June 22, 2012 - It might be possible for human-to-human airborne transmissible avian H5N1 influenza viruses to evolve in nature, new research has found. The findings, from research led by Professor Derek Smith and Dr Colin Russell at the University of Cambridge, were published today, 22 June in the journal Science.

Currently, avian H5N1 influenza, also known as bird flu, can be transmitted from birds to humans, but not (or only very rarely) from human to human. However, two recent papers by Herfst, Fouchier and colleagues in Science and Imai, Kawaoka and colleagues in Nature reveal that potentially with as few as five mutations (amino acid substitutions), or four mutations plus reassortment, avian H5N1 can become airborne transmissible between mammals, and thus potentially among humans. However, until now, it was not known whether these mutations might evolve in nature.

The Cambridge researchers first analysed all of the surveillance data available on avian H5N1 influenza viruses from the last 15 years, focusing on birds and humans. They discovered that two of the five mutations seen in the experimental viruses (from the Fouchier and Kawaoka labs) had occurred in numerous existing avian flu strains. Additionally, they found that a number of the viruses had both of the mutations.

Colin Russell, Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, said: "Viruses that have two of these mutations are already common in birds, meaning that there are viruses that might have to acquire only three additional mutations in a human to become airborne transmissible. The next key question is 'is three a lot, or a little?' "

The scientists explored this key question using a mathematical model of how viruses replicate and evolve within a mammalian host and assessed the influence of various factors on whether the remaining three mutations could evolve in a single host or in a short chain of transmission between hosts

The factors that increased the likelihood of mutations evolving are:

1. Random mutation. The replication mechanisms of influenza viruses don't make perfect copies. On average, every time an influenza virus replicates itself it makes approximately one mutation somewhere in the genome of each new virus. In each infected human there will be billions of viruses, and thus with many viruses replicating, multiple mutations can accumulate within a single host. 2. Positive selection. If some of the remaining mutations help the avian virus to adapt to mammals, then those mutations will make the viruses more fit and thus will be positively selected and preferentially accumulate.

3. Long infection. The longer someone is infected and producing new viruses, the more time there is for mutations to accumulate.

4. Functionally equivalent substitutions. The sets of substitutions identified by Fouchier and Kawaoka are unlikely to be the only combinations of substitutions capable of producing an aerosol transmissible virus. The probability of emergence increases with the number of combinations.

5. Diversity in the within-bird virus population. Given all of the mutations there are likely to be within a host due to random mutation, it is possible that the viruses from a bird that infect a human might have a mutation that would not be detected by routine surveillance. For example, if 100 virus particles from a bird infect a human and one of those particles had a key mutation, it would increase the probability of the mutation reaching high levels within a host even though routine sequencing would not detect it.

6. Transmission between mammals. If mammals are capable of transmitting viruses that have some but not all of the necessary substitutions it could increase the probability of an airborne transmissible virus evolving.

The factors that decreased the likelihood of mutations evolving are:

1. An effective immune response. An effective immune response would shorten the length of an infection and thus decrease the time available to accumulate mutations.

2. Deleterious substitutions. If any of the substitutions necessary for airborne transmission were harmful to the virus it would, on average, slow the accumulation of mutations.

3. Order of acquiring mutations. It is not currently known if the mutations for airborne transmissibility need to be acquired in a specific order. If they do, it would, on average, slow the accumulation of mutations.

"With the information we have, it is impossible to say what the exact risk is of the virus becoming airborne transmissible among humans. However, the results suggest that the remaining three mutations could evolve in a single human host, making a virus evolving in nature a potentially serious threat," said Derek Smith, Professor of Infectious Disease Informatics at the University of Cambridge. "We now know that it is in the realm of possibility that these viruses can evolve in nature, and what needs to be done to assess the risk more accurately of these mutations evolving in nature."

The scientists recommend the following activities be considered high priority for estimating and ameliorating the risk of emergence of aerosol transmissible H5N1 viruses.

First, additional surveillance in regions where viruses with airborne transmission enabling substitutions have been observed and in regions connected to those regions by bird migration and trade. Also, increased surveillance for mutations that might have the same function as those found by the Fouchier and Kawaoka labs.

Second, related to surveillance, some targeted sequencing of H5N1 viruses should be done by "deep sequencing" where the lab sequences many viruses from an individual host to look for viruses that might have accumulated the critical mutations, even if those viruses are just a small proportion of the viruses within an animal.

Third, further investigations are needed to determine which substitutions and combinations of substitutions that are not the same as, but have the same function as, the substitutions identified by the Fouchier and Kawaoka labs are capable of making viruses airborne transmissible between mammals.

Fourth, further studies are needed to elucidate the changes in within-host fitness and between-host transmissibility associated with each airborne transmission enabling substitution and combination of substitutions.

Professor Smith added: "The situation is similar to assessing the risk of an earthquake or tsunami. We don't know exactly when and where, but by increasing monitoring and research – some of which is already underway – scientists and public health officials will be able to increase the accuracy with which the risk can be assessed and to minimise those risks.

The research was funded by multiple sources including the European Commission through framework 7 grants EMPERIE and ANTIGONE, the Royal Society, the Human Frontiers Science Program, and the National Institutes of Health.

Published in Health

May 29, 2012 - Identifying antimicrobial proteins in chickens that kill pathogens is one method being used by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists to find alternatives to the use of antibiotics to control infectious poultry diseases.

Each year, poultry diseases such as coccidiosis cause losses of more than $600 million in the United States and $3.2 billion worldwide.

Molecular biologist Hyun Lillehoj, at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) in Beltsville, Md., has dedicated her career to discovering how to produce poultry without using drugs. Her research includes enhancing innate immunity through genetics, and examining molecules produced by birds in response to enteric or intestinal pathogens.

ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports USDA's priority of promoting international food security.

Some molecules are host antimicrobial proteins that can kill pathogens, improve immune responses and promote the growth of beneficial gut bacterial populations in poultry, according to Lillehoj, who works in the ARS Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory at BARC. She and her colleagues have identified one such immune molecule, called NK lysin.

Lillehoj and her colleagues demonstrated for the first time that NK lysin kills chicken coccidia. They also showed that this antimicrobial protein or host defense molecule is effective against other parasites such as Neospora and Cryptosporidia, which infect livestock and humans, respectively. One commercial company is looking at the possibility of developing NK lysin into a product that can be used to kill chicken intestinal parasites.

Lillehoj also is studying enteric bacterial infections caused by Clostridium, a pathogen associated with necrotic enteritis in poultry. She is using a similar molecular technology to develop alternatives to treat this disease.

Working with industry, international partners and other scientists, Lillehoj has discovered other options to antibiotic use in poultry. Phytochemicals derived from peppers, plums, safflower, green tea and other plants have been shown to be effective in enhancing the immune system of chickens. Also, the beneficial effects of probiotics, which are live, nonpathogenic bacteria that promote health and balance of the intestinal tract microbiota, have been demonstrated in past research.

Read more about this research in the May/June 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Published in Genetics

May 22, 2012 - Hubbard recently held a successful GP Forum for some of their Classic and H1 customers from the Americas, Asia and the Middle East. This year Hubbard LLC hosted this important event between 23rd to 27th April at its USA production centre and the Sheraton Read House Hotel in Chattanooga.

Each morning presentations were given on different aspects of the management of Hubbard Grandparent Stock and technicians presented their individual experiences from around the world. On the final day there were presentations on nutrition, hatchery and hatch day breakout. The afternoon sessions were conducted at Hubbard's production facilities, which included visits to rearing and production Grandparent farms and to the Hubbard Grandparent hatchery in Pikeville, Tennessee with a capacity of 12 million breeders per year.

The unique mixture of both theory and practice was well received by the customers, who were able to see first-hand in the afternoon what was being described in the morning sessions.

About Hubbard

In 2011 Hubbard celebrated its 90th anniversary. From the small flock of chickens with which Ira and Oliver Hubbard began the business in 1921, Hubbard has grown to one of the major international broiler breeding companies in the world. The poultry industry has seen remarkable changes during the past 90 years, with dramatic results for the benefit of humankind. Hubbard has played, and will continue to play, an important and vital role in this great industry

Oliver Hubbard's graduation from the New Hampshire Agriculture College in 1921 can been seen as the beginning of Hubbard in the commercial poultry business. From 1921 up to the acquisition by Merck in 1974, Hubbard has always been a family company. In 1997 Hubbard merged with the ISA-group from France, purely focusing on broiler breeding as from 2003. Since the French company Groupe Grimaud took over Hubbard from Merial in 2005 Hubbard is again part of a family company, which is the 2nd largest multi-species animal breeding company in the world, with a clear focus on the further development of Hubbard's business in the broiler industry around the world.

Hubbard provides solutions that focus on the economic performance, health and well-being of breeding stock. Hubbard specializes in state-of-the-art selection programs to improve the performance of their pure lines. It is essential to Hubbard to preserve a large gene pool offering more flexibility for innovative solutions to an industry facing more and more constraints being imposed to them:

  • increased feed prices,
  • animal welfare regulations,
  • increased segmentation of the markets,
  • and in some countries a reduction/shortage in production surface.

Hubbard operates its selection programs in 3 different R&D centres in North America and Europe, along with its own production sites in North America, Europe and Brazil. Hubbard has a longstanding experience in breeding, developing and marketing breeding stock for both conventional and alternative markets.

Presence in nearly 100 countries around the world and the support of dedicated teams involved in R&D, Production, Technical Service and Sales & Marketing assure the continuity to deliver quality products that are best suited to the different broiler markets throughout the world.

Hubbard is a company of Groupe Grimaud. For more information, please visit their website:

Published in Genetics

May 18, 2012 - Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia are exploring whether poultry vocalizations could give clues about their health and comfort.

According to an article on Science Daily, welfare of poultry (which is the top agricultural product in the state) is a high priority, and anything that can help producers determine the state of their flock means big business.

"Many poultry professionals swear they can walk into a grow-out house and tell whether a flock is happy or stressed just by listening to the birds vocalize," said Wayne Daley, a Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) principal research scientist who is leading the research.

