The level of early chick mortality (ECM) is one of the crucial factors that determines the quality of chicken production and, hence, the economic return from a poultry production unit. Yolk sac infection (YSI) has been reported as the most frequent cause of ECM, and in recent years significant increase in ECM due to YSI has emerged as a threat to broiler operations in parts of Canada.
Research shows that under natural conditions, domestic fowl spend 70 per cent of their active time foraging by walking on the ground because their flight abilities are limited. When threatened or roosting, domestic hens seek elevated refuges. For roosting, birds fly up to the lowest branch of a tree and seek higher elevation by flying branch-to-branch, whereas they descend by flying directly to the ground. Hens use their wings only for brief escape flights.
There’s a new poultry ration ingredient available on the Canadian market. Insect meal from defatted black soldier fly larvae is high in protein and low in fat, making it a potentially attractive alternative to soy in poultry diets.
The study, headed by animal welfare expert and U of G professor Tina Widowski, is expected to provide key information for ensuring that broiler chickens – the world’s most popular meat – are raised not just quickly and efficiently but ethically as well.
“Animal welfare has become a big part of the notion of sustainability – how to improve welfare and create a healthy environment, and how to make it economically feasible,” Widowski says.
About 23 billion broiler chickens are produced worldwide; Canada produced more than 700 million of the birds in 2017.
Most North American broiler chickens are conventional, fast-growing birds that reach a market weight of 2.1 kilograms in about 35 days.
Developed over the past half-century through a combination of selective breeding and genetics, better nutrition and improved husbandry practices, those growth speedsters also pack on proportionately more breast meat and less bone.
But fast-growing modern broilers are susceptible to immune system and musculoskeletal problems, said Widowski, an animal biosciences professor and holder of the Egg Farmers of Canada Chair in Poultry Welfare and the Col. K.L. Campbell University Chair in Animal Welfare.
Often, their legs are not strong enough to support their meaty bodies, making it difficult for the birds to walk. These sedentary chickens spend much of their time sitting and lying on litter in their free-run houses, which can lead to foot and skin problems, she said.
“Animal welfare concerns for these fast-growing chickens have led to the development of new, slower-growing genotypes,” Widowski says.
Slow-growing chickens take at least a week longer to reach market weight than conventional birds and are reported to have improved welfare and better meat, she added.
Broiler chicken health and welfare is a focus of the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), an organization based in Austin, Texas. Over the past year, dozens of multinational restaurants, grocers and food service companies have pledged to source only broilers raised under GAP standards.
However, conventional chicken producers argue that raising birds more slowly will add expense, particularly in extra feed, which accounts for about 70 per cent of producer costs. “It’s a very contentious issue,” Widowski says.
What’s missing in the debate, she said, is research to back up those welfare standards and to determine optimum breeds and management methods. Looking for that information, GAP came to U of G for help.
“There’s been no comprehensive look at health, welfare, nutrition, environment and meat characteristics,” Widowski says.
Referring to the University’s strengths in poultry science and welfare, she adds, “Here at Guelph, we have the capacity to do that.”
U of G researchers are now assessing 20 strains of conventional and slow-growing breeds. They’re tending about 1,000 birds at a time, hatched from eggs supplied by the world’s largest breeding companies.
Three grad students and a post-doc researcher are tracking the birds with various instruments, including the “chicken fitbits.”
By monitoring behaviour, physiology, health, production and meat quality, the team hopes to nail down welfare indicators for all strains.
“This study will provide information people can use to make decisions,” says Stephanie Torrey, a senior research associate in the Department of Animal Biosciences.
U of G received a total of about $1 million for the study from GAP, U of G’s Food from Thought project and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
An important online survey component of the project launched over the summer is already seeing strong participation across the industry.
Those who haven’t yet participated in the survey are encouraged to do so as soon as possible, ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline. (Click here to complete the survey).
“Broad industry feedback is critical to accurately represent the extensive work being done related to livestock care in Alberta today, and to help shape future priorities and direction around this increasingly high-profile component of livestock production,” says Annemarie Pedersen, executive director, AFAC.
“We have been very encouraged by the strong initial participation in the survey, which is open to anyone involved in animal agriculture in Alberta,” says Dr. Melissa Moggy, Livestock Welfare Engagement Project Lead.
With the initial consultation completed and the survey underway, planning for the focus groups is in full swing. “Our first of five focus groups will be at Grande Prairie Regional College, Fairview Campus, on Sept 20th and we hope anyone involved in the industry will join us for an in-depth discussion of livestock welfare in Alberta,” says Moggy. The results will be a critical part of the final report to be shared with government in early 2019.
Locations and details for these additional focus groups can be found below. Focus groups will be arranged by invitation, based on survey responses. However, those who are interested in participating in their area can register.
