Influenza scientists are worried they may be feeling a cold front moving in.

In December 2011, an unprecedented decision by the U.S. government to ask two leading scientific journals (Science and Nature) to withhold publication of key information from controversial avian influenza studies has scientists in this sector nervous.

They fear a chill may be descending on their field, potentially making it harder to tackle studies aimed at answering one of the key questions in influenza science, namely, how viruses that normally infect birds, pigs or other mammals evolve to become viruses that infect people.

But a scientist at the centre of a raging controversy over bird flu transmission studies has broken his silence, in the process revealing information about his study that has not been made public previously.

In a commentary in the journal Nature, flu virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka argued the work he and other high-level influenza scientists do to try to puzzle out why some flu viruses spread in humans while others don’t is too important to be shelved.

“Our work remains urgent – we cannot give it up,” wrote Kawaoka, who up until mid-January made no comment on the controversy that is pitting flu scientists against the community of biosecurity experts, some of whom insist no further transmission studies on the dangerous H5N1 flu virus should be undertaken.

The standoff between the two groups started when the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity, which advises the U.S. government on research that could be put to so-called dual use, recommended two studies into how H5N1 viruses could become more transmissible should not be published in full.

In his commentary, Kawaoka revealed that his laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison made a hybrid virus, fusing the hemagglutinin protein (the H in a flu virus’s name) from H5N1 onto the human H1N1 virus that caused the 2009 pandemic.

The H1N1 virus spreads easily among people but H5N1 currently does not.

His team found the viruses came together readily, and spread easily among ferrets kept in separate cages. Ferrets are considered the best animal model for predicting how a flu virus will act in humans. And that type of study is meant to show whether viruses can spread in the way they do in people – by being propelled through the air by coughing or sneezing.

But while it was highly transmissible, Kawaoka’s mutant virus did not kill the ferrets. In fact, it was no more pathogenic to the animals than the 2009 H1N1 virus, Kawaoka said.

“Our results ... show that not all transmissible H5 HA-possessing viruses are lethal,” he wrote. HA is the short form for hemagglutinin used by flu scientists.

Nature, which plans to publish Kawaoka’s paper, acknowledged it gave him dispensation to release information about this work.

Normally journals will not publish studies if the findings have already been reported elsewhere, including in the mainstream media.

Spokeswoman Rachel Twinn said Nature decided it was in the public interest to allow Kawaoka to share details of his findings at this time.

Kawaoka –who also has an appointment at the University of Tokyo – runs one of two labs caught up in this roiling controversy. The other is run by Dutch virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. Fouchier called Kawaoka’s findings “completely unexpected.”

“I would have guessed that if you would have put a highly pathogenic HA on the pandemic H1N1 that you would get a virulent virus. And clearly that’s not the case,” Fouchier said, though he noted he hasn’t read the study and doesn’t know the full details of the work.

The findings suggest a couple of things, Fouchier said in an interview from Rotterdam.

The first is a point that Kawaoka also made. If a hybrid of this constellation of genes – the H5 hemagglutinin with seven genes from the pandemic H1N1 virus –were to emerge “we may not have to fear as much as we would think,” Fouchier said.

But another point he made sounded a more chilling note. He observed that the combination of his work and Kawaoka’s shows that there are at least two different routes that the H5N1 virus could take to become one that is easily transmitted among mammals – and perhaps people.

“We now show in completely independent studies in two completely different ways that we cannot say that H5 will never gain the ability to go aerosol transmissible,” Fouchier said. “There is now already two very easy paths of achieving it.”

Fouchier has been front and centre in the debate over whether to publish these two studies, having previewed his own findings last fall at an influenza conference in Malta. (Journals’ pre-publication bans don’t apply to presentations made to scientific conferences.)

Fouchier’s team forced evolution of an H5N1 virus in ferrets, getting it to the point where it easily transmitted among the animals.

It was a full H5N1 virus – it was not a hybrid – and it was fatal to at least some of the animals. His paper is to be published in Science.

But before Science and Nature could publish the works, the panel of biosecurity experts advised the U.S. government to ask the journals not to publish the full works, saying to do so would be to print recipes for potential bioterror weapons.

The journals and the scientists have grudgingly held off. But the flu community and some others in the science world have objected to the decision, saying to hold back the full details of the studies will impede science that needs to be done.

In the hopes of creating room for a compromise, last week 39 leading flu scientists – including Kawaoka and Fouchier – announced they would observe a voluntary 60-day moratorium (from Jan. 20) on H5N1 transmission studies. The idea was to give the global community time to sort through the troubling issues the work raises.

The World Health Organization, which has been asked to help mediate the problem, stated that it will convene a meeting of technical experts in Geneva in mid-February.

The WHO’s point person on the issue, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, has said the meeting will be small, involving fewer than 50 people. The scientists who did the studies as well as scientists from WHO’s network of flu laboratories will be invited to attend.

A representative of the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity will also be invited to attend, Fukuda has said.
In his commentary, Kawaoka argued that trying to disseminate the full details of his and Fouchier’s work on a need-to-know basis – the U.S. proposal – will be unworkable.

And he said redacting the studies won’t eliminate the possibility that the information will become public.

“There is already enough information publicly available to allow someone to make a transmissible H5 HA-possessing virus,” he warned.

The Controversy
The scientific journals Nature and Science were slated to publish H5N1 studies conducted by research groups in the Netherlands and the U.S., but in December 2011 biosecurity advisors in the U.S. asked the journals to hold off, fearing that the studies posed a risk of “an unusually high magnitude.”

The studies were submitted for review to the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, a group that advises the U.S. government on so-called dual-use research.

The group says a pandemic with the H5N1 flu virus, either caused by nature or by a transmissible virus engineered in a laboratory, would be an unimaginable catastrophe. The studies show how H5N1 viruses, which currently don’t transmit efficiently among mammals, can be made to do so in ferrets, the best animal model for predicting infection in humans.

After weeks of deliberation, the advisory panel suggested that the scientific journals should be asked not to publish the means by which the researchers manipulated the H5N1 virus to get it to the point where it was easily transmitted among ferrets.

The U.S. National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity outlined its position publicly in the journals at the end of January.

Flu scientists announced a voluntary two-month moratorium on research in this area and at least one of the journals has agreed to hold off publication to allow international talks on resolving the dispute to get underway.

