisory to all commercial producers and small flock growers in a 10 km area around the farm.

The farm has been quarantined. Further tests are being carried out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The FBCC is providing advice to the farmer and working closely with  the provincial and federal government in the response to this serious infectious disease.  

Be very diligent in observing your flocks. Monitor mortalities and track feed and water consumption. Take an active role in protecting your birds by employing strict heightened biosecurity measures on your property.

You are urged to heighten biosecurity measures; please refer to biosecurity material that has been provided to you. Please alert any visitors to your farm that you have heightened your biosecurity because of this situation and keep a logbook of movement in relation to your farm. Minimize visits to other poultry production sites, avoid exchanging equipment with other poultry production sites or ensure that it is washed and disinfected. Ensure all personnel in contact with birds wear boots, protective suits, head coverings and gloves/handwashing. Ensure adequate control of vermin and wild birds.

Birds with outdoor access should not share areas with wild ducks, geese, or shorebirds. Make sure free-range areas do not have attractions for wild waterfowl, such as a pond or open feeders, which may become contaminated with wild waterfowl droppings. Be prepared to cover your entire yard with netting or to enclose your birds under roofed cover if necessary.

Should you suspect any signs of health concerns in your flock, please contact your veterinarian as well as your Board or call 1-877-SOS-BYRD. For more information see OMAFRA news release from March 12.

Published in Turkeys

Jan. 9, 2014 - An Alberta individual who recently returned from a trip to China has passed away, making them the first North American to die of the H5N1 strain of flu.

According to the Globe and Mail, the person’s gender, age, profession or name have not been revealed, due to patient confidentiality. However, travel details for the individual were provided - they flew from Beijing to Vancouver and Vancouver to Edmonton on December 27, 2013.

The Albertan victim was admitted to hospital on Jan. 1 and passed away on Jan. 3.

Published in Consumer
Dec. 17, 2013, Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has released its Salmonella Action Plan that outlines the steps it will take to address the most pressing problem it faces - Salmonella in meat and poultry products.

An estimated 1.3 million illnesses can be attributed to Salmonella every year. “Far too many Americans are sickened by Salmonella every year. The aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella Action Plan will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer.” said the under secretary for food safety, Elisabeth Hagen.

The Salmonella Action Plan is the agency’s strategy to best address the threat of Salmonella in meat and poultry products. The plan identifies modernizing the outdated poultry slaughter inspection system as a top priority. By focusing inspectors’ duties solely on food safety, at least 5,000 illnesses can be prevented each year.  

Enhancing Salmonella sampling and testing programs is also part of this comprehensive effort,  ensuring that these programs factor in the latest scientific information available and account for emerging trends in foodborne illness. Inspectors will also be empowered with the tools necessary to expeditiously pinpoint problems. With more information about a plant’s performance history and with better methods for assessing in-plant conditions, inspectors will be better positioned to detect Salmonella earlier, before it can cause an outbreak.

In addition, the plan outlines several actions FSIS will take to drive innovations that will lower Salmonella contamination rates, including establishing new performance standards; developing new strategies for inspection and throughout the full farm-to-table continuum; addressing all potential sources of Salmonella; and focusing the Agency’s education and outreach tools on Salmonella.

These efforts will build upon the work that USDA has done over the past several years. In 2011, USDA strengthened the performance standards for Salmonella in poultry with a goal of significantly reducing illnesses by 20,000 per year.  And through the Salmonella Initiative Program, plants are now using processing techniques designed to directly reduce Salmonella in raw meat and poultry.  Thanks to these innovative technologies and tough policies, Salmonella rates in young chickens have dropped over 75 percent since 2006.

For more information about the new Salmonella Action Plan, visit
Published in Eggs - Breeders
With the ever-increasing reach of the Internet, technology has become an important part of how any business or organization communicates with its customers, the industry and the general public. One of the best ways to do that is through a website – but how do you communicate in a secure and efficient way during a serious event, like a disease outbreak, and make sure that everyone receives the information they need?