While there are lots of problems associating ith isolating specific vocalizations amongst a cacophony of noise, results do show that it is possible to gauge how birds are based on nothing but their vocalizations.

For more on this interesting research, read the article on Science Daily.

Published in Turkeys

May 18, 2012 - Less than 10 years ago, the world marveled at the completion of the human genome project, which involved traditional technology to identify all the genes in a single organism—the human. Today, a more powerful technology is being used to detect thousands of organisms in an entire community.

Unlike traditional gene sequencing, the new molecular technique—metagenomics—eliminates the need to cultivate and isolate individual microbial species. Scientists can apply genomic analysis to mixed communities of microbes instead of to just one organism.

For example, researchers examining viral enteric (intestinal) diseases in poultry can take intestinal samples from different poultry flocks. The material can be processed to sequence all the viral nucleic acid—RNA and DNA—in the sample and then analyzed as a single genome.

Learning more about how genes interact is extremely important in the battle against enteric diseases for scientists at the Agricultural Research Service Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in Athens, Georgia. Disorders like poult enteritis mortality syndrome, poult enteritis complex, and runting-stunting syndrome cause diarrhea in birds, resulting in decreased weight, mortality, and increased production costs.

In studies of intestinal samples from turkeys with enteric diseases, ARS scientists have discovered a new virus that may have future antimicrobial applications.

Research has revealed that several viruses may be responsible for enteric diseases, yet a single causative agent has not been identified. Metagenomics research may help solve that mystery.

Scientists at SEPRL are using metagenomics to uncover vast amounts of known and previously unknown viruses in poultry. They have discovered and sequenced the complete genome of a new bacteriophage (phage) that might have future antimicrobial applications, described for the first time the complete genome of new chicken and turkey parvoviruses, and developed a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to detect these novel parvoviruses in commercial poultry flocks.

Unlocking a Treasure Trove

With help from industry producers and veterinarians, microbiologist Michael Day and research leader Laszlo Zsak, in SEPRL’s Endemic Poultry Viral Diseases Research Unit, collected intestinal samples from five different turkey flocks affected by enteric disease. To identify and characterize viruses using metagenomics, they prepared intestinal homogenates from the samples. The homogenates were filtered to remove larger constituents, like bacteria, and leave the smaller particles, like viruses. Metagenomics techniques were then used to sequence nucleic acid of all the RNA viruses present in the samples.

“I was expecting to find RNA sequences from viruses that had not been described before in the poultry gut,” Day says. “It turned out that there were quite a number of viruses in that particular sample.”

A comparison to similar viruses in computer databases showed that the intestinal virus metagenome contained thousands of pieces of nucleic acid representing many groups of known and unknown turkey viruses. Common avian viruses such as astrovirus, reovirus, and rotavirus were confirmed. Many RNA viruses, like members of the Picornaviridae family, were also detected.

Microbiologist Michael Day examines the validation results of a new molecular diagnostic assay for a turkey picobirnavirus. Day used a metagenomic approach to detect the novel picobirnavirus RNA in turkeys experiencing enteric (intestinal) disease.

An unexpected discovery was an abundance of previously unknown turkey viruses, such as picobirnavirus, a small, double-stranded RNA virus implicated in enteric disease in other agricultural animals, Day says. A calicivirus—the kind associated with human enteric diseases—was also identified in poultry.

Prospects of a Novel Phage

“Because metagenomics is so powerful, we generated and continued to analyze additional data from these samples and discovered a new bacteriophage,” Zsak says. “Until now, no one had described this kind of phage in turkey enteric samples.”

The virus, called “phiCA82,” belongs to a group known as “microphages” and is the type of virus that naturally kills bacteria, Zsak says. Phages are important because they can potentially be used as alternatives to antibiotics and as weapons against multi-drug-resistant pathogens.

Zsak and Day found a short sequence of the phage DNA and designed a technique to sequence its entire genome. Colleagues Brian Oakley and Bruce Seal, both microbiologists in the Poultry Microbiological Safety Research Unit of the ARS Richard B. Russell Agricultural Research Center, also in Athens, helped analyze the data. One task was to find out whether the new phage was related to similar viruses.

“That’s a question you would have with the discovery of any new kind of organism,” Oakley says.

Oakley downloaded all publicly available viral genome sequences and used bioinformatics—the application of computer science and information technology to the field of biology—to compare the newly discovered genome to previously discovered ones. The comparisons revealed that the new genome was unique.

“Future studies need to be completed to find out if phages like this actually kill the bacteria they infect,” Zsak says. “Once we can identify this mechanism, we can design identical ways to attack and kill these pathogens.”

Phages infect bacteria and then replicate, Seal explains. They do this by digesting the cell walls of bacteria.

“We are interested in being able to clone the gene that expresses enzymes that digest the cell wall,” Seal says. “If we can express those enzymes in an organism generally recognized as safe, like yeast for example, we can put them in feed to help reduce certain types of bacteria that cause disease.”

Chipping Away at Chicken Viruses

In earlier studies, Zsak and Day used metagenomics to identify and analyze the genome of a novel chicken parvovirus, ChPV ABU-P1.

“This was the first in-depth characterization and analysis of the full-length genome sequence of the chicken parvovirus,” Day says. “Comparisons were made to other members of the Parvovirinae subfamily that infect mammals and birds.”

Scientists also developed a PCR assay to detect the virus in turkeys and chickens and used the test to examine enteric samples collected from U.S. commercial turkey and chicken flocks across different regions.

“PCR proved to be highly sensitive and specific in detecting parvoviruses in both clinical samples from infected birds and field samples from turkeys and chickens with enteric diseases,” Zsak says.

Advantages of a Community Approach

The overall goal is to use metagenomics technology to develop and update diagnostic tools, identify effective new treatments, and improve management practices to help control costly animal and plant diseases, Day says.

The beauty of metagenomics is that viruses do not have to be isolated or identified. Small pieces of nucleic acid can be sequenced from samples taken from mixed communities—a process that allows scientists to discover new enzymes and proteins and look for genetic markers for disease-resistant traits or genes with possible antimicrobial applications.

“We need some way to understand a community and interrogate the nucleic acids in that community to see who’s there and what they’re doing,” Oakley says. “Are there pathogenic bugs in there? Are there genes associated with pathogenesis? Metagenomics does that.”—By Sandra Avant, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.

This research is part of Animal Health (#103) and Food Safety (#108), two ARS national programs described at

To reach scientists mentioned in this article, contact Sandra Avant, USDA-ARS Information Staff, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705-5129; (301) 504-1627.

Published in Turkeys

May 16, 2012, Tallahassee, FL - Global Green, Inc. has announced that the Company has received the final report on the model Efficacy Study conducted on the Company's patented vaccine, Salmogenics, to be used to protect poultry from Salmonella bacteria. This study, conducted by AHPharma, an independent food safety and animal health research firm, is an important step towards receiving USDA approval for Salmogenics.

The Study was performed using 3,036 chickens, specifically broilers. Those chickens injected in ovo (in the egg before the chick is hatched) with Salmogenics showed a significant reduction in Salmonella bacteria.

The study reports that the "Salmogenics Vaccine appears to provide enough protection against all strains of Salmonella tested." Clearly, Salmogenics provided protection in broilers against the spread of Salmonella. The conclusion of the study reports that reducing Salmonella in chickens prior to them being processed and sold to the public is critical in reducing Salmonella levels.

"Our patented Salmogenics Vaccine is in the fourth and final phase required for USDA approval. The final report on the data in the Study conducted by AHPharma is very encouraging and will be forwarded to the USDA," commented Dr. Mehran Ghazvini, Chairman and CEO, Global Green, Inc.

Salmogenics Utilizes Unique Application

When Salmonella is discovered in the flock during the processing stage, the costs to eradicate the disease are staggering. Salmogenics is unique in that it is injected directly into the egg, before the chick is hatched, improving the immune system, health and welfare of the chicken. The vaccine reduces levels of Salmonella in the flock and reduces the risk of Salmonella contamination in the processing plant.

Leading Poultry Industry Expert Confirms Significance of Vaccine

The historic approach for Salmonella control ignores chicken live growing practices and attempts to completely eliminate Salmonella and other foodborne bacteria during final processing. A Salmonella vaccine addressing vigorous strains that are hard to destroy is important," commented James McNaughton, PhD, leading independent poultry research expert.

Global Green, Inc. plans to manufacture, market and sell the patented, exclusive, licensed vaccine known as the "Salmogenics Vaccine." Salmogenics was developed by Nutritional Health Institute Laboratories, LLC (a research affiliate and majority shareholder) to combat Salmonella bacteria in eggs and poultry. The vaccine is currently in the final stage of the USDA approval process. The Company has received approval from FINRA to begin trading publicly on the OTC market and has applied for DTC approval.

For more information, visit

Published in Barn Management

Modern broiler breeder strains are simply too good at depositing breast muscle. Because they have a higher propensity to deposit muscle rather than fat, they may not have enough energy stored in the body to mobilize in times of energetic debt, and as a result these hens may have difficulty with early chick quality and long-term maintenance of lay. While the bird may still be able to transfer the necessary nutrients to the egg, with less energy available in storage, it will rely much more heavily on the feed it consumes each day to meet this need.

The concern is that the bird may carry additional breast muscle throughout life and, in order to maintain this high energy-demanding tissue, the hen will have to divert nutrients it might otherwise have been able to use to support egg production. In order to support egg production in broiler breeder stocks in the coming years, it may be time to question if current feed restriction methods and weight targets are as adequate now as when they were designed over 30 years ago.

Dr. Rob Renema and his research team at the University of Alberta have been exploring the concept of “composition restriction.” By manipulating the delivery of dietary energy and protein throughout the life of the bird, they hope to identify methods of feeding birds to a specific carcass composition rather than just to a target body weight. They theorize that this approach could discourage breast muscle deposition while providing for the energetic requirements of final maturation and early egg production.

Their findings? What you feed the birds during the growing phase has a greater effect on final carcass composition at the end of egg production than the diets fed during the egg production period do. Why? Primarily because muscle deposition is “set” when they are young, and this has a carry-over effect into the breeder phase. Feeding programs during the rearing or laying phase must not be designed in isolation.