Grande Prairie Regional College – Fairview, Alta. - Sept. 20
Lethbridge College – Lethbridge, Alta. - Sept. 25
Olds College – Olds, Alta. - Oct. 2
University of Alberta – Edmonton, Alta. - Oct. 10
Lakeland College – Vermillion, Alta. - TBA
“We encourage all livestock sectors and industry partners to participate in the upcoming groups. We have planned them to be accessible to the majority of the province and hope to meet with a diverse cross section of our industry,” says Moggy.
About the Livestock Welfare Engagement Project
The project was requested and is being funded by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. The insights and information collected through this project will be presented in a final report, which will be shared with the Government of Alberta to support its understanding of the animal welfare landscape in the province from the livestock industry’s perspective.
A significant issue for the poultry industry is the disposal of bird carcasses and manure when they are contaminated with avian influenza virus.
According to the "Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Response Plan" developed by the USDA, there is a clear need for better disposal technology.
One intriguing way forward is to heat the carcasses and manure in a mobile trailer to quickly react to outbreaks before they can spread. The trailer would hold multiple gasifiers, which would be used to heat up the trailer. From there, a conveyor system would take the carcasses and manure through the trailer until the virus is destroyed. The gasifiers use a solid fuel like seed corn or wood chips to provide the energy at very low cost and produce an in-situ charcoal bed that breaks down organic pollutants.
The University of Iowa has more than four years of experience in operating an industrial scale gasifier based on these principles and uses it in conjunction with lab testing and computer modeling to understand and predict general gasification behavior. The focus of this research project was to study the issues involved in trailer gasification and avian influenza virus elimination.
Project #BRU008: Analysis of Poultry Gasification Parameters for Elimination of Avian Flu Exposed Birds and Manure, was conducted by Dr. Albert Ratner, University of Iowa.
The project was recently completed by Ratner and colleagues in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University. They developed the design for a mobile system to heat poultry carcasses and manure to inactivate avian influenza virus. This system could be utilized during an avian influenza outbreak to quickly help eliminate the virus from infected farms and better contain the spread of an outbreak.
For more information, visit: http://www.uspoultry.org/
To veiw the full research report, CLICK HERE
Iowa State University researchers are conducting experiments to determine what advantages may arise from integrating chickens into vegetable production systems.
The researchers must balance a range of concerns, including environmental sustainability, costs and food and animal safety. But Ajay Nair, an associate professor of horticulture and a vegetable production specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach, said finding ways to integrate vegetable and animal production may lead to greater efficiency and healthier soils.
The experiments, currently in their second year, take place at the ISU Horticulture Research Station just north of Ames. The researchers are testing what happens when a flock of broiler chickens lives on a vegetable field for part of the year.
The chickens forage on the plant matter left behind after the vegetables are harvested and fertilize the soil with manure. This integrated approach could reduce off-farm inputs and also provide producers with sustainable crop rotation options.
The researchers are testing three different systems on a half acre of land at the research farm. The first system involves a vegetable crop – one of several varieties of lettuce or broccoli – early in the growing season, followed by the chickens, which are then followed by a cover crop later in the year.
The second system involves the vegetable crop, followed by two months of a cover crop, with the chickens foraging on the land later in the year. The third system is vegetables followed by cover crops, with no chickens.
The experiment involves roughly 40 chickens, which live in four mobile coops that the researchers move every day. Moving the coops around ensures the chickens have access to fresh forage and keeps their manure from concentrating any particular part of the field. An electric fence surrounds the field to keep out predators.
Moriah Bilenky, a graduate assistant in horticulture, checks on the chickens every morning to make sure they have food and water. She also weighs them periodically to collect data on how efficiently they convert food into body mass. The researchers designed the trial to uphold animal health, and Bilenky said she keeps a detailed log on how foraging in the fields impacts the birds’ health and performance.
Nair said the researchers are looking at several facets associated with sustainability. Nitrogen and phosphorous deposited in the soil from the chicken manure could alleviate some of the need for fertilizer application, while working cover crops into the system can prevent the loss of nutrients into waterways. Economics must also factor into the research, he said.
“We might come up with results that really help the soil, but if the system is not economically stable, I doubt growers will be willing to adopt it because it has to work for their bottom line as well,” he said.
The trials also adhere to food safety regulations. For instance, all vegetables are harvested before the chickens are introduced to the fields, ensuring none of the produce is contaminated. The researchers consulted food safety and animal science experts at Iowa State while designing their experiments, and the work undergoes regular IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) inspection and documentation, he said.
The trials remain ongoing, so the researchers aren’t drawing any conclusions yet about the success of their integrated system. The project is currently supported through a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant. Nair said he’s seeking additional funding to investigate the animal health and integrated pest management aspects of this research.