The Feather Board Command Centre (FBCC), an organization has served as an informal information hub since 2003 for the four poultry marketing boards in Ontario – Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Egg Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission, and Turkey Farmers of Ontario – now plays a leadership role in emergency disease management.

Dr. Tom Baker, a consultant and incident commander at FBCC, says that over the years, the FBCC has made progress in a variety of ways to help the poultry industry: geo-spatial coding of poultry farm locations, disease outbreak simulations, biosecurity practices and more.

As well, the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program provided financial assistance to make the collaboration with the marketing boards official and improve emergency management planning and rapid response/recovery capacity, including the development of an Emergency Management Plan.

Thanks to the funding, the FBCC was able to create a new and secure website to help co-ordinate emergency responses, convey communication and recovery initiatives as well as provide access to maps and other useful resources.

“FBCC aspires to have an emergency-free Ontario poultry industry through industry-led disease incident risk management,” said Baker.

“When notified of a disease incident, FBCC maps the involved area and advises all farmers in the affected zone to institute heightened biosecurity measures. Poultry industry associations and poultry veterinarians are also alerted of the need for heightened biosecurity and provided with a buffered zone map.”

The website will be used as a way to avoid constant e-mailing among staff, agencies, experts, etc. and centralize all the information, including manuals, test results and biosecurity resources.

Added Baker: “Previously, feather boards communicated with their members and stakeholders primarily through their own websites and newsletters. It was long recognized that timeliness, security, and consistency would be enhanced with an integrated secure (or ‘dark’) website. The new website went live in the spring of 2013 and was used successfully in the two-day FBCC Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) Simulation in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF), Animal Health Laboratory (University of Guelph) and the Ontario Livestock and Poultry Council (OLPC).”

Website Features
The goal of the new FBCC website, according to Baker, is to provide:
  • efficient and secure internal information exchange with access based on the individual’s response role and information needs
  • common timely messaging of disease incident status
  • alignment of key messages with those of government
  • access to critical information resources, such as the Emergency Response Plan, biosecurity resources, technical fact sheet, etc.
  • documentation access
  • efficient staff management according to the Incident Command System functional structure used by emergency responders
  • entryway to government regulatory processes (for example, movement permit applications)
  • timely and common messaging amongst the four feather boards to co-ordinate information sharing with all government, laboratory and industry stakeholders and partners.
  • archival information to learn from past incidents
  • forum to discuss policy and scientific issues
  • access to the website via mobile devices
Invitation Only
One of the most notable features of the new FBCC website is that the general public cannot access it in any way; it is securely protected and offers only limited access to individuals within
the industry.

Baker says that one of the main reasons for this drastic change in access is due to the risk of misinterpreted information getting into the public domain. “In several international disease incidents, media curiosity has been a significant deterrent to effective information exchange amongst responders,” he said. “And in some cases, the biosecurity on site was threatened.”

There are three levels of access for the website:

Level 1 – those who manage content (update messages, assign staff, verify completed tasks, document), such as assigned Incident Command staff and Section Chiefs

Level 2 – staff with Incident Command co-ordination responsibilities

Level 3 – those who view only, in declining order of access:
  • designated government liaison and communication staff
  • FBCC Board members
  • Advisory Group members (view and participate in Forum discussions)
  • key stakeholder and partner associations
  • individual key enterprises and producers
  • guests and media (location map with zones, disease summary)
Future applications
The FBCC site is also extremely versatile and could be developed into a news source.

“This website could be expanded into a livestock and poultry web portal that would allow other livestock and crop organizations faced with emergency response challenges to have secure access to its customized features.”

However, he is quick to point out that the FBCC site currently only meets the most basic initial emergency response needs, as it is only a skeleton framework for a potentially more comprehensive site. Visitors to the site, Baker adds, have been incredibly useful.