Furthermore, growth was tied more closely to energy intake than to protein intake. Despite fairly similar energy intakes, however, energy was still one of the main factors affecting rate of lay. While maternal protein intake had very little effect on egg production, it did have the potential to affect broiler offspring yield and breast muscling – particularly in the males. To read more about this research project, please visit

PIC’s Picks

By Tim Nelson, Executive Director

Recent events have shown us that people are so important to the poultry industry.  

Our Research Day this year featured poultry health research. The focus was not only on disease research, but on the cost of disease to producers and industry as well. This was emphasized by having one Ontario producer tell attendees about his personal experience of managing a serious disease outbreak on his farm.

During the Research Day we recognized three eminent poultry researchers from the University of Guelph – Drs. Steve Leeson, Ian Duncan and the late Dr. Bruce Hunter – who dedicated their careers to poultry research.

The Poultry Industry Conference and Exhibition (known as the London Poultry Show) musters a veritable who’s who of the poultry service industry in Ontario and beyond. The mood that huge group brings for two days each year to the Western Fair District in London, Ont., to work (and play) together is palpable. What an intense and stimulating two days it is. The PIC brought a few guests in this year and they were blown away by the friendly, welcoming, open reception and hospitality they received at every booth. Great job, industry!

So, it was disappointing halfway through day 1 of the show to receive an e-mail from Dr. Fred Silversides, who conducts research into poultry genetics in B.C. (and whose research PIC supports), which said, “In August, my position will be cut as a result of the current round of deficit reductions, and AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-food Canada), is getting out of research in poultry genetic resources when it happens.”

We understand the federal and provincial governments are going through tough times. But this was the only centre where this type of research was being undertaken, and it had only one researcher and one student.

Not long after receiving this e-mail, the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC) informed me that the current Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP) will expire in March 2014, removing the need for regional councils (such as the AAC) in the delivery of any future federally funded programs.

Who made these decisions? Who knows – but they were made. How did we (industry) let it happen? Reading the e-mail made me reflect on how lucky we are to have the people at OMAFRA and AAFC here in Ontario who continue to support our programs of research and extension in an effort to ensure our industry’s sustainability. The Poultry Loading Decision Tree, Biosecurity Outreach Program, Growing Forward cost-share program and the upcoming PAACO (welfare auditing) course would not be possible without their support and that of industry and the University of Guelph.

Competition and risk management drives us to continue to develop new technologies, tools and management techniques. But what will keep this industry sustainable are the very visible personal connections, relationships, networks and collaborations that bind it together and make it successful.

Somehow in B.C. the industry lost a connection. We have great connections in Ontario, but we need to work at them.

Make sure your connections extend to our government and university partners and at every opportunity thank them for the funds and people they provide.

Published in Breeders

The board of directors of the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) continues to make changes as part of its efforts to make CPRC the most efficient and effective organization possible. For example, research grant procedures have undergone changes that the board believes will better align research activities with industry’s goals.

The New System
The new system of receiving and reviewing research grant proposals uses a two-step process: 1) an industry review of Letter of Intent (LOI); and 2) a scientific review of methodology. In the LOI, the applicant is asked for an overview of the proposed research as well as an account of how the research will impact the poultry industry. For example, how will the proposed work help industry reach its Research Target Outcomes? The applicant is asked to think about where the proposed research fits in to the so-called “innovation continuum”; is it primary research directed at a fundamental understanding of how something works, or is it of a more applied nature? Who are the ultimate end-users of the research and what would it take to bring it to the adoption stage? Answers to these questions will help CPRC assess the potential benefits of the proposed research.

The completed LOIs, due June 1, will be evaluated by the CPRC board and support staff with help from additional scientific experts.

Successful applicants will be invited to submit a Detailed Proposal (step 2 of the process) that provides particulars on experimental design and proposed methodology. The proposal will list members of the research team and describe their expertise and the roles each will play in the proposed work. Training of highly qualified personnel (students, research technicians, etc.) will also be described, as will specifics of proposed expenditures and funding sources.

The Detailed Proposals will be reviewed by CPRC’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), the members of which represent a breadth of knowledge and expertise that can accurately assess the intricacies of the proposed methodology. Applicants will have an opportunity to address issues or concerns raised during the SAC review before a final funding decision is made by the CPRC board.

CPRC’s funding commitment is contingent on the proposal securing matching funds from another source(s). The preference is that funds from the poultry sector (CPRC and other sources) be matched at least 1:1 with funds from outside the poultry sector (e.g., other agricultural sectors, the private sector, the government, etc.). Part of CPRC’s service is to help researchers identify and secure matching funds. Matching the poultry sector’s investment in research with funds from other sources maximizes the impact of that investment and encourages collaboration with organizations that might not otherwise directly support poultry research.

Although it will increase the time between LOI submission and final approval, the CPRC board believes the new system will benefit both industry and researchers by improving communication and ensuring research is targeted at industry goals. The new process will be monitored and assessed on an ongoing basis to ensure it continues to increase CPRC’s effectiveness.

The ‘New’ Board
The new granting procedures were approved in principle by CPRC’s board of directors at the March 23, 2012, annual general meeting. CPRC is pleased to announce that all directors, who represent each of the organization’s five members, were re-elected without change to positions. Jacob Middelkamp, representing Chicken Farmers of Canada, returns as CPRC chairman. Middelkamp is a broiler chicken producer in Alberta. Roelof Meijer, representing Turkey Farmers of Canada, returns as vice-chairman. Meijer is a turkey producer also from Alberta. The Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors’ Council (CPEPC) is represented by Erica Charlton, CPEPC’s technical director. Cheryl Firby, director of agricultural operations at Maple Leaf Foods, represents the Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, and Helen Anne Hudson, director of corporate social responsibility for Burnbrae Farms, represents Egg Farmers of Canada. CPRC would like to take this opportunity to thank these individuals and their respective organizations for their past efforts and continuing support. The continuity of the CPRC board will facilitate ongoing efforts to enhance poultry research in Canada.

The membership of CPRC consists of the Chicken Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, the Turkey Farmers of Canada, the 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.  CPRC’s contact information is available at

Published in Welfare

The Poultry Industry Council recently held a “Science in the Pub” seminar that aimed to challenge current knowledge about cleaning and disinfecting poultry barns, and how these processes may be affecting the birds’ immunity and ability to handle pathogens.

Dr. Shayan Sharif, an immunologist with the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, began the evening meeting with a discussion on how the environment influences a chicken’s immune system.

The immune system of a chicken or turkey is affected by the presence of pathogens (bacteria, protozoa, fungi, viruses), how the birds are managed, and the genetics of the bird (host). To manage the health of the chicken’s immune system, an equilibrium must be achieved between the host, the environment and a disease-causing pathogen, he said. If anything tips the balance of this equilibrium, infection and disease are the result.

He believes the environment the birds are raised in is having a significant impact on the virulence of pathogens and how they impact health.

He used two well-known poultry diseases as examples. When it was first described in the 1940s, Marek’s Disease (caused by a virus) had rather mild symptoms, said Sharif. However, by the 1960s, the disease had become much more serious – its virulence had increased – and the disease began affecting different biological systems within the bird. He believes the cause of this is the change in the environment the birds were raised in over this time period.

Sharif noted that Jungle Fowl can harbour a lot of coccidia (the protozoa that cause coccidiosis) without getting very sick or dying. He said these birds can also harbour multiple strains of coccidia, and that some of these strains are not found here in North America. He said that this is evidence that Jungle Fowl and coccidia have evolved together, and that there may be some benefit to the bird from this relationship. He argued that some protozoa and bacterial species may actually assist the bird by enhancing its immune system.

He said that the immune system of modern chickens is actually shrinking, as research has shown a reduction in the quantity of immune cells, such as T cells and B cells, produced in the thymus and bursa respectively. It’s known that this decrease has something to do with the birds’ diet, but genetics is also likely playing a role, he said. The environment is also key – although some growth in the immune system occurs pre-hatch, much of the development takes place in the four to eight weeks following hatch.

Sharif pointed to the “hygiene hypothesis” of how, in western societies, there has been an increase in autoimmune diseases because people living in these countries are living in too clean an environment, thus reducing their exposure to potential pathogens early in life, which weakens their immune system. Sharif questions whether or not the poultry industry is causing the same issues with the birds by placing them in too clean an environment.

By not exposing them to pathogens early on, he feels that this may be causing immunosuppression, reducing a chick’s ability to handle the stressors (such as suboptimal brooding, transport to the farm, nutritional challenges, temperature fluctuations, etc.) that it will be exposed to.  

He also pointed out that the chick’s early immunity can be influenced by the use of ionophores, probiotics and antibiotics, which all impact the microflora of the gut, where immune cells are also produced. Probiotics have been shown to have a positive influence on this microflora, he said.

Dr. Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt from the University of Montreal was the second speaker of the evening. He said that many researchers around the world believe that keeping a barn too clean isn’t necessarily a good thing, and that it’s probably a good idea for birds to be challenged early to enhance their immunity.  

However, he noted that just how clean the environment should be before birds are placed is highly dependent on the country involved and its view on cleaning and disinfection protocols. How these processes are performed is also key, he said. Perceived failures in removing pathogens from the barn are often the result of cleaning failures.

Vaillancourt gave an overview of his experience consulting in France, where the protocol is to be “super clean.” In France, there is a total down time of two weeks from shipping to chick placement. This includes a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the barn and equipment, a period of time to let the barn dry, and then a second disinfection.

This protocol is more extreme than what is used in the U.S., where the strategy is “different situations require different tools,” he said. The U.S. also considers the cost-benefit of certain practices, he said. Although performing a second disinfection is a good idea scientifically, it may not be economical, he said. Canada is somewhere “in between” France and the U.S., he said.

Having worked in North Carolina, Vaillancourt said when he was first asked to go to France to consult on sanitation, he wasn’t sure he would be of benefit. However, he said that although they were “super clean,” it did not necessarily correlate with a reduction or a decrease in the persistence of a pathogen in the barn. “I’m not saying it’s not worth cleaning and disinfecting, but we do not necessarily need to imitate others,” he said.