Published in Health

Antibiotic resistance is a very important issue with implications for both agriculture and human health. It is an issue that is receiving a lot of attention from media and the scientific community. Prophylactic use of antimicrobials (used to prevent rather than treat an infection) has been of particular concern, especially when the drugs used are of the same or related class as those used in human medicine. Scientific evidence clearly shows that exposing bacteria to antimicrobials selects for resistance. However, what is not entirely clear is how agricultural use relates to the development of bacterial resistance, especially to antimicrobials used in human medicine. What are the contributions to resistance of bacterial communities in animal hosts versus human hosts? This is a complex question on which many scientific opinions remain divided.

Several studies suggest that agricultural use of antimicrobials has a direct bearing on the development of resistance to antimicrobials used in human medicine. On the other hand, recently published results from a large epidemiological study in Scotland (Mather et al. 2011, Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences), which involved scientists from the University of Guelph and the Public Health Agency of Canada, suggest the risk of passing resistance from animals to humans may be lower than previously thought. The authors suggest that current policy restricting agricultural use of certain antimicrobials may therefore be overly simplistic. Nevertheless, antimicrobial resistance is an issue that the poultry industry takes very seriously. The National Poultry Organizations, through the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC), continue to make significant financial contributions to research in this area.

How prevalent is resistance?
An important aspect of understanding antimicrobial resistance is to determine how much is out there and how resistance rates are affected by production practices. Dr. Michele Guerin, an epidemiologist at the University of Guelph, is leading a surveillance study comparing rates of bacterial resistance in conventionally raised broiler chickens and those raised without antimicrobials.

How do antimicrobials affect poultry?
A major emphasis of CPRC’s Avian Gut Microbiology research program is to better understand how antimicrobials affect the microbial populations in the avian gut, and in turn, how these changes affect the bird. These changes can have profound impacts on avian immune function, for example. One aspect of the strategy to reduce the need for antimicrobials is to make use of, and enhance, the bird’s own defences. As indicated in last month’s CPRC update, research designed to do just that is ongoing.

What are the alternatives?
Another emphasis is to develop alternatives to antimicrobials in the event that currently used products become less effective, or their continued use is deemed detrimental. An arsenal-type approach of dealing with infections using a variety of methods makes it less likely that bacteria can develop resistance. A number of alternative control strategies are being developed with CPRC support. For example, Dr. Christine Szymanski at the University of Alberta is developing technology based on bacteriophage and engineered antibodies that can target specific bacteria. Dr. Bogdan Slominski at the University of Manitoba is looking at the pre- and pro-biotic effects of products from enzymes used to breakdown certain feed constituents, as well as the potential of Distillers Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) to promote poultry health in the absence of antimicrobials. Drs. Éva Nagy, John Prescott (University of Guelph), Byeonghwa Jeon (Atlantic Veterinary College, P.E.I.) and Martine Boulianne (University of Montreal) are all working on various vaccine technologies that could offset or replace antimicrobial use. Dr. Joshua Gong, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, is hoping to exploit the antimicrobial properties of essential oils and spices for use in infection control strategies.

In short, CPRC continues to direct considerable resources into research relating to antibiotic resistance. Details on the outcomes of this research will be provided in future updates. These, and other studies around the world, are contributing to the overall effort to better understand bacterial resistance to antimicrobials and develop rational strategies that promote the prudent use of antimicrobials in the poultry industry.

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 n
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 Health

Pressure from animal rights groups to improve the welfare of laying hens has resulted in significant legislative changes in Europe and California with respect to layer housing. Welfare concerns have also caught the attention of consumers and retailers in the rest of North America, and egg producers are now faced with providing a better quality of life for the hens, while still providing a product that meets food safety standards and that is economically feasible, not only for their own bottom line, but also at the grocery case.

Consequently, many producers in Canada are considering installing (or have already installed) alternative housing systems, such as enriched cages or aviaries, on their farms. Although existing research in Europe and North America shows that these alternative systems provide many welfare benefits, many questions still exist with respect to cost of production, how best to optimize bird management in each different system, and how bird density and group sizing affects welfare and costs within the systems.

That’s why nearly two years ago, the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) decided that it wanted to support a research chair in animal welfare, according to EFC’s manager, corporate and public affairs, Bernadette Cox. The organization spent some time examining the research work and meeting with scientists in the field. Cox says that CEO Tim Lambert and EFC chair Peter Clarke felt that Prof. Tina Widowski of the University of Guelph was the person they were looking for, and announced that she was the new EFC chair in poultry welfare in May 2011.

Widowski, who is based in the Ontario Agricultural College’s Department of Animal and Poultry Science, was chosen in part because she has an impressive record of research in a variety of welfare issues, is actively engaged with other scientists in North America (including the University of Michigan and the Poultry Welfare Cluster, also based at the University of Guelph), and is the leader of North America’s largest group of animal welfare scientists as director of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare.

Cox says that, although EFC is not directing the type of work that is being done, Widowski does inform the organization of her progress and seeks opinions about what areas of welfare research are the most pressing for Canadian egg producers.

The funding partnership between the University of Guelph and EFC formally began in March 2011, and will continue through January 2017.

Not only will the partnership benefit egg producers, but it will benefit the University of Guelph as well, says Widowski. The funding has allowed for the hiring of a junior faculty member (currently underway) and has provided opportunities for several graduate students, who will become part of the next generation of technical experts in animal welfare. The university’s poultry unit at the Arkell research station has also benefited, with new, up-to-date equipment, she says.

Four rooms in the poultry unit were cleared to accommodate the new housing systems, all of which are manufactured by Farmer Automatic (FA), a Germany-based company that has a partnership with Ontario-based Clark Ag Systems Ltd.

One room houses FA’s pullet-rearing floor system, the Portal Rearing System, while another of the rooms houses the Loggia system, the company’s layer aviary. The other two rooms house the Layer Cage ECO, FA’s enriched cage system, which has been designed according to the regulations for layer housing set forth by the EU and that came into effect Jan. 1, 2012.

The equipment was installed over the summer of 2011, and the university and Clark Ag Systems Ltd. held an open house in mid-September for producers and industry representatives prior to the arrival of the birds.

What’s Being Studied
Widowski’s first project is to study the behaviour, welfare and production parameters of layers housed in the enriched system at two different densities — 80 square centimetres/bird and 116 square centimetres/bird (the EU regulation). The reason behind this, says Widowski, is that if the industry is faced with a “transition” period with respect to bird densities (as may happen in the U.S. with the proposed agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers), it’s important to know what production levels are achieved with smaller densities because more barns will be required to match the current production levels of conventional systems.