“Users of the site see many new possibilities for enhancements that can serve industry needs throughout the whole emergency management continuum from report of disease suspicion, through to response, movement controls and recovery,” he said.

The goal is to make the FBCC website a “one-stop” website for emergency disease management resources.
Published in Researchers
Spent fowl meat is a byproduct of the egg and hatchery industries. After about 60 weeks, the egg production of laying hens declines, and they are taken out of production and processed for their meat, which is usually used to make further-processed foods. Although spent fowl meat processing is an important source of economic activity in some parts of Canada, its potential use as a front to import regular broiler chicken meat without import quota is causing headaches for the broiler industry.

The Good

Canadian spent fowl meat production provides about one quarter of Canadian demand, and the rest must therefore be imported, says Robert de Valk, general manager at the Further Poultry Processors Association of Canada (FPPAC). “We’ve worked hard to find uses for this byproduct meat,” he says, “due to our success, we are exporting fowl meat products to 34 countries.”

Chicken products made using spent fowl meat are usually less expensive than broiler meat, de Valk notes. “It’s used to provide consumers and restaurants with lower-cost nuggets and patties. It has a legitimate and important place in the Canadian market.”

The Bad
The problem arises because there seems to be collective agreement that broiler meat, mostly from the U.S, is being imported into Canada under the guise of being meat derived from spent fowl.

Importing regular chicken meat as spent fowl is lucrative because the cost of the import permit is avoided, allowing cheaper, imported “spent fowl” meat to be legally sold on the Canadian chicken market, de Valk explains – thus, it is undercutting Canadian wholesale chicken prices.

De Valk adds, “Ironically, having a strong spent fowl meat product market –  availability of lower-priced chicken products – is one of the reasons supply management has been able to last as long as it has in Canada, significantly longer than it has in its current form in other countries, because consumer demand for lower-priced chicken products is met.”

The Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) 2012 Annual Report states that in 2012, spent fowl meat imports were 28 per cent higher than in 2011, but de Valk says the increase has slowed down this year, likely because the issue has become public. He notes that illegal spent fowl meat is often marketed to unsuspecting small provincial processing plants and restaurants. “Our members are likely the biggest users of imported chicken meat, including fowl, and have always followed the applicable rules,” says de Valk.

The Accurate?
Mike Dungate, CFC executive director, says that significant imports of broiler chicken meat are being mislabelled as spent fowl products in order to avoid import controls, and this is having a very large impact on chicken farmers and on the economy of Canada. “This year so far, Canada has imported 112 per cent of the entire U.S. production of spent fowl,” he explains. “For this to all be spent fowl meat is completely impossible, as it would assume that no spent fowl meat is being used in the U.S. for various products. And if we just count the 12 per cent, that represents $66 million in lost import taxes to our country’s coffers.”

Because the issue has been paid attention to, Dungate says the smugglers are becoming inventive and perhaps blending the meat with shipments containing no more than 49 per cent broiler meat. And imports of spent fowl currently equate to 10 per cent of Canadian chicken production.

Dungate also points to a report from the Guelph, Ont.-based George Morris Centre (GMC) that says this results in 8,900 fewer jobs being created in Canada and a $591 million lower contribution by Canadian chicken farmers and processors to Canada’s GDP per year.

De Valk counters that GMC’s loss estimates are taken from calculations that he does not see as realistic. “These calculations of losses assume that if consumers were presented with cheaper products such as nuggets labelled as containing spent fowl meat, they would automatically choose to buy the broiler meat ones, but that’s not necessarily true,” he states. Moreover, he says spent fowl meat activity creates just as much economic activity and jobs at the further processing level as broiler chicken meat, another point, he says, that the authors of the GMC report glossed over.

What to Do
De Valk reports that all poultry industry groups in Canada and the pertinent ones in the U.S. are working to stop shipments of broiler meat that are coming into Canada as spent fowl. These efforts also involve regulatory elements such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as well as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). While genetic testing is not an option because layers and broilers are the same species, Dungate says CFC is supporting research into ways spent fowl meat and broiler meat can be distinguished.