He pointed to a research study conducted in France examining the persistence of salmonella in barns. He said that when no disinfection took place, the risk of salmonella in a subsequent flock was eight times greater than if two disinfections had taken place, and if only one had been performed, the risk was six times greater. The use of antibiotics in the previous flock resulted in a threefold increase, and if rodents were not controlled, the risk was nine times greater.

What’s important is how the barn is cleaned prior to disinfection, and keeping the barn dry during the down time, he said. Optimal cleaning requires mechanical action, pressure, a detergent used at the right concentration, and adequate contact time. Temperature of the water is also important, he said. Between 45 and 60 C is ideal, anything over 60 C, and “you are just baking the organic material and providing any potential pathogens with a coating,” he said.

In France, microbial monitoring is used to measure how “clean” a barn is. Vaillancourt said a researcher decided to compare a visual assessment of organic matter present after cleaning to microbial counts measured on swabs of the barn environment. Vaillancourt said that interestingly, there was very little relationship between how clean a barn “looked” and how clean it really was.

“Dryness is your friend, it’s the enemy of pathogens,” he said. If there is going to be a longer down time between flocks, as long as the barn is dry, this shouldn’t be a problem. If the barn is humid, pathogens start to multiply. “Use ventilation and heat to ensure that the barn is dry,” he said.

The importance of cleaning can also be seen in a 2006 study performed in Canada. Vaillancourt said the study, which looked at different building materials (wood, plastic and metal) and the type of cleaner used (water, iodine, or a foam or gel detergent) showed that the type of surface didn’t matter when it came to cleaning, but the method used was important. Iodine did not perform well, and the gel detergent resulted in a lower bacterial count than that of the foam because it increased contact time, he said. Dry cleaning (removal of dust and dirt without water) was best for wood, and wet cleaning was best for plastic and metal.

“What’s important is how the surface you are dealing with is cleaned, and how dry it is,” he said. “You may be surprised to see that what you have been doing may not be working as well as you think.”

Published in Environment

On May 8, 2012, the Poultry Industry Council (PIC) held its Spring Symposium (formerly known as Research Day) celebrating the career of three distinguished poultry researchers, as well as highlighting research regarding poultry health and disease that it helps fund.

The day began with the presentation of the Poultry Worker of the Year Award to Ian Duncan, who did groundbreaking work on laying hen welfare, and poultry nutrition researcher Steve Leeson. Also honoured was the late Bruce Hunter, a much beloved teacher and researcher from the Ontario Veterninary College. Each award was preceded by a short video featuring colleagues and peers discussing their accomplishments and significance to the field. All of the honorees were emotional and extremely thankful, none more so than Bruce Hunter’s widow, who was noticeably incredibly touched by the kind words said.

The rest of the day was comprised of researchers discussing various aspects of poultry health and disease, beginning with Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt from the University of Montreal, who discussed putting disease into perspective.

Vaillancourt stated that animal loss due to disease is a continuous and significant problem that claims a large number of animals each and every year. Inside the poultry system, he said, diseases constantly change and adapt and therefore it is a constant battle between management and prevention.

He also said that as density continues to increase, productivity would continue to decrease because production diseases and infection pressure will rise. “The potential costs are huge if we are unprepared,” he said, “and can have major effects on human health as well.”

The second speaker at the symposium was Cindy-Love Tremblay, a PhD student at the University of Montreal working on antimicrobial resistance in birds and how normal gut flora could aquire resistance. Her results have shown that healthy poultry could be a reservoir for resistance genes, which could quickly spread throughout a population of bacteria.

While the research is only in its early stages, Tremblay said that future work could be used to help reduce resistance by decreasing the ability for the bacteria to exchange genes.

Shayan Sharif from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph followed with an explanation on the potential uses of probiotics in humans, as well as poultry. According to him, the use of a combination of probiotics in chickens can help modulate the immune response, increase weight gain, improve feed conversion and decrease both mortality and overall parasite/bacteria load.

This was demonstrated in tests with a cocktail of three different probiotic bacteria, and the researchers found that they can help enhance the chicken’s immune response. Research is also being done on the potential antibacterial properties of probiotics with a new cocktail of five different probiotics targeted against a specific strain of Salmonella

Ben Wood, a geneticist from Hendrix Genetics then took to the podium to discuss the challenges associated with selecting for specific traits in turkeys. He said that screening for metabolic disorders with a genetic basis are quite effective, but artificially selecting against behavior and pathogen resistance is more difficult.

The reason for this is because, by selecting for improved resistance, Wood says that the results visibly decrease the presentation of commercially viable traits, such as growth rate and feed conversion. “And until breeders get the word that consumers are willing to pay for less product, “ said Wood, “things aren’t going to change.”

The final scientific presentation was by Michele Guerin from the University of Guelph on the prevalence of Salmonella serovars in breeder flocks in Ontario. The results showed that there was a seasonal difference between Salmonella’s presence in breeders (more pronounced in the fall) and hatcheries (summer), and that the best way to eliminate an outbreak is constant monitoring at the breeder flock and hatcheries across all poultry types. She noted that if she and her research team could gain a better understanding of why these seasonal patterns occur, they could design studies that could show how these infections could be prevented.

Len Jewitt, owner of BLT Farms Inc., a turkey, egg and broiler operation north of Guelph, ended the day with an emotional presentation on the impact of disease at the farm level. Several years ago, one of his layer barns was found to be positive for Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), and he explained that there are many costs to the producer when disease strikes, and these go beyond dollars and cents.

The biggest challenge was the mental cost. “This is something that as an industry, we don’t want to talk about,” he said.

He said the positive result made him feel “like a loser,” and he asked himself what had gone wrong, as he and his employees had been so clean and had followed all necessary protocols. Since the SE occurrence, he says he “is on pins and needles when a swab is taken to see if I’m OK for another year. I’m shooting at something I can’t understand, and praying it won’t hit me.”

He finished his talk with a piece of advice for those who are responsible for going on the farm and beginning the depopulation and disinfection process — to use a gentle hand. “Remember you are walking into someone’s dreams,” he said.

Published in Genetics

May 11, 2012 - The Poultry Industry Council (PIC) recently honoured three researchers from the University of Guelph with it's 2012 Poultry Worker of the Year Award.

Dr. Steve Leeson, Dr. Ian Duncan and the late Dr. Bruce Hunter were presented with the award May 8 during a ceremony at the Poultry Industry Council’s Spring Symposium (formerly known as Research Day). The annual Poultry Worker of the Year award recognizes those who have made a significant contribution to the poultry industry.

Duncan began his research career studying how important a nest is to a hen, and his groundbreaking work is regarded as the foundation for much of the animal welfare research with laying hens performed around the world.

Dr. Leeson, regarded as the "god of poultry nutrition" focused on feeding both birds and people.  Well respected by industry for his understanding of the importance of research in the real world, he is credited with providing new marketing opportunities for designer egg products, such as the Omega-3 egg.  During his career, he averaged one publication per month, which includes authoring books, articles for refereed journals, and trade journals.

Dr. Bruce Hunter's award was accepted by his widow Daina Hunter.  Dr. Hunter, who passed away suddenly in October 2011, was acknowledged for his 33 years of teaching and research at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).   He ran the OVC's wild bird clinic for 15 years, and was a co-leader of a Veterinarians Without Borders poultry project in Ghana.  He was also a highly-regarded expert on mink farming, and played a key role in the development of a Canadian Community of Practice in EcoHealth (CoPEH) and a graduate-level course in ecosystem approaches to health that involves the University of Guelph, the University of British Columbia and the Université du Québec à Montréal.





Published in Researchers

The issue of bacterial resistance to antibiotics is taken very seriously by the poultry industry. Further to encouraging prudent use, industry is supporting research into alternative measures that may offset the need for commonly used antibiotics. For example, a large research team including scientists from the University of Alberta, the National Research Council and Dow AgroSciences is looking at the prospect of engineering “designer proteins” that can combat specific diseases. The so-called field of Protein Therapeutics has changed the face of human medicine and has vast potential for novel disease treatments in agriculture as well.

Protein designed to fight Salmonella
One part of this research program, led by Dr. Christine Szymanski at the Alberta Glycomics Centre, University of Alberta, and Dr. Jamshid Tanha at the National Research Council – Institute for Biological Sciences, are using bacteriophages to reduce Salmonella in chickens. Bacteriophages (phages for short) are a special class of virus that only infect specific bacteria.  This specificity is conferred by phage proteins that bind surface structures on the bacterium; when the phage bumps up against a bacterium with the appropriate affinity, it attaches and infects the bacterium. Cellular machinery in the bacterium is then hijacked into making new copies of the phage, which then burst out of the cell, killing the bacterium. Exploiting this specificity is an attractive prospect for scientists looking for alternative ways to target bacteria. Yet previous attempts have met with varying success; using intact phage in this manner is fraught with a number of technical problems. There is also an underlying risk that the bacteria will develop resistance to the phage over time. To circumvent these problems, the researchers decided to use only a portion of the phage known as the tailspike protein (TSP); this is the piece of the phage that confers its specificity. They chose the TSP from a phage that is specific to Salmonella entericaserovar Typhimurium. Upon characterizing the TSP, the researchers recognized that, using modern protein engineering techniques, they could shorten the molecule without losing its specificity. The resulting protein resists digestion in the gastrointestinal tract of the bird (making it ideal for oral administration), can be produced in large quantities, avoids many of the technical issues and risks associated with intact phage, and is amenable to protein engineering for improved function. Properties such as stability, bindingstrength and degree of specificity can all be tailored to suit the application.

Does it work?
Lab tests showed the modified TSP does bind S. Typhimurium. The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus was unaffected during the same experiments, demonstrating the specificity of the protein. Bound TSP appears to impair the motility of S. Typhimurium, making it less able to colonize the chicken’s gut. To see if this theory held true, Leghorn chicks were orally infected with varying amounts of Salmonella and fed varying doses of the modified TSP. Treatment with modified TSP resulted in significant reduction of Salmonella in the birds’ ceca (part of the intestinal tract), liver and spleen (when birds are infected with Salmonella, the bacterium may also get into the bloodstream and infect organs such as the liver and spleen). These results demonstrate the potential of designer proteins to reduce bacterial infection in the bird. This “at source” approach to combating specific bacteria without affecting beneficial ones has tremendous potential for the industry.