Two different cage sizes are being utilized. The larger cage is double the size of the smaller, and the amenities (i.e., “enrichments” such as nest area, perches, scratching area and floor space) are also doubled. To examine the effect of density in each cage size, the smaller cages have groups of 28 or 40 birds, and the large cages have groups of 55 or 80 birds.

What’s of interest to Widowski is how well the birds are using the enrichments. Decades of research have shown that hens are highly motivated to perform/express behaviours that are natural to them, which conventional cages do not allow. Four key behaviours have been identified as being important to a hen — foraging, dustbathing, nesting and perching. Enriched systems provide the tools to allow hens to express these behaviours, but Widowski says that although we like to give ourselves a pat on the back for giving the birds something to perch on and a nesting area, it’s important to make sure that these behaviours are actually being supported by the amenities provided.

For example, what is not known is whether the nesting area is sufficient for the number of birds in each cage, she says. She and her research team have observed that about 10 to 20 per cent of eggs are being laid outside of the nest area, with the majority of these laid in the scratch area. Widowski says she would like to know whether this is because the nest space is insufficient, or because, like the nest area, the scratch area is in a corner of the cage and this offers the birds the same seclusion they would have in the nest.

Methodology for data collection has been completed and Widowski says she has a team of graduate students ready to start collecting and quantifying welfare and behaviour data. Each room is equipped with video cameras, and the students will be examining bird behaviour on the videotape as well as through live observation.

One student will be looking at nesting in depth — where the birds are laying, why this varies and whether social competition for nesting is a problem, she says. Another student will be examining dustbathing and foraging behaviour.

This student will be looking at how well the birds use the scratch area, which is a smooth plastic mat (Widowski opted not to use an astroturf-type mat, as it gets full of manure and she says many producers are moving away from these). Because enriched systems do not provide litter or other material to stimulate foraging and dustbathing as the aviary/free-run housing systems do, this behaviour is being triggered by having a feed auger over the scratch area that provides 20 grams of feed 10 times throughout the day. The effectiveness of the auger approach will also be examined.

A third student gets the “night shift,” says Widowski. She will be looking at how well the birds are using the perches, and how the perches are being used. Widowski is interested in answering some previously unanswered questions, for example: Are the birds conservative in perching? Is it the same birds perching? Is there a specific spot that they always go to? Eventually, says Widowski, she will be comparing the bone strength of the keel and leg bones in perchers versus non-perchers.

Also of interest are activity patterns — the birds have a lot more space, but do they use it, and how? She will also be looking at the pattern of time the eggs are being laid. She says that depending on the strain of hen (the birds in the current study are Lohmann), some will lay their eggs in more compressed or wider windows of time, which will in turn affect the competition and pressure on the nesting area at certain times of the day. If the window of time is compressed, “it’s like a big family wanting to use the bathroom at the same time,” she says.

Parameters such as egg production and feed intake are being measured and will be compared to birds housed in conventional cages located in another room at the Arkell research station.

Research methodology is near completion for the aviary system, and later this spring chicks will be placed into the Portal Rearing System. Widowski says she will be examining how pullets raised in this system adjust to the aviary. Once in the aviary, she plans to look at how load-bearing exercise and the opportunity to fly increase bone strength.
Widowski regularly updates EFC’s research committee and board of directors on the progress of the research. Cox says that results from the research will be summarized and communicated to producers either through the provincial boards or directly from EFC by way of a mailing or Internet posting.

Open House
Clark Ag Systems Ltd. hosted an open house at the University of Guelph’s Arkell poultry research station in September 2011 to allow producers and industry representatives to see the Farmer Automatic Portal Rearing System, Loggia system and Layer ECO system. Dr. Tina Widowski and representatives from Clark and Farmer Automatic were on hand to answer questions and show attendees how the systems operate.

To view videos of the Layer Cage ECO and Loggia systems, visit (see this article under “current issue”) or YouTube (put “TheClarkCompanies” in the search bar).

Published in Welfare

May 1, 2012 - The 2012 WPSA Canada Branch student travel awards (valued at up to $500 per student) are intended to offset some of the costs associated with student travel to the 2012 World's Poultry Congress in Salvador, Brazil.  Any full-time student (graduate or undergraduate) registered at a Canadian University, and confirmed to be presenting an oral or poster presentation at the Congress is eligible.

To apply, students should submit:

  • a brief cover letter outlining the importance of attending this meeting to their professional development,
  • a copy of the extended abstract submitted to the Congress.  The student should provide confirmation that the abstract has been accepted for presentation, and whether the presentation will be in oral or poster format.

Applications will be evaluated on the quality of the abstract and the cover letter. Adjudication of the award will be conducted by representatives of government, industry and academia.  The number of awards is dependent upon the amount of donations received.  Notification of the awards will be made by June 15, 2012.

Deadline to apply is May 18, 2012.  Please send applications via email to Dr. Doug Korver at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Published in New Technology

Apr. 10, 2012, Champaign, IL - Year in and year out, lameness is one of the leading causes of mortality in broilers, making the condition a significant economic concern for the poultry industry. But because the incidence rate of lameness is low in research flocks, the phenomenon has been difficult to study, which has hampered efforts to develop measures that may help producers. Fortunately, that may be about to change.

A team led by researchers at the University of Arkansas has developed a wire-flooring model that reliably induces lameness in broilers at levels sufficient to allow in-depth study of the condition. The team published the results of their study in the April issue of Poultry Science, a journal published by the Poultry Science Association (PSA). (See R.F. Wideman et al, “A wire-flooring model for inducing lameness in broilers: Evaluation of probiotics as a prophylactic treatment.”Poult Sci 2012 91:870-883.)

The model has already yielded significant results, including the finding that lameness in broilers due to the most common cause of the condition, bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis (BCO), may be reduced by administering probiotics prophylactically from the first day of rearing. Hence, probiotics may lessen or even eliminate the need for antibiotic treatment of BCO-related disease conditions in growing broilers.

The mechanism for BCO transmission

“One way the BCO bacterium spreads is by entering the bloodstream via translocation from the gastrointestinal tract,” said Dr. Bob Wideman, lead author and professor in the Department of Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas. “Once in the bloodstream, some of the bacteria find their way to the growth plates of growing bones, where they are harbored in microfractures. The bird’s immune system can’t reach them there, and they grow rapidly and begin destroying bone minerals. This occurs primarily in the hip joint or proximal femur, and in the proximal tibia. It’s the damage caused by the festering of BCO bacteria that leads, first to subclinical lesions, and ultimately, if unchecked, to lameness.”