 In terms of what CFC sees as a solution, Dungate states that firstly, the CFIA must implement a mandatory certification process. “Secondly, the CBSA must classify blended products as chicken because there is no test to distinguish spent fowl [meat] from broiler [chicken meat], and the blended content cannot be verified,” Dungate explains. “Thirdly, the CFIA must require truth in labelling to inform consumers; spent fowl is not chicken and carries egg allergy risks. Consumers do not know if they are buying spent fowl because it is all labelled as chicken. As my chairman says: if it’s not ‘chicken’ at the border how can it be ‘chicken’ in the grocery store.”

He also notes that recent survey results undertaken by Leger Marketing show that 74 per cent of Canadians want spent fowl to be clearly labelled.

To Label or Not to Label 
“We understand that processors and importers are not in favour of consumer labelling of spent fowl. It’s fine in the eyes of chicken farmers to not have spent fowl labelled as such for consumers as long as it is labelled as chicken when it comes across the border,” Dungate says. “There is a tariff rate quota system in Canada wherein all chicken imports up to 7.5 per cent of Canadian chicken production are duty-free, but the over-quota tariff beyond that point is prohibitive. But there’s a problem for if we don’t label spent fowl that can affect consumers and the entire industry.”

Labelling isn’t a solution in de Valk’s view for several reasons. “It distorts the issue. Yes, if consumers are offered more information, they will always say yes, but to say that labelling will stop the illegal chicken imports is misleading.”

All Agree it’s Illegal 
De Valk continues, “No one wants illegal activity. We need to focus on stopping illegal chicken imports, and not using this issue as an excuse to push for labelling and make spent fowl meat look inferior to consumers. CFC is using this as an opportunity to try and do exactly that, to try and make it seem to consumers that they must pay the price for ‘real chicken.’ But spent fowl meat is chicken meat.

Dungate adds, “CFC has been contacted by the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council and is aware there have been meetings on certification to which CFC has not been invited,” he says. “We do sincerely hope that processors and further processors are pursuing real certification that will stamp out this illegal activity and are not engaged in setting up a paper exercise that looks good but does not have any actual impact.”
Published in Emerging Trends
Poultry disease prevention draws on a broad range of tools. Management, biosecurity, genetic selection, vaccination and antimicrobials all play important parts. While often used to great effect, these tools are not without their shortcomings. For example, vaccines are not available for certain diseases and are not effective when an immediate protective effect is required, as is the case in a disease outbreak.

Furthermore, the use of antimicrobials is under increasing scrutiny and pressure is mounting to find alternatives to these compounds. The Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) is therefore supporting research designed to investigate the possibility of stimulating natural immunity in poultry to complement existing disease control strategies.

Nature’s Defence    
The avian immune system is the product of a remarkable evolution that defends the body against a range of pathogens. Immune responses can be broadly categorized as adaptive or innate.

Adaptive immunity involves recognition of specific components of invading organisms called antigens. Organisms or objects presenting these antigens are recognized as foreign and, through a complex cascade of events involving many molecules and cell types, are attacked and eliminated from the body. The adaptive arm of the immune system remembers the invading organism and is primed to launch a robust attack if it recognizes the corresponding antigen again.

The innate component of the immune system can clear an infection even before an antigen-specific immune response is developed. Years of immune system research has led to the development of the danger hypothesis, whereby the immune system can rapidly respond to characteristic features, or molecular patterns, of invading pathogens. This innate or natural immune response is the first line of defence against a broad range of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.

Enhancing Natural Immunity
Researchers are attempting to enhance the innate immune system by presenting it with elements typical of various pathogens – fooling it into thinking a pathogen is present. Dr. Susantha Gomis at the University of Saskatchewan used small pieces of DNA with molecular patterns characteristic of bacterial DNA to stimulate innate immune responses. When injected into the egg, these molecules can protect chicks from Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium infections. The protective effect is relatively short-lived, however.