What’s next?
Next steps for this work are to further characterize exactly how the modified TSP reduces Salmonella colonization in the chicken gut. For example, is the protein affecting more than the bacterium’s mobility?  The research group is also investigating ways to produce the proteins on a commercially viable scale.  We’ll tell you more about that in future updates.

Results of this work were published in the online journal PLoS ONE. Funding was provided by CPRC, the Alberta Ingenuity Fund and the National Research Council.

For more details on any CPRC activities, please contact The Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7S8, phone: 613-566-5916, fax: 613-241-5999, 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 the Chicken Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, the Turkey Farmers of Canada, the 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 Genetics

One of the most challenging decisions in meat poultry management is allocation of feed to broiler breeders. In these birds, metabolizable energy is used for growth, production of eggs and maintenance. “Maintenance” accounts for three-quarters of the energy required for a broiler to produce chicks, but, ironically, a good understanding of “maintenance” remains elusive.

Maintenance in a growing animal includes more than just the energy required to keep them in a steady state – a big example is activity level. The more productive an animal is, the higher its metabolic rate, meaning additional energy is lost to the environment as heat. Depending on the stage of life of a broiler breeder, up to 96 per cent of metabolizable energy intake can be required for maintenance, leaving little left over energy for growth, and little room for error in feed allocation to achieve desired growth rate. Because environmental temperature affects the rate that heat is lost by the bird to its environment, it affects maintenance energy requirements. Perhaps surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges in allocating feed to breeders is accounting for the impact of temperature on maintenance requirements.

To gain a better understanding of this, Dr. Martin Zuidhof and his research team at the University if Alberta conducted three experiments. They investigated the effect of environmental temperature on the maintenance requirements of free-run broiler pullets housed in four different temperatures; they investigated the effects of environmental temperature and dietary protein:energy ratios on broiler breeder hen efficiency in cages using the same four temperature treatments but feeding half the birds a low energy ration, and half a high energy ration; and they evaluated the performance and efficiency of broilers fed recommended and 10 per cent above recommended balanced protein levels in four different thermal environments.

Their findings? In the first experiment, each 1 C increase in temperature reduced metabolizable energy required for maintenance by 0.6107 kcal/kg of metabolic body weight. This means that for every decrease of 1 C, and additional 0.61 kcal is required to keep up body temperature (approximately 1 g of feed per 4 C).  In experiment two, the high protein:energy treatment resulted in energy required for maintenance being 2.16 kcal/d higher than in the low protein:energy treatment. It is speculated that this could be due to higher diet-induced heat production, or to birds using protein as an energy source in the high protein treatment. In other words, high protein levels could contribute to heat stress. In the last experiment, birds fed the 10 per cent higher protein levels also had higher maintenance requirements. Birds in the warmest rooms (10 C above thermoneutral) had higher core body temperatures, and this correlated with reduced growth rate and breast muscle yield. There was also a slight tendency toward PSE-like conditions in females at increased environmental temperatures and at higher protein levels, although no differences were seen in drip or cooking losses.

To read more about this study, please visit

Published in Breeders

The commercial production of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) in Canada was permitted in 1998 following a long period of discontinuation. The development of industrial hemp varieties with low levels of tetrahydrocannabinal (THC), a psychoactive found in other cannabis plants, has led to the reintroduction of this plant into Canadian production systems. The oil content of hemp seeds is approximately 33-35 per cent, and the oil is approximately 19 per cent alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. Since the bulk of the oil is extracted through cold-pressing/extrusion-based processing, the remaining seed cake or meal has significant oil content (approximately 10 per cent) and a high (greater than 30 per cent) protein content, making it an attractive supplement for use in poultry diets.  

However, hemp seed and hemp seed products are not registered as approved feed ingredients by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Therefore, with a goal to establish data to support safety and efficacy claims for hemp products for use in poultry diets, Dr. James House and his research team at the University of Manitoba conducted a study to determine the impact of adding hemp seed or hemp oil to diets of laying hens.

Forty eight 19-wk old Bovan White laying hens were fed one of five diets containing either hemp seed (HS) or hemp seed oil (HO). The level of HO was four, eight, or 12 per cent whereas it was 10 and 20 per cent for the HS. A set of eight birds fed wheat-, barley- and corn oil-based diets served as the control. Performance was monitored over 12 weeks, and researchers measured feed intake, egg production, feed efficiency, egg quality, egg yolk fatty acid composition, aroma, and flavour.

Their findings?  Average egg production was not affected upon feeding of either HS or HO diets. Egg weight was higher than controls for hens consuming the 20 per cent HS diet. Feed intake was lower than controls for birds consuming the four per cent HO diet, but similar across other treatments.  Final body weights were not affected by diet, with the exception of being lower than controls in hens consuming the 12 per cent HO diet. The total egg yolk omega-3 fatty acid content increased with increasing dietary ALA provision with the HS- or HO-based diets. While total omega-3 fatty acids increased in a linear fashion, the content of the long chain omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), increased but then reached a plateau at higher levels of hemp inclusion.  

When assessing smell and flavour, panelists could find no significant differences between the cooked eggs.  The one observation that was made related to yolk colour: the inclusion of higher rates of hemp seed or hemp oil led to the production of more intensely coloured yolks. It is suggested that inclusion of the hemp products HS or HO in the diets of laying hens up to a maximum level of 20 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, does not adversely impact the performance of laying hen and leads to the enrichment of the omega-3 fatty acid content of eggs.  In total, the data from the current study support the use of hemp seed and hemp oil as safe and efficacious ingredients for use in the diets of laying hens. 

To read more, please visit

Published in Nutrition and Feed

From a paper presented at the Midwest Poultry Conference

In poultry fed commercial type diets amino acids (AA) are obtained primarily through the consumption of protein in the feed as well as, in a lower proportion, synthetic AA (methionine  (Met), lysine (Lys), threonine (Thr)). Ingested proteins are broken down through digestion, which typically involves denaturation of the protein through exposure to acid and hydrolysis by enzymes called proteases. In poultry, ingested protein undergoes a series of degradation processes, carried out by acid (hydrochloric acid secreted in the proventriculus but active both in the proventriculus and gizzard), and hydrolytic proteases in the proventriculus, gizzard and small intestine. The grinding that occurs in the proventriculus, reducing particle size, aids in the speed with which digestion proceeds and influences the extent to which proteins are digested.

Other enzymes, endogenous enzymes, primarily from the pancreas also can influence the extent of protein digestion but influencing the accessibility of proteases to proteins in feeds. The result of this degradation, and specifically of proteolysis, is a mixture of AA and small peptides that are rapidly absorbed by the enterocytes in the small intestine. Thus, availability of AA for utilization by the animal is dependent on the digestibility of protein and the absorption of AA and peptides.

Enzymes are proteins that catalyze, or accelerate, chemical reactions. Enzymes vary in their specificity working on only one specific reaction or several less specific chemical reactions.

Some enzymes act on other proteins to add or remove chemical groups in a process known as posttranslational modification. This is the case for several of the intestinal proteases. For example, enterokynase, a serine protease found in the small intestinal mucosa, must cleave the pro region from trypsinogen produced in the pancreas to form trypsin, the active proteolytic enzyme.

Protein Nutrition in Broilers
The progress that the broiler industry has made in the last decades is marked by impressive improvements in all areas of genetics, management, health and nutrition, yet it is genetics that is responsible for most of the improvements in live performance and meat yields that have been achieved. At least 85% of the improvements obtained in live performance between 1957 and 2001 can be attributed to genetic selection.1

Comparisons made between a strain of chicken that had not been selected since 1940 and a present 2009 commercial broiler (Ross 708) showed increases of 72% in body weight and 3.4 times more breast meat at 34 days of age.2 Two major physiological changes associated with how body tissues grow in proportion to  one another are noticeably changed in the 2009 bird as compared to the non-selected 1940 bird. Breast muscles maintained their allometric growth (tissue as compared to body weight) after 14 days of age, not the case in the 1940s bird where rate of muscle growth was slower at later ages. After 14 days of age the allometric growth of breast muscles in the 2009 broiler was 1.25 while the 1940s birds grew breast muscle at a slower rate (allometric growth of 1.09). This continual faster growth of breast muscles into later ages in the modern broiler translates into a higher requirement for AA, especially Lys.

The rapid growth rate of the current broilers results in increased demands for AA and energy, but these demands are not increased in the same proportion. Requirements for AA increase proportionately faster than those for energy, thus a higher AA to energy ratio is required in faster growing strains of broiler.3 Morris and Njuru (1990) fed diets of increasing protein content to broilers and to laying-type cockerels.4 These authors reported that the concentration of protein needed, in laying-type cockerels, for maximal body weight gain and carcass protein content was less than that needed to maximize growth and carcass protein in broilers. Broilers continued to benefit from the additional dietary protein to later ages, and this was likely due to the continued tissue growth, especially of the breast muscles.