So why did the chicken cross the road? It’s too early to tell, but maybe so it could get into the lettuce and pepper fields.
This award is given to a student who is the senior author of an outstanding research manuscript in Poultry Science or The Journal of Applied Poultry Research, and only students awarded Certificates of Excellence for research presentations at an annual PSA meeting can compete.
Bortoluzzi’s winning paper — entitled “Sodium butyrate improved performance while modulating the cecal microbiota and regulating the expression of intestinal immune-related genes of broiler chickens” — evaluated the effect of sodium butyrate (SB) on performance, expression of immune-related genes in the cecal tonsils, and cecal microbiota of broiler chickens when dietary energy and amino acids concentrations were reduced.
The paper results confirmed that SB had positive effects on the productive performance of broilers fed nutritionally reduced diets, partially by modulating the cecal microbiota and exerting immune modulatory effects.
"Alltech is proud to sponsor this award, as innovation is the core of our business," said Dr. Kayla Price, poultry technical manager for Alltech Canada. “We support advancements in the poultry industry and encourage students to publish their research and communicate their discoveries, which can positively influence the future of poultry production."
Cristiano Bortoluzzi is a doctor of veterinary medicine and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the department of poultry science at the University of Georgia.
He grew up on a farm in southern Brazil with dairy cows, pigs and poultry, so his passion for animal production started when he was young and has influenced his career path.
Bortoluzzi completed several internships in his first year of vet school and found that poultry nutrition and health interested him the most.
Throughout his studies, he was actively involved in research trials, attended scientific meetings and learned about the intestinal health/immune system of broilers and the importance of nutrition.
While working toward his master’s degree, he spent three months working with the United States Department of Agriculture/Agriculture Research Service (USDA/ARS) in Indiana.
In January 2015, he started his Ph.D. in animal science at Purdue University, later moving to the University of Georgia. Bortoluzzi has published 18 papers and will finish his Ph.D. in the fall. He is looking forward to working in and contributing his expertise to the poultry industry.
Alltech has sponsored the Alltech Student Research Manuscript Award since 2000, recognizing young leaders in scientific innovation for their commitment to publishing and sharing their work within the poultry sector.
The Council also provided an update on its funding programs and activities and announced a new joint funding initiative.
This past March, AAC wrapped up its successful delivery of Growing Forward 2 (GF2) to Ontario organizations and collaborations. Close to 400 projects received funding of $33.9 million through this program over the last five years.
AAC is now responsible for delivering the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to Ontario organizations and collaborations. This federal-provincial-territorial initiative supports projects in three priority areas: Economic development, environmental stewardship, and protection and assurance.
Research and innovation are the key focus across the Partnership’s 19 project categories. Funding is available for a range of activities including applied research, pilots, assessments, planning, and market development.
“We want to encourage applications from Ontario organizations and collaborations across the sector to demonstrate that the need for the program is strong,” said AAC chair Kelly Duffy in her remarks.
AAC also delivers two programs targeted at the Ontario greenhouse sector: the $1 million Greenhouse Renewable Energy Technologies (GRET) initiative for the Ministry of Environment and the $19 million Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative (GCII) for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
How to better deal with livestock transportation emergencies, particularly truck rollovers, was behind a GF2 project Farm & Food Care Ontario (FFCO) completed in partnership with Beef Farmers of Ontario.
A needs assessment of stakeholders from farmers and transporters to government, first responders and animal organizations resulted in one-on-one training for first responders in how to specifically address livestock transport emergencies. An emergency response manual for producers was also created.
“The need to train emergency responders is huge and we appreciate the GF2 funding that helped us complete this project – this was a first step in helping address the issue of livestock transportation emergencies,” said FFCO Program Manager Bruce Kelly.
The evening wrapped up with an announcement of AAC’s joint initiative with Ontario Genomics. The Regional Priorities Partnership (RP3) Program, in partnership with Genome Canada, aims to promote the adoption of genomics-based technologies, tools and services within the Ontario agriculture and agri-food sector.
RP3 program materials will be available this September with applications due January 2019.
“I remain enthusiastic and optimistic about the Council’s future,” Duffy said in her closing remarks. “Opportunities for innovation are greater than ever and AAC can play an important role in assisting the industry as it moves forward.”
In the study, as part of ongoing surveillance, the researchers from Key Laboratory of Sichuan Province, Sichuan University collected rectal swabs from randomly selected chickens in multiple commercial chicken farms in China.
The researchers found that E. coli from the chickens often carried multiple resistance genes, including one copy of the colistin-resistance gene mcr-1, and one copy of the resistance gene, mcr-3. This is the first report of these two genes on a single plasmid. | READ MORE
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