Gomis’ group is experimenting with different formulations that protect the molecules from degradation in the body; the longer they stick around, the longer the immune system remains primed and ready to combat potential invaders.

Similarly, Dr. Mohamed Faizal Abdul Careem at the University of Calgary has demonstrated that other compounds typically present in bacteria can be used to stimulate innate immunity and protect chickens from challenge with the Infectious Bronchitis virus. Lab studies also showed the ability of these compounds to inhibit replication of Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT) virus. A paper on the mechanism of ILT virus inhibition was published in the October 2013 issue of Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology.

Industry application
Drs. Gomis and Careem are currently testing to see if their formulations are effective upon injection into the egg at day 18 of incubation for applications in the industry and in academia. If so, they could easily be incorporated into egg vaccinations routinely performed at many commercial hatcheries. This research may provide industry with another tool to help protect poultry from disease. We’ll provide more updates as things progress.

Funding for Dr. Gomis’ work is provided by CPRC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Saskatchewan Chicken Industry Development Fund (SCIDF) and Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). Dr. Careem’s work is funded by CPRC, the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, NSERC and ALMA.

  • Progress continues to be made on ways to stimulate natural immunity and help protect poultry from various infections.
  • Results thus far are promising, showing protection from bacteria and respiratory viruses.
  • Work is underway to further enhance protection, make it last longer, and make the technology practical for industry use.
For more details on any CPRC activities, please contact The Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, Ont. K1R 7S8. Phone: 613-566-5916, fax: 614-241-5999,
e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at 

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 Broilers
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Dec. 11, 2013 - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is implementing a voluntary plan with industry to phase out the use of certain antibiotics for enhanced food production.

Antibiotics are added to the animal feed or drinking water of cattle, hogs, poultry and other food-producing animals to help them gain weight faster or use less food to gain weight.

Because all uses of antimicrobial drugs, in both humans and animals, contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance, it is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary. Governments around the world consider antimicrobial-resistant bacteria a major threat to public health. Illnesses caused by drug-resistant strains of bacteria are more likely to be potentially fatal when the medicines used to treat them are rendered less effective.

FDA is working to address the use of “medically important” antibiotics in food-producing animals for production uses, such as to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency. These drugs are deemed important because they are also used to treat human disease and might not work if the bacteria they target become resistant to the drugs’ effects.

“We need to be selective about the drugs we use in animals and when we use them,” says William Flynn, DVM, MS, deputy director for science policy at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). “Antimicrobial resistance may not be completely preventable, but we need to do what we can to slow it down.”

FDA is issuing a final guidance document that explains how animal pharmaceutical companies can work with the agency to voluntarily remove growth enhancement and feed efficiency indications from the approved uses of their medically important antimicrobial drug products, and move the therapeutic uses of these products from over-the-counter (OTC) availability to marketing status requiring veterinary oversight.

Once manufacturers voluntarily make these changes, the affected products can then only be used in food-producing animals to treat, prevent or control disease under the order of or by prescription from a licensed veterinarian.

“This action promotes the judicious use of important antimicrobials, which protects public health and, at the same time, ensures that sick and at-risk animals receive the therapy they need,” says CVM Director Bernadette Dunham, DVM, Ph.D. “We realize that these steps represent changes for veterinarians and animal producers, and we have been working to make this transition as seamless as possible.”

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Drugs Primarily in Feed

Flynn explains that all the drugs affected by this plan are antibacterial products. They have long been FDA-approved for production (e.g. growth enhancement) purposes as well as for the treatment, control or prevention of animal diseases. Even today, he says, it is not entirely understood how these drugs make animals grow faster. The drugs are primarily added to feed, although they are sometimes added to the animals’ drinking water.

Bacteria evolve to survive threats to their existence. In both humans and animals, even appropriate therapeutic uses of antibiotics can promote the development of drug resistant bacteria. When such bacteria enter the food supply, they can be transferred to the people who eat food from the treated animal.