Providing dietary protein above levels considered adequate by the industry leads to improved feed conversion ratios and breast meat yields.5,6 In comparison to usual industry levels, benefits of increased AA density diets have been shown early in life as well as in finisher diets. Feeding diets containing high AA levels may result in greater economic return if implemented during periods when the birds’ feed intake is relatively low and growth rate is high, and also because at least some of the benefits obtained earlier can be carried through to market ages.7,8

Embryos hatch with myofibre numbers that are not expected to change after hatch. Growth of muscle after hatch occurs through increases in fibre size, which are accompanied by equal increases in the number of nuclei per myofibre.9,10 A group of myogenic precursor cells are found in between the muscle cell and its plasmalemma: the satellite cells. These myogenic precursor cells can multiply and later fuse with adjacent fibres aggregating more nuclei and therefore having a greater capacity for protein synthesis.11 It is estimated that 98% of the final DNA content of muscle results from this process.12 However, an actual increase in myofibre size can only be achieved by a concurrent and balanced supply of dietary AA. Halevi et al., (2000) showed that early starvation (hatch to two days of age) resulted in birds that were 7% and 9% lighter in body weight and breast muscle, respectively, at 41 days of age.9

Increasing Lys and other essential AA fed only in the finisher phase has also been shown to improve feed conversion ratio and breast meat yields.13 This last impact of high Lys and other essential AA in finisher diets can be partially explained by the higher proportional growth rate of the breast muscles compared to other body tissues at later ages in the modern broiler.2

Proteases perform a variety of roles in biology. These enzymes function in important physiological processes, including homeostasis, apoptosis, signal transduction, reproduction and immunity.14 In addition, proteases are involved in blood coagulation and wound healing. From a nutritionist’s perspective, the hydrolysis of proteins to individual AA and peptides in the intestinal tract is a key function for proteases. Several intestinal proteases exist, and comprise a protease system in the intestinal tract for the utilization of various dietary protein sources.

Pepsin is an acidic protease secreted in the stomach of most animals. Released as the non-active pepsinogen, it is activated in the presence of hydrochloric acid. It is active at low pH and inactive at pHs above six with variance across species.15 This protease hydrolyzes peptide bonds mainly between two hydrophobic AA. It falls within the group of carboxyl proteases.

The presence of hydrochloric acid, produced in the proventriculus, and of peptides, the products of initial protein digestion (hydrochloric acid denaturation as well as partial breakdown of protein by pepsin) from the gizzard into the duodenum stimulates the release of the hormones secretin and pancreozymin from S cells of the duodenum in the crypts of Lieberkühn.16 These hormones promote the secretion of pancreatic juice containing a number of enzymes and bicarbonate ions. The production of an alkaline solution quickly neutralizes the acid entering the duodenum.17 Small intestinal enzymes function best at pHs close to neutral or slightly below neutral, and thus, insufficient alkaline bile, lowers enzyme activity in the intestine.18

Pancreatic proteases as well as all known cellular proteases are synthesized as zymogens, or the inactive precursor, to prevent unwanted protein degradation at the point of origin.19 The conversion of the zymogens to the active protease requires low pH (autocatalysis) or limited proteolysis. Primary pancreatic zymogens are trypsinogen, chymotrypsinogens A and B, proelastase, and procarboxypeptidases A and B. Trypsin is activated after being cleaved by enterokinase, found in the brush border membrane. The active trypsin then hydrolyzes bonds in the other zymogens, releasing the active enzymes. Trypsin is the primary protease in the intestinal tract. Its active form hydrolyzes at the carboxyl side of Lys and arginine (Arg), except when followed by proline (Pro). It has an optimal operating pH of 8 or less.20 Chymotrypsin hydrolyzes peptide bonds in which the carboxyl groups come from one of the three aromatic AA (phenylalanine (Phe), tyrosine (Tyr), and tryptophan (Trp)). Elastase cleaves at the carboxyl end of the hydrophobic AA glycine (Gly),valine (Val) and alanine (Ala). These AA are common in connective tissue in muscle. Elastase, like trypsin and chymotrypsin, falls within the category of serine protease.

Carboxypeptidases A and B are exopeptidases also secreted by the pancreas. Carboxypeptidase A follows on the work of chymotrypsin and elastase that expose the carboxy-terminal aromatic or non- polar AA while carboxypeptidase B cleaves carboxy-terminal basic AA exposed by the activity of trypsin.21

Pancreatic proteases experience a progressive fall in activity as digesta passes through the small intestine.20 The decline in importance of these primary proteases is paralleled by a gain in brush border and cytosolic peptidase activity. It is estimated that 70-85% of all luminal AA are taken up from the small intestinal digesta as peptides.21  Yet, it is important to realize that approximately 85% of this quantity appears in hepatic portal blood as free AA because of intracellular hydrolysis.22

Ingredient Protein Digestibility
With the broad fluctuations in ingredient prices as well as historically high prices seen in the last four years, choice and quality of ingredients becomes more important. From a practical nutritionist’s standpoint, the value of ingredients as a protein source generally comes down to the content of digestible AA and the ratio of AA in the ingredient (aside from cost and ingredient accessibility). Numerous studies and tables on protein and AA availability (the digestibility, absorption and utilization by the animal) have been published. As can be seen in Table 1 there is high variability in AA content within an ingredient with content and variability being related, in part, to where the ingredient was harvested.

The common thread that runs through such summaries is that ingredient improvements can yet be made in digestibility of protein (Table 1 and Table 2). Digestibility of AA is lowest at younger ages.23 The AA digestibility was markedly better at 21 days of age as compared to five days of age in corn, DDGS and canola meal (Table 2) but this age effect was less marked with SBM.

In one large-scale study, apparent ileal digestibility was determined for various ingredients in broilers.24 For cereals, the overall AA digestibility coefficient for eight samples of corn was 0.81 (range 0.77 to 0.85). For SBM, the digestibility coefficient was 0.82 (range 0.81 to 0.83). In particular, the groups of meat and bone meal (average digestibility coefficient of 0.62) and meat meal samples (average digestibility coefficient 0.65) showed low AA digestibilities and marked variation. Similarly in work done at the University of Illinois on AA digestibility of ingredients, low values and high variation for meat and bone meals is often seen.25 More recent collaborative work with The Ohio State University, Purdue University and University of Illinois further emphasizes that the variability continues to be present in meat-based ingredients.23 Generally, however, digestibility data indicate that there is room for improving ingredient AA digestibility. This holds true for ingredients that generally are considered to have good digestibility, and certainly for ingredients such as animal byproduct meals and DDGS in which digestibility is generally lower.

The interest in proteases has increased in the last few years and new commercial proteases have entered the market recently. One of the new proteases to enter the market is an alkaline serine protease derived from Nocardiopsis prasina and the production strain Bacillus licheniformis (ProAct®, DSM).

Several research groups have presented ileal digestibility results with this protease, which is summarized in Figure 1.26-29 This work confirms the ability of this protease to improve ingredient protein digestibility. These researchers used the NFE diet or basal diet substitution methods to determine amino acid digestibility in different ingredients.

Across all ingredients tested – corn, soybean meal, full fat soybean meal and meat and bone meal – the protease improved AA digestibility. The improvement over the non-protease control ranged from about 2% to 14%.

A study with broilers and using the same commercial protease showed that apparent AA digestibilities were improved in a corn SBM diet in patterns similar to those previously reported for the single ingredients.27,29-31

Three studies were done to evaluate the true standardized amino acid (TAA) digestibility of individual ingredients for broilers, laying hens and turkeys. Straight run Ross 708 broilers and female Nicholas turkey poults (separate experiments done at the University of Maryland) were raised to 17 days in floor pens and assigned to battery pens in a completely randomized design of 12 treatments with eight replicates of seven birds per pen. In a third experiment Hyline W36 white Leghorn hens 56 wks of age (done at the University of Nebraska) were assigned to cages in a completely randomized design of 10 treatments (Trt) with six replicates of four birds per cage.

Diets were formulated and mixed and the same batch used in all three experiments. A nitrogen-free diet (NFD) was formulated with 0.3% titanium dioxide as a marker. The corn-starch, sucrose and solka flock in the NFD diet were replaced in part by the ingredients being tested such that all the protein in the diet came from the tested ingredient.

Ingredients were added to achieve 20% protein for the high protein ingredients or to a maximum of 96% of the diet for the low protein ingredients. Ingredient percentages tested in the final diets were: 42% soybean meal  (SBM), 40% meat and bone meal (MBM), 75% corn distiller dried grains and solubles (DDGS), 96% corn and 96% bakery by-product meal (BPM). In the laying hen trial corn was not tested. Each Trt was supplemented with 0 or 200 ppm of a mono component serine protease (Ronozyme ProAct™, CT, DSM Nutritional Products, containing 75,000 protease units/g of enzyme product). Birds were fed the diets for four days. At 22 days broilers and turkeys were euthanized and the distal half of the ileal content collected, pooled by pen and freeze dried.

In the broilers trial, a main effect of protease on digestibility of Thr, Met, Cys, Lys, Arg, Ser, Val, Asp. Ile, and His was seen. There were no protease by ingredient interactions except for Cys. Addition of the protease improved (P<0.05) the digestibility of Thr, Cys, Met, Lys and Ser in SBM; Thr, Cys, Met, Ser and His in corn; Cys, Met, Arg, Ser, Val and His in DDGS; Cys, Met, Lys, Ser and His in MBM; and Met, Arg, and Ser in BPM. For SBM the TSAA digestibility was improved from 75.2 to 83.2% for Thr, 74.9 to 81.2% for Cys, 83.1 to 86.3% for Met, 83.8 to 87.1% for Lys, and 80.6 to 85.4% for Ser with the protease. Addition of the protease had similar impacts in laying hens and turkeys. Overall digestibilities of AA, in the presence or absence of the protease, from the same ingredients, were higher for laying hens and turkeys as compared to broilers.

There is no question that in today’s ingredient availability and cost environment, tools that allow for increasing the digestibility of AA would be welcomed. Given the digestibilities reported for the most commonly used ingredients and the higher variability in AA content and digestibility from locally grown ingredients, room exists for improvement. There is little information in the literature as to how proteases work in the intestinal tract, where in the tract they have the most impact and how they interact chemically with other exogenous enzymes as well as endogenous enzymes. It will be important as the role of proteases gains commercial application and importance that we better understand how these enzymes work and how they interact with endogenous and exogenous enzymes. We will also need to understand how to formulate proteases into diets.

The first step will be defining clearly and accurately what their impact is on AA digestibilities of ingredients, what the variability of this impact is on the same ingredient, possibly defining why this variability is occurring such that appropriate matix values can be used. Each exogenous protease, based on their specificity, will impact different AA differently and this impact will be ingredient related.