Dr. Wideman’s team speculates that probiotics help reduce BCO-induced lameness by lessening bacterial translocation from the gut, which helps prevent BCO transmission. Specifically, according to the article, “probiotics may interfere with the development of osteomyelitis by attenuating intestinal populations of pathogenic bacteria, improving gut health to reduce bacterial leakage (translocation) across the gut wall, or by priming the immune system to better eliminate translocated bacteria.”

Over the course of five experiments conducted from December 2009 to April 2011, the researchers found that adding probiotics to the birds’ diets beginning at one day of age consistently reduced the incidence of lameness for broilers reared on wire flooring.

Value of the wire-flooring model

The experimenters were able to begin an effective investigation of BCO-induced lameness by developing a wire-flooring model that consistently induced the condition in research flocks at rates high enough to enable statistically sound study. The wire flooring model works by dependably imposing greater torque and shear stress on susceptible leg joints, which, the authors suggest, results in microtrauma to bone growth plates, creating the microfractures conducive to BCO described above.

Animal procedures for the five experiments conducted by the research team were approved by the University of Arkansas Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

“We feel confident that this new model will allow researchers, for the first time, to more deeply investigate the etiology, pathogenesis, and treatment strategies for BCO,” said Dr. Wideman. “This should lead to more effective preventive strategies applicable to commercial flocks, which in turn will help decrease economic losses due to BCO.”

Previously, pathogenic bacteria had to be injected intravenously into broilers and turkeys to induce lameness for study purposes. The new experimental model instead provides, according to the article, a safer mechanism for studying the condition by “reliably triggering BCO in commercial broilers without purposefully exposing the flock to known pathogens.”

For more details on the experimental setup and findings, subscribers to Poultry Science can download the full text of the article is available here.

About PSA

The Poultry Science Association (PSA) is a global scientific society dedicated to the discovery and dissemination of knowledge generated by poultry research – knowledge that enhances human and animal health and well-being, and provides for the ethical, sustainable, and economical production of food. Founded in 1908, PSA has a global membership of about 1,300. For more information, go to

Published in Broilers

Apr. 5, 2012 – Recent research out of Alberta on food safety and traceability has the potential to have large impacts on Canadian beef, as well as poultry and other meat packaging and preparation industries. Not only will this research help improve food safety recalls, but it will also help researchers keep better track of animals.

The project, done in co-operation with the University of Alberta, IdentiGEN North America and the University of Guelph, used DNA analysis to analyze samples taking from ground beef. By isolating individual muscle fibres within the beef, the scientists were able to identify individual cattle that made up the mosaic final product.

A total of six batches were studied in the project. Scientists took 10 samples from each batch, and extracted DNA from 100 muscle fibers in each sample, meaning they analyzed 6,000 muscle fibers for the project.

The uses for this new technology can allow for more targeted recalls, as well as piece of mind to consumers, which could find out exactly where their meat came from.

Graham Plastow, the CEO of Livestock Gentec and part of the research team, said that this type of research has potential beyond just the beef industry.

One the largest ways this technology can help says Plastow, is by aiding in the verification process of what is contained within a specific product, in addition to helping eliminating potential pathogen risks, increasing awareness of health risks and re-inforcing the public brand.

"DNA is DNA," he said, "whether it is in cattle, humans or chickens. Most techniques are transferrable between species, but it ultimately comes down to the question the researchers are looking at."

"With a bit on ingenuity, you can make it work."

Most of the funding for the $375,000 project was provided through Genome Alberta and the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). Further research on the DNA traceability project and other livestock genome research, is available on the Livestock News and Views blog at

About Genome Alberta

Genome Alberta is a publicly funded organization that initiates, funds, and manages genomics research and partnerships. Genome Alberta is based in Calgary but leads projects around the province and participates in a variety of projects across the country. It is one of Canada's six Genome Centres and work closely with these centres to advance the science and application of genomics, metabolomics, and many other related 'omics'.

For the latest in life science news visit our GenOmics application at or visit us on the web at

Published in Genetics

Mar. 27, 2012, Washington, DC - The global population of farm animals increased 23 percent between 1980 and 2010, from 3.5 billion to 4.3 billion, according to research by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication. These figures continue a trend of rising farm animal populations, with harmful effects on the environment, public health, and global development.

Both production and consumption of animal products are increasingly concentrated in developing countries. In contrast, due in part to a growing awareness of the health consequences of high meat consumption, the appetite for animal products is stagnating or declining in many industrial countries.

"The demand for meat, eggs, and dairy products in developing countries has increased at a staggering rate in recent decades," says report co-author Danielle Nierenberg, director of Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project. "While industrialized countries still consume the most animal products, urbanization and rising incomes in developing countries are spurring shifts to more meat-heavy diets."

"Farm-animal production provides a safety net for millions of the world's most vulnerable people," says Nierenberg. "But given the industry's rapid and often poorly regulated growth, the biggest challenge in the coming decades will be to produce meat and other animal products in environmentally and socially sustainable ways."

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), or factory farms, are the most rapidly growing system of farm animal production. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 80 percent of growth in the livestock sector now comes from these industrial production systems. CAFOs now account for 72 percent of poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production worldwide.

But CAFOs produce high levels of waste, use huge amounts of water and land for feed production, contribute to the spread of human and animal diseases, and play a role in biodiversity loss. Farm animal production also contributes to climate change: the industry accounts for an estimated 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, including 9 percent of the  carbon dioxide, nearly 40 percent of the methane (a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide), and 65 percent of the nitrous oxide (300 times more potent as carbon dioxide).

The environment is not all that is at stake with this rapidly shifting means of food production; factory farms pose a serious threat to public health as well. Diets high in animal fat and meat----particularly red meat and processed meats, such as hot dogs, bacon, and sausage----have been linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.

Although CAFOs originated in Europe and North America, they are becoming increasingly prevalent in developing regions like East and Southeast Asia, where environmental, animal-welfare, public health, and labor standards are often not as well-established as in industrialized regions. The report stresses that to prevent serious human and environmental costs, policymakers will need to strengthen production regulations around the world.