In 2010, FDA called for a strategy to phase out production use of medically important antimicrobial products and to bring the remaining therapeutic uses under the oversight of a veterinarian. The guidance document that FDA is issuing on Dec. 11, 2013, which was previously issued in draft form in 2012, lays out such a strategy and marks the beginning of the formal implementation period.

The agency is asking animal pharmaceutical companies to notify FDA within the next three months of their intent to voluntarily make the changes recommended in the guidance. Based on timeframes set out in the guidance, these companies would then have three years to fully implement these changes.

To help veterinarians and producers of food-producing animals comply with the new terms of use for these products once the recommended changes are implemented, FDA is proposing changes to the Veterinary Feed Directives (VFD) process. This is an existing system that governs the distribution and use of certain drugs (VFD drugs) that can only be used in animal feed with the specific authorization of a licensed veterinarian. Flynn explains that feed-use antibiotics that are considered medically important and are currently available as OTC products will, as a result of implementation of the guidance document, come under the VFD process.

The proposed changes to the VFD process are intended to clarify the administrative requirements for the distribution and use of VFD drugs and improve the efficiency of the VFD program. Such updates to the VFD process will assist in the transition of OTC products to their new VFD status.

Why Voluntary?

Flynn explains that the final guidance document made participation voluntary because it is the fastest, most efficient way to make these changes. FDA has been working with associations that include those representing drug companies, the feed industry, producers of beef, pork and turkey, as well as veterinarians and consumer groups.

"Based on our outreach, we have every reason to believe that animal pharmaceutical companies will support us in this effort," says Michael R. Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.
Published in Nutrition and Feed
This is a transmission electron micrograph of normal, wild type (left) and EPS cluster mutant (right) L. johnsonii. The mutant on the right has a much reduced EPS coat.
Photo courtesy of IFR.

Nov. 19, 2013 - FR researchers have characterised the coat of a potential poultry probiotic, giving the first clues of how it may be used to exclude pathogenic bacteria from chickens.

Lactobacillus johnsonii has previously been shown to exclude Clostridium perfringens from the guts of poultry, opening the door to it being developed as a way of reducing necrotic enteritis in poultry and food poisoning in humans. Recently, researchers at the Institute of Food Research, which is strategically supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, found that the bacteria make coats for themselves that play important roles in colonisation in this strain.

Now, in a study published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, the researchers present the first characterisation of what makes up this coat. This will give us a better idea of the role of the coat and help in the development of these bacteria as a way of combatting C. perfringens.

Using NMR spectroscopy, the researchers discovered that the coat is made up of two types of exopolysaccharides (EPS), which are long sugar-containing molecules that many bacteria use to encapsulate themselves. This capsule may help the bacteria to cope with environmental stress, or aid colonisation and adhesion. Different bacterial strains have different EPS structures, and understanding this is important as they represent a key way bacteria interact with the world around them.

'Characterising the EPS structures in the L. johnsonii strain is the first step to explaining how it might outcompete C. perfringens.' said Dr Arjan Narbad.

Previous studies had identified potential genes in L. johnsonii for producing EPS, giving the researchers tools to probe how the bacteria synthesise these molecules. Knocking out the whole cluster of EPS genes meant the bacteria produced no capsule. Further analysis of the genes by IFR PhD student Enes Dertli uncovered their potential roles in the capsule biosynthesis process but more research is needed to fully understand the system, and also how it is regulated.

The structures of these two EPS molecules appear to be unique to this strain. Structural features, such as the phosphorylation patterns, are likely to be a major influence on how well bacteria adhere. Other structural modifications such as acetylation are thought to help protect the EPS from the enzymes produced by gut bacteria.

This strain of Lactobacillus johnsonii is now being taken through farm-scale trials to assess its potential use to combat pathogenic infections of poultry by bacteria such as C. perfringens. This study provides insights into exactly how this works, and future work will focus on unpicking how the EPS molecules in the coat contribute to colonisation and pathogen exclusion.