References for this article are available on our website, and by request (e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Published in Broilers

May 2, 2012, Grand Forks, ND - The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has announced that it will be leading a project, in partnership with DenYon Energy, LLC, and the U.S. Department of Energy, to perform testing in an advanced fixed-bed gasifier (AFBG) to convert poultry waste to energy and other value-added products. The proprietary technology has been licensed by the EERC Foundation to DenYon Energy for commercialization in the poultry industry.
The EERC will run several weeks of pilot-scale tests to determine the efficiency and performance of the system using poultry litter and other waste materials as fuel. The testing will determine what challenges need to be overcome to bring the waste-to-energy technology to the commercial marketplace.
“We are trying to achieve a complete solution for the poultry industry with this distributed energy technology,” said Nikhil Patel, Research Scientist, Project Manager, and inventor of the technology. “A distributed-scale energy and by-product recovery process is an emerging need in the poultry industry. This project can lead to environmental and economic sustainability by helping a major food processing industry eliminate waste and become more energy self-reliant. In essence, poultry farms around the globe could use their own waste to supply lower-cost energy to their operations and reduce disposal challenges.”
Poultry litter is a complex combustible mixture. The EERC’s AFBG system is capable of converting the litter into a clean and combustible mixture of gases, commonly known as synthetic gas, or syngas. The syngas can be used as a direct fuel for electricity and heat production. A farm generating 3000 tons a year of waste could produce about 280 kilowatts of electricity using an engine generator, enough to supply about 150 homes with their average annual electricity needs.
“In addition, the process can effectively recover by-products that may have unique applications within existing markets,” said Patel. “The gasification process can thus open up a new avenue to convert a potential disposal liability into an opportunity feedstock for all sizes of poultry farms.”
“One of the main strategic initiatives at the EERC is distributed generation projects like this one that provide practical, environmentally sound solutions for our client’s site-specific needs,” said EERC Director Gerald Groenewold.
About the EERC

The EERC is a research, development, demonstration, and commercialization facility recognized as one of the world’s leading developers of cleaner, more efficient energy technologies as well as environmental technologies to protect and clean our air, water, and soil. The EERC, a high-tech, nonprofit division of the University of North Dakota (UND), operates like a business and pursues an entrepreneurial, market-driven approach to research and development in order to successfully demonstrate and commercialize innovative technologies. See more at

About DenYon Energy, LLC

DenYon Energy ( is a Webster City, Iowa, company founded by turkey producer Dennis Weis to deliver an economically and environmentally sound solution to improve the handling and disposition of waste streams generated by poultry farming operations. Funded in part by a grant from the State of Iowa Power Fund, and joined in partnership with gasification technology/engineering company Frontline BioEnergy (, DenYon Energy plans to commission its first demonstration system on the Weis family farm in 2013.

Published in Health

The thing about the great ethanol debate is that everyone involved is behaving rationally (although policy makers may be the exception).

That doesn’t mean the ethanol policies make sense, but that everyone is arguing their own self-interest.

In general terms, grain producers like ethanol because it increases demand and raises prices. Ethanol producers like current policies because they are encouraged to produce and are back stopped by mandates and subsidies. Livestock producers hate them because they raise feed prices, increases production costs and make it hard to turn a profit.

There are others involved in this debate including environmentalists who tend to like grain ethanol because it is a bit less polluting than oil and politicians who like it because grain farmers and the ethanol industry like it.

In February, the George Morris Centre threw another log on the fire in this great debate. The think-tank released a study that essentially concluded Canadian policies that encourage the conversion of grain to ethanol raise feed grain prices and are bad for the meat industry.

This report is detailed and provides figures quantifying the impact of ethanol on meat production, but thematically it is similar to several reports produced by George Morris over the last few years. In general, it is clear that the George Morris Centre supports Canada’s meat industry and believes Canada’s ethanol policy is stupid.

Predictably, the grain producers and the ethanol industry hated the study and debate raged for a few days.

The problem with the debate is that, while everyone in it is arguing rationally, the whole thing is absolutely loony tunes.

First, corn isn’t even close to being the best feedstock for ethanol — that honour goes to sugarcane. Second, Canada is a net importer of corn. Third, Canada imports its corn from the United States, which has its own ethanol policies that inflate its corn prices.

A rational policy would seem to entail getting ethanol from the most cost-efficient source and the one that offers the greatest environmental payoff.

The most cost-efficient sources for ethanol are Brazil and the Caribbean basin where sugar cane is produced and where more sugar cane could be produced. The production of ethanol from sugarcane, according to a variety of studies, costs 25 to 50 per cent less than ethanol from corn.

On the environmental side, sugarcane is an extremely efficient photosynthesizer, absorbing four to five times as much carbon dioxide as corn.

The problem with sugarcane, is that it doesn’t grow in great enough quantities in the United States, while corn does.
In the U.S., ethanol was, at first, a seemingly rational solution to a long-standing problem — low-priced, surplus grain. Until the early years of this century, the United States had more grain than it knew what to do with. The economic imperative was to get rid of the stuff and the political imperative was to do it in a way that didn’t hurt grain producers and the states in which they live.

In response, the U.S. used a mixture of export subsidies, farm supports and land set-asides. The results were that export subsidies occasionally got so high that buyers were getting grain for little more than the cost of transportation, farm subsidies reached the point where they represented all net farm income and millions of acres were taken out of production. Behaving rationally, the U.S. government looked for a better way and settled on ethanol as a small domestic answer to imported oil. While the costs of supporting the industry were high (in the form of subsidies, tariffs and tax breaks), the total was significantly less than the cost of export subsidies plus farm support.

The program succeeded in wiping out the troublesome grain surpluses. In fact it worked so well that corn prices have surged to the point where supplies became tight and the U.S. livestock industry and other users of corn started screaming and prices for meat started rising.

Consumers ended up supporting ethanol on their drive to the butcher shop and paid again once they got there. While there are many other factors at play, not the least of which is a slow U.S. economy, fuel consumption and meat consumption in the U.S. have fallen.

Canada’s ethanol policy follows the U.S. and is accurately described by George Morris as “me too.”

So what we have is a policy designed to get rid of U.S. grain (corn) surpluses that was copied by Canada, which is a net importer of corn. It is sold as an environmental policy when there are much better alternatives (sugarcane, or more extensive public transit or fuel-efficient vehicles). And it is costing both taxpayers and consumers.

But no matter how flawed, the policy is now so heavily defended and so politically entrenched that it will take more than a few critical studies to end the lunacy.

Published in Farm Business

There are six characteristics of a successful life:

  1. A peaceful mind: freedom from anger, resentment, anxiety, despair, shame and guilt.
  2. A high level of energy and health: a body that is in harmony with the mind; having energy to invest in achieving goals.
  3. Positive relationships with others: developing and maintaining significant, positive and mature relationships.
  4. Financial independence: freedom from constant worry about money; having sufficient ease to feel safe and able to meet one’s own needs.
  5. Engaging and stimulating goals and ideals: knowing the reason for getting out of bed each morning and where to invest energy, time and money.
  6. Self-actualization: having a sense of becoming who one wants to become, of developing one’s full human potential positively and constructively for oneself and others.

Are all of these characteristics required to feel successful in life? Certainly not. But the more we have, the more we benefit. These characteristics are not to be perceived as fully present or absent, but rather, as on a continuum. It should also be noted that we can have a great deal of influence over these characteristics.

For example, only we can stop sustaining hatred. This is true for all other emotions. We cannot control certain events in life, but we can choose our reaction. Also, we are responsible for our lifestyles: nutrition, sleep, physical exercise, tobacco and alcohol use.

We can make choices with respect to financial resources, even if they are sometimes limited. Some people will make wiser choices than others about the same amount of money. In addition, lifestyle and emotions have a direct effect on financial health.

Finally, only we can set stimulating and constructive goals for ourselves. We must take the time to look at our resources and define realistic goals that are appropriate for us (couple, personal, family, business).

Is all this easy? Certainly not, otherwise everyone would manage to do it. It it possible? Certainly it is, because some people do indeed manage to do it.

How do we accomplish this? Here are a few hints: hone your sense of observation. Be realistic about the current situation. Have a clear image of where you want to be. Understand that acts, thoughts and feelings can either foster or harm success.

It is up to us to take our courage in our hands, imitate those who succeed and work on it every day. But only if we want success.

Losing control of your emotions always works against you. How many times have you regretted words, actions or decisions once the emotion has passed? If you are often in the grip of strong emotions (anger, sarcasm, hostility) and you are unaware, three things can happen:

  • Physiologically, you are at risk of developing significant health problems such as irregular blood pressure, ulcers and even coronary artery disease.
  • You will cause emotional damage to those around you without being aware of it.
  • Your management abilities will be affected and your business will suffer. During intense emotions, your intellectual abilities are greatly diminished.

In the grip of emotion, your judgment is altered. You are deprived of your ability to reason, plan and assess the consequences from various angles.  It is thus important to recognize your emotions and then take action to learn to better manage them.

The person in the grip of a compulsion is focussed on the immediate emotional consequences of their action (relief of the emotional tension they are feeling) at the expense of more long-term emotional consequences (shame, guilt, regret) or material or physical consequences (financial problems after an impulsive).

After becoming aware that you have been taken over by emotions (being emotionally aware is the foundation of healthy business management), how can you manage them better?

  • First, never act or speak in the heat of emotion. (Remember, you are deprived of part of your intelligence.) If possible, physically remove yourself from the situation as long as it takes to return to normal. Usually, 20 minutes of recovery time is required.
  • Breathe deeply 10 times in order to induce physiological relaxation. (It is difficult to get angry when you are relaxed.)
  • Take time to reflect. Why does this situation, word or person bother me so much? What needs are stimulated? What values am I confronting?
  • Imagine a person you admire for their good judgment and ask yourself what that would person do in this situation. What advice would they give you?
  • What are the consequences of these emotions on you, those around you and your work?
  • How could you look at the situation differently? Is what is happening so terrible?
  • Finally, in 20 years, how important will this situation be in your life?