Further highlights from the report:

  • Between 1980 and 2005, per capita milk consumption in developing countries almost doubled, meat consumption more than tripled, and egg consumption increased fivefold.
  • Approximately 75 percent of the new diseases that affected humans from 1999 to 2009 originated in animals or animal products.
  • Because CAFOs rely on a narrow range of commercial breeds selected for their high productivity and low input needs, less-popular indigenous livestock breeds are rapidly falling out of use: in 2010, the FAO reported that at least 21 percent of the world's livestock breeds are at risk of extinction.
  • Livestock production is a major driver of deforestation: cattle enterprises have been responsible for 65-80 percent of the deforestation of the Amazon, and countries in South America are clearing large swaths of forest and other land to grow animal feed crops like maize and soybean.
Published in Farmer Health/Safety

Following the tragic February van accident that claimed 11 lives in rural Ontario, many Canadians were surprised to learn that most of the victims were from a country better known for its llamas than its chicken catchers. New research by Prof. Kerry Preibisch, a sociologist at the University of Guelph, helps explain why people from an increasingly wide range of countries are finding jobs as temporary workers in Canada’s food system.

Her article, recently published in the International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food, tracks changes in the Canadian farm labour market in the past 10 years. The paper shows how government policy has led to increases in the number of migrant workers in agriculture and food, and the range of countries sending migrants to Canada, since 2002.

Changes to federal immigration policies have broadened the labour pool beyond the 13 countries with bilateral agreements with Canada for a seasonal agricultural worker program. Since 2002, employers with demonstrated labour shortages for any low-skilled occupation have been able to hire from anywhere in the world. In five years, the sector employed migrants from almost 80 countries.

“When we think of migrant workers, we often imagine Mexicans picking hothouse tomatoes or Jamaicans harvesting peaches," said Preibisch. "Today, migrants from a wide range of countries are employed across the food system in a variety of jobs, including picking bait worms in Wellington County or catching chickens in Stratford.”

A broader labour pool is increasing competition among temporary workers for Canadian jobs, she said. Managers use migrants’ availability and relative disposability to encourage higher productivity, sometimes pushing migrants to work more than 15 hours a day.

Some of those migrants are even more desperate than previous groups of workers, said Preibisch. Many come from regions with less political freedom and more marginalization. “A decade ago, Guatemala wasn’t sending migrant farm workers to Canada, but today the country ranks in third place after Mexico and Jamaica.”

The paper also points to lack of regulation and monitoring of migrant recruitment and employment. “This has resulted in a range of abusive practices, some of which can be considered human trafficking,” she said.

More temporary workers have benefited Canada’s agriculture and food system in a highly competitive global market. But her research calls for greater scrutiny on employment practices and immigration policies affecting the lives of the 40,000 migrant workers employed here each year.

Published in Consumer

January 9, 2012 – Researchers from North Carolina State University and West Virginia University have developed a new technology that can reduce air pollutant emissions from some chicken and swine barns, and reduce energy use by recovering and possibly generating heat. | READ MORE

Published in Housing

Small-scale organic poultry farming has been happening in Canada for some years now, but on a large scale, organic has been slow to get going. 

Some of the reasons are obvious. It takes a large investment to go organic, and most poultry farmers don’t have an interest in that. It costs a lot of money to build new barns or retrofit existing barns to provide things like more room per bird (21 kg per m3) and access to the outside. (Because of this, organic poultry barns can’t be located on a migratory bird pathway where wild bird population numbers are higher at times of migration than elsewhere.) The barns must also feature the use of natural light and ventilation, which Yorkshire Valley Farms of Peterborough, Ont., accomplishes with screen panelling along the sides of the building. “When the inside barn temperature builds up, our natural ventilation systems kick in,” says Nick Ahrens, a Yorkshire producer. Production started only last November, so Nick and Yorkshire co-owner Tony Ambler are only now finding out how the extra room and natural ventilation will affect how their flocks fare during their first summer. 

Large-scale organic poultry production has also been slow in coming because trying something new is a gamble that involves a lot of leg-work and learning. “We took enormous risk,” notes Ambler. “We had to find out about slaughtering, feed, transport, certification and more. We visited U.S. facilities on our own.” The eventual outcome was to have Yorkshire Valley Farms interconnected. The operation is one big cycle – one that’s economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, says Ambler. Yorkshire Valley co-owner Tom Ahrens, along with son Nick, grows components of the feed (soybean, wheat, corn and spelt), to which Jones Feed Mill (see sidebar) adds other organic ingredients at its Heidelberg facility to make feed. Ambler says it takes 2,000 acres of organic feed for their 60,000 quota units. Spelt straw from Tom’s fields is used as litter in the barns, and afterwards is composted and returned to the fields.

Yorkshire Valley lists another reason they think no one has come before them in the commercial organic poultry market. “Generally speaking, Ontario has not been as quick to embrace organic production as other jurisdictions,” says co-owner Ian Anderson. “OMAFRA programs have tended to focus on smaller organic operations. Going forward, we are hoping to see OMAFRA set out a vision for organic agriculture for Ontario and back it with targets and programs that engage large and small producers alike.”

OMAFRA Organic Crop Production Program lead Hugh Martin says OMAFRA has provided informational support for organic farmers large and small for 25 years, and organic companies of any size can access OMAFRA grants of up to $100,000 per approved project (up to 50 per cent of the project’s eligible cost) through the Ontario Marketing Investment Fund (part of the Foodland Ontario program). “Several larger companies such as Harmony Dairy, Organic Meadow, Sunshine Pickles and Mapleton Ice Cream have accessed this fund,” he says. “Organic companies can now also apply to use the Foodland Ontario Organic logo.”

With regard to other financial assistance for organic start-up companies of any size, Martin says there is a myriad of OMAFRA funding opportunities. However, very few of them are organic-specific, so organic farming businesses have to compete with those who use conventional agriculture. Yorkshire Valley did recently receive $105,000 from the Ontario government under Rural Economic Development, which will be used for added packaging equipment in order to double production.

Yorkshire Valley also believes Chicken Farmers of Ontario should look at organic poultry more strategically. “CFO always met with us, but only observed what we were doing to try to get the business moving,” says Ambler. “Up until Yorkshire Valley got rolling, people could go into their grocery store and buy organic eggs, milk, meat and other products, but couldn’t buy organic chicken. That is not good for the poultry industry in our view.”