For moreinformation, visit
Published in Nutrition and Feed
Agricultural disease is one of the biggest hurdles for any farmer, processor or industry to overcome; never mind the damage it causes to the environment and economy of a region. While the implementation of biosecurity measures is key in the control of such diseases, it does not deal directly with the problem.

The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd. (ALMA) is working with a team of researchers to create a new vaccine for poultry to help prevent the spread and damage that two pathogens cause to poultry producers – Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens.

Dr. Christine Szymanski, a University of Alberta professor and one of the researchers involved in the project, said that the preferred method of control for these two pathogens would be a vaccine, as it can help reduce the risk of contamination of eggs and meat without the use of antibiotics. This is especially important due to the concerns from both consumers and producers regarding antibiotic resistance.

The researchers decided on Salmonella because of its ability to cause foodborne illnesses in humans, and Clostridium perfringens, which causes necrotic enteritis in broilers in addition to food poisoning in humans.

“While C. perfringens is the most common and financially devastating bacterial disease in commercial flocks, no effective chicken vaccine is commercially available,” said Szymanski. “And salmonella in humans is caused by consumption of contaminated eggs and poultry products, and results in potentially severe gastrointestinal issues.”

The vaccine research is based on Szymanski’s development of a successful carbohydrate-based poultry vaccine for another common foodborne pathogen, Campylobacter jejuni. This was accomplished through the use of bacterial glycomics, the investigation of sugars (also known as glycans), especially those found on the surface of the bacteria.

According to Szymanski, the sugars on the surface of pathogenic Salmonella and C. perfringens can be presented on the surface of a non-pathogenic bacteria, which means that a vaccine could be used to stimulate an immune response without the use of the deadly strains.

“This means we can create a vaccine from harmless bacterial strains that will help the bird’s immune system identify and destroy the pathogenic strains. In this way, a single vaccine will simulate an immune response in the bird that will protect it from a broad array of Salmonella and C. perfringens strains.”

She added that combining the two vaccines into one would provide an inexpensive vaccine against the two problematic pathogens. In doing so, this could eliminate the need for antibiotics for both diseases.

This is especially important for C. perfringens, Szymanski said, which currently can only be controlled through the addition of antibiotics into the drinking water.

Glycan-based vaccines are not new, as human glycoconjugate vaccines have been routinely used for less than 20 years with minimal side-effects, and are routinely given to infants. Similarly, no side-effects have been seen with the C. jejuni chicken vaccine, and the live non-pathogenic organisms in the vaccine are only in the system long enough to induce an immune response before being cleared from the chicken entirely.

“Right now, researchers struggle to obtain a reproducible two-log drop in campylobacter colonization from chickens,” said Szymanski. “In our studies, we reproducibly observe six to eight logs drop in campylobacter colonization – with many birds having undetectable levels of C. jejuni in their intestines.”

Dr. Susan Novak, ALMA’s research manager, said, “A glycan-based vaccine would be a transformative advancement for the poultry industry. The use of antibiotics could be reduced if producers are able to give their birds a dual vaccine that boosts the immunity against multiple strains with a single shot. Alberta is leading the world in this area and that is a point of pride for our industry as well as a real competitive edge.”

In addition, Drs. Szymanski and Mario Feldman have spun off a company, VaxAlta Inc. in Edmonton that builds on their studies in bacterial glycomics. They were the first to identify the C. jejuni glycan pathway and show that sugar systems can be mixed and matched to produce novel glycoconjugates. Szymanski and Feldman are now exploiting this expertise toward the development of novel glycoconjugate vaccines for use in agriculture.

“The next step in our research is to optimize the carbohydrate-based vaccine against C. jejuni and create an effective dual vaccine against Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens. Glycoconjugate vaccines against other pathogens found in poultry, cattle and pigs are also in the pipeline,” said Szymanski.
Published in Genetics
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