Pierrette Desrosriers is a work psychologist, speaker and psychological coach who specializes in helping those working in agriculture. She can be contacted by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or if you would like more information, visit her website at

Published in Farmer Health/Safety

Featured researchers: Manon Racicot, Arthur Kocher, Guy Beauchamp, Ann Letellier, Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, University of Montreal

Hand sanitizing is extremely important to prevent the spread of pathogens — be it from person to person or from farm to farm.  But, are all sanitizing methods created equal? Are the convenient alcohol-based gels and wipes as good as (or better than) good old soap and water? Or are they best used in combination? This question is especially relevant to catching crew members, who can heavily contaminate their hands with organic material, then act as mechanical vectors spreading diseases between farms. Hand hygiene is also important to prevent zoonotic agent contamination such as Escherichia coli O157 and Salmonella enteritidis for which health consequences can be serious.

Many studies in human medicine tend to make hand rub with a disinfecting gel a standard for hand hygiene. However, few studies have tested the effectiveness of hand hygiene products on visibly contaminated hands. Dr. Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt and his research team at the University of Montreal have been evaluating the effectiveness of practical hand sanitization protocols: soap and water, degreasing cream, and hand wipes, all combined with alcohol-based hand gel. The use of alcohol-based gel alone was also evaluated. Thirty-two repetitions of each hand-washing protocol were done.

The study was conducted under field conditions, from July to August 2010. A catching crew was followed during normal working hours. To be as close as possible to field conditions, no specific time and quantity were required for washing or rubbing hands with the different products. An explanation was given on how to perform the four protocols (different steps) without indicating specific time or quantity to use. However, the time spent by each person for each protocol (the time spent to wash hands before applying the alcohol-based gel and the time spent to rub hands with the alcohol-based gel) was recorded using a video camera and the quantity of alcohol-based gel used was estimated by recording the number of times each participant pressed on the delivery device fixed on the alcohol-based gel container.

Their findings? For the reduction of coliforms after washing, there was no statistically significant difference between protocols when the initial level of contamination was low to moderate. When hands were highly contaminated, the alcohol-based gel alone was less effective than the degreasing cream combined with the alcohol-based gel. As for the reduction in total aerobic counts after washing, there was no difference between protocols when the initial level of contamination was low. The soap and water with alcohol-based gel protocol was more effective than the scrubbing wipes and alcohol-based gel protocol when hands were moderately and highly contaminated. All protocols were effective in neutralizing Salmonella.

Reducing the level of hand contamination before using an alcohol-based gel seems important to ensure effective hand sanitation for highly and moderately contaminated hands. This can be done by using a degreasing cream or soap and water before applying an alcohol-based gel. However, based on the survey done during this study, catching crew members preferred using soap and warm water compared to a degreasing cream. For more information on this study, please visit

Characterization of avian antimicrobial resistance (AMR)
Featured Researcher:  Dr. Marie Archambault

Enterococci are part of normal intestinal gut flora of animals and humans. Many studies have shown that enterococci from animal origin could represent an antimicrobial resistance genes reservoir for the human community. Little is known about the molecular antimicrobial resistance profiles from avian enterococci in Canada. Enterococci have numerous genetic elements that contribute to the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance traits that are mostly transferred by a highly efficient “pheromone-responsive” system. This system enables contact between donor cell and recipient cell during conjugation. In addition to reducing antimicrobial use, the poultry industry would benefit from new methods of prevention or reduction of spread of AMR.

Dr. Marie Archambault and her research team at the University of Montreal have been working toward providing evidence for the development of new tools to help the poultry industry prevent the emergence and spread of AMR. To this end, they have conducted a study to characterize the antimicrobial resistance determinants and investigate plasmid colocalization (presence of two substances in the same site) of tetracycline and macrolide genes in Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium from broiler chicken and turkey flocks in Canada. This study also investigated new ways to reduce the transfer of antimicrobial resistance through interference in the pheromone-responsive conjugation. They hypothesized that the horizontal transfer of antimicrobial resistance in avian isolates of enterococci could be reduced using a polyclonal antiserum AS44-560.

Their findings?  A total of 387 E. faecalis and E. faecium isolates were recovered from poultry cecal contents from five processing plants. The percentages of resistant E. faecalis and E. faecium isolates, respectively, were 88.1 and 94 per cent to bacitracin, 0 and 0.9 per cent to chloramphenicol, 0.7 and 14.5 per cent to ciprofloxacin, 72.6 and 80.3 per cent to erythromycin, 3.7 and 41 per cent to flavomycin, 9.6 and 4.3 per cent (high-level resistance) to gentamicin, 25.2 and 17.1 per cent (high-level resistance) to kanamycin, 0 and 0 per cent to linezolid, 2.6 and 20.5 per cent to nitrofurantoin, 3 and 27.4 per cent to penicillin, 7 and 12.8 per cent to salinomycin, 46.7 and 38.5 per cent (high-level resistance) to streptomycin, 95.6 and 89.7 per cent to tetracycline, 73 and 75.2 per cent to tylosin, and 0 and 0 per cent to vancomycin.

One predominant multidrug-resistant phenotypic pattern was identified in both E. faecalis and E. faecium (bacitracin, erythromycin, tetracycline and tylosin). A significant reduction in the pheromone-responsive horizontal transfer of bacitracin resistance in E. faecalis could be achieved in vitro with a polyclonal anti-AS44-560.  Overall, results indicated that the intestinal enterococci of healthy poultry could be a reservoir for quinupristin-dalfopristin, bacitracin, tetracycline, and macrolide resistance genes. For more information on this study, please visit

PIC’s Picks
By Tim Nelson, Executive Director

It’s music to our ears when a producer tells us that he can’t wait for the next regional producer update, which we host with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) at various locations throughout Ontario.

The focus of the regional poultry producer updates is to bring producers and industry together to talk about current issues and provide a local forum for the exchange of information. Looking at attendance, we seem to have hit our stride with the last round of updates held in February. Thanks to all of our presenters who provided great information in a clear, concise manner peppered with real-life stories that we all could relate to.

Here are the attendence numbers: Belleville, 55, London, 120, and Jordan, 51, for a total of 226.

Of the 226, 50 per cent were poultry producers.

Topics included:

  • the poultry health update from the regional poultry vets, what they have been seeing with respect to disease this winter;
  • an update from the banks (TD and RBC), who shared their thoughts on current market trends;
  • an update from the provincial poultry specialist on the use of the new pullet carts; and
  • updates on the effect of heat stress, fly control and much more.    

Some highlights:
Crystal Mackay from Farm and Food Care Ontario spoke about the newly released poultry transport decision tree, “Should This Bird be Loaded?”, and why it was created and this led to a lively exchange of questions and answers.

Producers were able to pick up copies of the ”Should This Bird Be Loaded?” laminated information sheet, which is a quick reference guide that can be inserted in barn binders. A poster version of this guide (great for displaying on barn entrances), as well as a more detailed handbook were also available and were scooped up.

Bill Groot-Nibbelink, livestock regulatory affairs specialist with OMAFRA, gave an update on the pending deadline for certification of incinerators, and listed which companies are hoping to have their Environmental Technology Verification Program (ETV certificate) by March 27.

George Cornelissen shared his story of installing a geothermal unit (water furnace) on his property to heat his barns. George talked about the cost, installation and cost savings that he is now experiencing with this alternative heating system.

These days are run for producers and we rely on you for great ideas for speakers and topics.

We run regional think-tanks with producers to discuss what they would like to hear and all are welcome to attend. The more input into the planning sessions, the better the updates. So why not join us at one of those or if you have a topic you would like to share with others at a regional producer update please don’t hesitate to contact us for information on how to get it into the agenda. Phone the PIC at 519-837-0284 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The next round of updates will be held in November.

Published in Barn Management

Air pollution is increasingly being linked to human health effects in terms of cost of illness as well as the occurrences of pulmonary and cardiac diseases. Ammonia and fine particulate matter are two contaminants that are emitted by agricultural operations and that contribute to the general burden of illness due to atmospheric exposure. Production commodity groups thus need a sound scientific knowledge regarding their agricultural air emissions so that future discussions, decisions and policies can be made in a rational and logical manner.

Emissions from farming enterprises are extremely complex and interrelated. Emissions to the air can occur from all stages including the animal housing unit, the manure storage, and the subsequent field application of the manure. The aim of the overall study is to conduct an integrated investigation of different poultry operations (broiler and/or layer) as a whole system to quantify the strength of sources as well as their interrelationship for a suite of air contaminants, including ammonia, greenhouse gases (methane and nitrous oxide), size fractionated particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), and gaseous and particulate anion and cation concentrations. This project, which represents the third year in the study, focused on the emissions of ammonia and particulate matter from poultry houses.

To date, emission factors for ammonia and particulate matter have been published for broiler facilities. As an example, for a summer broiler flock, the estimated ammonia emission rate was 120.8 g/day/AU and particulate matter emission rates, as PM10 and PM2.5, were 5.2 and 1.0 g/day/AU respectively (PM10 refers to particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters of less than 10 mm, or the coarse fraction; PM2.5 refers to particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters of less than 2.5 mm, or the fine fraction; and AU represents an animal unit taken as 500 kg live weight). These emission factors developed for the release from housing facilities are seasonally dependent as ventilation rates vary accordingly. The expertise and knowledge gained with broiler operations is now being applied to layer facilities.

Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from an outside broiler litter storage bunker were measured and emissions factors developed. On a mass of litter basis, the estimated annual emission rates of CH4 and N2O from the exposed litter surface in the bunker were 19 and 3.3 g/(kg of litter), respectively. These emission factors are somewhat dependent on the depth of the litter in the bunker, the mass of volatile solids within the litter and the season of the year.

Experiments aimed at estimating the loss of NH3 to the atmosphere after surface broadcasting of broiler litter on soil surfaces indicate that 22 per cent of the ammonium (as N) in the litter was lost 72 hours after application and 25 per cent after 132 hours.

Composting of chicken carcasses is also a source of NH3 to the atmosphere. Flux chamber experiments on static compost piles have indicated that different amendment materials used, such as broiler litter, finished compost and fresh wood chips, can affect the levels of NH3 generated and released from the pile. The controlled experiments clearly showed that broiler litter emitted the most NH3 while finished compost emitted the least over time. Elevated NH3 releases can lead to odour concerns as well as the loss of nutrients. To read more about this project, please visit

Published in Environment

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