When CFO was asked a number of questions related to degree of support for organic poultry production, CFO’s director of policy and industry relations, Chris Horbasz, responded, “As a regulator, it is CFO’s role to ensure that its policies and regulations facilitate the production and marketing of any and all types of chicken but it is not CFO’s role to promote or favour any type of chicken product or market over another. CFO is supportive of all types of regulated chicken farming as we are committed to serving the market and to meeting processor and consumer demand and we work with the industry – farmers, processors and others – to ensure that we can meet that demand. . . . We will continue to assess consumer and industry trends and work with our processors and government regulators to assess the information that is available and support farmers by responding to these market needs as they arise.” Horbasz wouldn’t clarify what he meant by support of farmers. 

 Looking ahead
In addition to its current retail lineup, Yorkshire Valley will be adding ground chicken and, potentially, marinated products in the near future. They are also adding organic turkey to the lineup for Thanksgiving, produced by Tim deWit in southern Ontario. “I’ve been growing antibiotic-free turkeys and I’m very comfortable growing turkeys without the use of antibiotics, but was waiting for an opportunity to sell birds on a larger scale,” he says. “There is a strong demand for it but the Ontario market is currently not being supplied.” DeWit says the organic regulations provided by the Turkey Farmers of Ontario specify a flock size limit of 30,000 kilograms (presumably to better contain a disease outbreak). Avian influenza testing on organic turkey flocks is also required one week before they are shipped, which is not required with organic chicken. DeWit gives a coccidiosis vaccine on Day 1.

Even with the challenges of taking the risks alone, and figuring out at each step how to proceed, the co-owners and suppliers of Yorkshire Valley are glad they’ve taken this journey. “We’ve learned – and continue to learn – how to best keep our birds healthy and happy under organic guidelines and that knowledge belongs to us,” says Nick. “Our feed conversion and barn mortality rates are similar to conventional operations, but our ‘condemns’ at the processing plant are lower.”

Although Yorkshire Valley will not comment on profit differences between conventional and organic production, volume is obviously important and the store price has to cover costs. Yorkshire Valley boneless breasts cost about 20 per cent at retail more than conventional counterparts. “The price is competitive for the product quality,” Nick notes. “There is less fat on our birds, the flesh is firmer, and of course, we think the taste is superior.”

Making Organic Feed
Seven years ago, Linwood, Ont.-based Jones Feed Mills Ltd. had its Heidelberg, Ont., facility certified to produce organic poultry and hog feed. The company’s entry into manufacturing organic feed was driven by customer demand, says Mike Edwards, head of Jones’ Nutritional Services. “We buy as much organic product as we can locally, but there are times we have to look further in order to physically obtain ingredients,” he notes. “It changes from year to year.” He notes that a few years ago, the organic dairy industry in the United States was going so strong that it made corn almost impossible to find.

Edwards says there are lots of small producers buying Jones’ organic poultry feed directly, and that Jones also sells wholesale bagged organic feeds to many feed dealers in Ontario.

“The growth of the organic meat trade . . . provides another option for organic grain producers to market their crop and provides opportunity for young producers to succeed,” he observes. “Like other sectors of the feed industry, organic is a competitive market with several players and several others looking at getting into it, but that is the business we are in and we are committed to it.”
Published in Companies

Dec. 1, 2010 – Rain gardens are increasingly popular with homeowners and municipalities and are mandatory for many communities nationally. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are finding ways to improve rain gardens so they not only reduce runoff, but also keep toxic metals out of storm drains.

Published in Environment

Ed McKinley, poultry farmer and chairman of the Poultry Industry Council (PIC) is worried that the poultry industry is shortchanging research and will pay a heavy price in the future.

In his annual chairman’s report McKinley said: “I have to wonder why, in an industry to which we owe so much, we producers are not investing at the level of other Canadian private businesses in scientific research and education?”

“I wonder what this will mean for “the future of our industry, for my kids and grandkids.”

McKinley said that Canadian business invests, on average, 1.06 per cent of gross revenue in scientific research. Ontario poultry producers invested 0.043 per cent of farm gate cash receipts through the PIC for research and education. For a farm with $500,000 in farm gate receipts this works out to about $215 per year or $18 a month.

Future funding at issue
This is a “maintenance ration” for the PIC and the research and education programs it supports, he said. The money the PIC gets from producers and its investments is enough to keep current projects going. “But there is nothing being invested for the future, nothing to replace retiring researchers or crumbling research infrastructure or to develop a robust research platform to underpin our future requirements,” he said.

“I use this opportunity to urge our industry leaders to think long and hard about what reduced research investment might mean for our future and I remind producers that research will ensure your children and grandchildren of a poultry industry they too can be proud of,” McKinley said.

Tim Nelson, executive director of the PIC, echoed and reinforced the message.

“To keep up, move ahead and stay ahead of the competition requires investment,” he said.

Education and research cost money. Nelson pointed out that three poultry scientists at the University of Guelph are nearing retirement and there is a need to ensure that the positions don’t disappear.

“We need to develop science leaders,” he said.

Research infrastructure
He added that the emerging, young research stars will be looking for a future in a place where industry supports them and they have research infrastructure that is up to the new tasks they will tackle. Right now, the infrastructure “is not up to the new tasks or is very old,” he said.

He also pointed out that the PIC is able to use money from producers to “leverage” money from other supporters such as government and industry. In 2009, the $428,000 in new investment in research from producers was leveraged six to one and resulted in $2.57 million in research for a 20 to one return for the money producers invested in research.

The downside of leverage is that the PIC can only leverage against what the investing partners want to invest in. Leveraged money also comes with strings attached and it “doesn’t drive our [poultry producers’] objectives as fast as we’d like to drive them.”

Dwindling resources
He also pointed out that some of the sources of money the PIC has been using are diminishing.

For example, investment income has not been “brilliant” the last two years, the provincial poultry team fund finishes in December 2011 and the lysine fund is diminishing.

The difficult economic times of the last two years also reduced revenues from the PIC’s golf tournament and the London Poultry Show.

Government grants are more difficult to obtain and as both the federal and provincial governments work to reduce deficits grant money could become scarce.

It isn’t about the PIC, he noted. It is about the industry and the producers. He pointed out that the PIC is delivering a program as dictated by a strategy developed by producer groups. And it does this while watching its costs. The PIC hasn’t increased its administrative “ask” from farmers for four years, he said.

Farmer input
He said he wants to hear from farmers. He wants to know if they think the PIC is doing a good job or a lousy job. He wants to know what might be done better.

He also said he wants farmers to understand “the value of collective investment in research and the almost negligible cost this represents to individual producers.”

He wants farmers to see how much they are getting for an average of $18 a week and that for $10 per week more “they could inject some real capacity into our research sector that will stand our industry in good stead for years to come.”

He said: “There was a time when industry invested, why not now? What has changed?”

For more information on PIC-funded programs and research, go to

Published in Health

Because necrotic enteritis (NE) is the most common disease among broilers, researchers are hard at work getting to know it better. In the past, NE received little research attention because the disease has long been controlled with the use of prophylactic antibiotics. However, following Europe’s lead, the use of these drugs may eventually be phased out in North America, and it’s therefore critical that other methods of effective control (such as vaccines) are developed. 

NE is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium perfringens, which produces toxins that damage gut tissues. This can affect nutrient absorption and, in some cases, lead to other gut infections. Affected flocks may see increased numbers of deaths and/or reduced performance.

It was believed that NE was caused by a toxin called alpha-toxin, produced by essentially all strains of C. perfringens. Recently, however, another toxin called NetB has been implicated by scientists in Australia. Very recently, three research groups from University of Guelph (UG), Guelph Food Research Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), and University of Arizona (UA), reported their breakthrough discovery regarding the bacterium that causes NE. They’ve identified three major NE gene clusters – about 30 genes in total – the largest of which includes the gene that produces NetB.

The research is funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Food and Rural Affairs, the Poultry Industry Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Pfizer Animal Health. Principal investigators of the three groups are Dr. John F. Prescott (UG), Dr. Joshua Gong (AAFC), and Dr. J. Glenn Songer (formerly with UA, now with Iowa State University) who is an internationally recognized expert in clostridial research. Mr. Dion Lepp (AAFC), Dr. Bryan Roxas (UA), and Dr. Valeria R. Parreira (UG) were key players and each contributed significantly to the research. Both Dr. Prescott and Dr. Gong emphasize the importance of their international collaboration that has led to the discovery.

Two of the gene clusters are located on plasmids, which are small bits of DNA found inside bacteria that can be easily transferred from one bacterium to another. “These findings suggest that NE is caused by multiple virulence factors,” says Lepp, “and that these genes may be passed on from one C. perfringens isolate to another.”

This genetic discovery will have a significant impact on the direction of future research by influencing the thinking of researchers towards the disease and its control. “Before, people have looked for one gene or one toxin,” says Gong. “Now we all have the awareness that clusters are involved and more than one toxin.”

“It’s a major discovery,” says Prescott. “It makes us realize that the disease is far more complex than we thought it was, which is somewhat daunting, but it also means we have lots of options open to explore in terms of approaches to better control. There are lots of areas to address, lots of antigens to use, lots of genes to manipulate.”

The researchers will now embark on a journey to understand how the plasmids and their genes work together to cause the disease. They will remove the plasmids and inactivate genes one by one and see what disease effects each mutant produces when introduced into chickens. Further understanding of the function of the plasmids and genes and their roles in the disease process may lead to novel innovations for controlling NE, such as a vaccine and other control strategies to block adhesion or signalling of the pathogen. 

Control of NE strategies to replace prophylactic antibiotics is one of the research funding priorities of the Chicken Farmers of Canada, one of the founding members of the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC). The CPRC, with more than a dozen other organizations, has received funding application from the Canadian Agri-Science Cluster Initiative for projects under three main themes. One of these is “enteric diseases of poultry, as impacted by reduced emphasis on the use of feed-borne antibiotics and their potential for impacting human health.” Expected outputs from this research include development of a novel vaccine and natural antimicrobials to protect birds against pathogenic Clostridia bacteria.

Published in Broilers

The chicken egg is an important and nutritious food, and egg production for human consumption is an important element of the Ontario agricultural industry. About 30 per cent of eggs that are produced are processed in breaker operations and are not consumed as shell eggs. The increasing number of table eggs that are diverted to breaker operations producing egg white and yolk is a positive development that improves efficiency and quality control for production of commercial material from the table egg. Eggshell waste (about 1.2 million kilograms of waste annually) is a byproduct of this breaker industry, for which disposal is becoming increasingly costly, and for which a value-added commercial application remains elusive. Discovery of a value-added commercial use for this eggshell waste would benefit the industry financially and promote the egg-producing industry as environmentally friendly.

Dr. Max Hincke and his research team at the University of Ottawa have been studying the use of eggshell waste as a source of antimicrobial protein for use in human health care. Part of the eggshell comprises endogenous proteins that, until now, have been identified only in egg white. Lysozyme is abundant in the shell membrane that circumscribes the egg white and forms the innermost layer of the shell membranes. It is also present in the shell membranes, and in the matrix and cuticle of the shell. Ovotransferrin is localized in the calcified mammillae and in the eggshell membrane where it acts as a bacteriostatic filter.
The research team has been working with an eggshell-specific protein called Ovocalyxin-36 (OCX-36) that is homologous to mammalian antibacterial protein families. The specific association of OCX-36 with the eggshell membranes allows its selective extraction from an industrial waste material, and the researchers are able to extract OCX-36 from eggshell membrane (determined in a previous project). Their goal here is to purify the protein and test its antimicrobial activity against a battery of gram-negative and gram-positive bacterial strains. 

Their findings? The researchers were able to purify OCX-36 from eggshell material and are working to adapt these methods to extract the product from industrial eggshell waste.  It was found that eggs from different suppliers and production lines contain about the same amount of OCX-36. Cultures of Bacillus subtilis and E. coli were found to be more sensitive than S. aureus and P. aeruginosa to the OCX-36 preparations. The researchers are interested in the stability of the OCX-36 in gastric juice and will be studying this with support from NSERC. They will also be looking at an OCX-36 gene that could be used in selection by breeders. PIC seed support was essential in order to generate the data that attracted NSERC funding for this project. The ultimate objective of this research will lead to practical uses for a waste material from the egg industry with potential medical and health-care spinoffs, which will open new markets with significant commercial potential for the poultry industry. To read more, please visit the website,

Featured Researcher


Dr. Derek M. Anderson is an active researcher in the area of monogastric nutrition. A significant focus of his research has been on poultry nutrition since his arrival at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) in 1982. In particular, many projects undertaken have been related to effective use of available feedstuffs for broiler chickens and heavy hen turkeys. Recently, work has been done to evaluate the best methods to use these feedstuffs in poultry feeds by ingredient combination as well as modification of feedstuffs through processing techniques. Derek serves as the Chair and Chief Executive Officer for the Atlantic Poultry Research Institute (APRI). Outreach to the regional poultry sector is maintained through the APRI.

Within the Plant & Animal Sciences Department at the NSAC, Derek teaches courses in protein nutrition and vitamin nutrition and teaches modular courses related to nutrition at the graduate program level. At the undergraduate level, courses are taught in animal nutrion, swine production and fish nutrition. In addition, six to eight undergraduate projects are supervised annually in areas of the nutrition of poultry, swine, or fish.

Evaluation of Yellow-seeded Canola Products for Poultry
Derek Anderson, Nova Scotia Agricultural College

Dr. Derek Anderson and his team at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College found that feeding full-fat canola seeds to broilers may meet increased consumer demand for choice and provide a leaner meat.

For years, soybean has been the primary source of plant protein in poultry diets, which are becoming more and more plant-based. Least-cost formulated diets are required for the poultry producer to remain competitive in the poultry industry, and using canola seed may be one way to achieve this. However, commercial canola has a lower metabolizable energy (ME) due to its high fibre content.

The development of yellow-seeded forms of canola may lead to improvements in the feeding value of canola for poultry.  These varieties of canola have lower fibre contents and higher true ME values than meals derived from brown-seeded canola.  Therefore, this promising plant needs further evaluation for use in poultry diets. 

Dr. Derek Anderson and his research team at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College have been investigating apparent ME in various canola products, the effects of various canola products on growth performance and carcass composition of broiler chickens, and the effects of yellow seeded canola on growth performance and carcass composition of heavy hen turkeys.

Their findings? Carcasses from broilers fed black full-fat seeds and yellow full-fat seeds had significantly lower levels of crude fat and higher levels of crude protein than birds fed a control diet. Contrary to results from the broiler trial, dietary treatment did not affect the crude fat and crude protein contents of the turkey carcasses at 70 days of age, indicating that there may be a species difference for how the canola seeds affect lipogenesis (fat breakdown). 

For the broiler industry, feeding certain full-fat canola seeds may help to meet the increased consumer demand for choice in poultry meat based on what the birds are fed, and provide a leaner meat.  To read more, please visit the website,

PIC 's Picks
By Tim Nelson, Executive Director

The summer was busy for the PIC. During the summer months the PIC has have been organizing the Growing Forward Cost Share workshops for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Those of you who have attended one of these workshops will undoubtedly agree that the workshop is a pretty painless way to learn how to obtain some useful funds from the government to enhance your biosecurity. More than 120 producers have taken advantage of this and there are more workshops coming in the new year – don’t miss this educational opportunity.

We recently completed a very comprehensive brochure/magazine called Research Outcomes – 2010 Updates. It features all of the research that the industry has invested in since 2003 and is up to date. You’ll also find a copy of this magazine on our website, where you can find the full reports for any of the featured work at the “click” of a button.

The magazine is laid out to allow you to read the work in the subject areas you’re interested in. We’d like your feedback on this publication – and if you haven’t got one by the time you read this, please contact the PIC – it’s essential reading!

We also had the golf tournament, which, despite the atrocious weather was enjoyed by all. Thanks to all of you who braved the day and made it a success – you helped us raise a tad over $14,000 for our research efforts. We promise better weather next year. This year, once again, we also raised about $4,000 for research through Mulligan Sales at all of the industry tournaments, so, again, thanks to those of you who gave so generously.

Don’t forget the Poultry Innovations Conference (Nov. 11 and 12 – see advertisements in last month’s Canadian Poultry for details) and keep a lookout for news of Producer Updates in your area in early 2011. Book early for everything – it saves you money!
Published in Nutrition and Feed

March 15, 2010, Champaign, IL – “We use everything but the cackle” is an old adage that nicely captures the poultry industry’s approach to the efficient use of byproducts. That same attitude, according to the Poultry Science Association (PSA), is helping to drive recent work in converting recovered fat from poultry wastewater streams into an economically viable alternative fuel source for processors.

Participating in the effort is Dr. Brian Kiepper, Ph.D., an assistant professor and extension poultry scientist in the University of Georgia’s departments of poultry science and biological and agricultural engineering. 

“Our focus has been on isolating fat from wastewater broiler processing facilities and then seeking the means to provide the integrator with the option of using the recovered fat, on-site, in whatever way yields the highest value,” said Dr. Kiepper. 

One of those options is to use the recovered fat as a biofuel. 

Waste fat, oil and grease (FOG) are major components of many food-processing wastewater streams, including poultry production. According to Dr. Kiepper, recaptured fat can be purified and then burned to heat water in a processing plant’s boilers. It can also be used to make biodiesel – an attractive option to have available, particularly when petroleum-based fuel prices are high.

Such uses can be very attractive economically for the processor, particularly when compared to the traditional means of disposing of offal by selling it to rendering facilities at approximately $0.03/lb, a rate which values the fat at $0.22/gal. By comparison, once purified, fat recaptured from food processing wastewater can be used instead of fuel oil, which is currently priced at around $2.00/gal, to fire a plant’s boilers. Dr. Kiepper estimates that recovering only 10% (a conservative number) of the 44.6 million gallons of fat produced in the state of Georgia each year by this method would result in an estimated annual savings of nearly $9 million on fuel-oil purchases.

Best Sources for FOG Extraction in a Processing Facility

In a recent study led by Dr. Kiepper, he and fellow researchers evaluated five poultry waste streams as potential sources of alternative fuel: float fat after primary screens, secondary screen offal, tertiary screen offal, chemical and non-chemical DAF (dissolved air flotation) skimmings. Of the five, float fat and secondary screen offal were shown to have the greatest potential for further refinement and use as biofuel, given their relative ease of extraction and recovery efficiency.

Because secondary screen offal is already collected and (often inefficiently) belt- or screw-conveyed to offal trucks, modifying the collection system to divert the offal to a FOG extraction-and-purification system should, according to the researchers, be readily feasible. On the other hand, because float fat is harder to collect because of its tendency to gather in equalization pits and transfer troughs, accommodating float-fat collection for alternative fuels processing would likely require new systems to be installed in most facilities.

“Our ultimate goal,” said Dr. Kiepper, “is to develop a self-contained, low-temperature fat extraction and purification system that can be installed on-site at food processing plants to produce, in an economically feasible way, a usable quantity of fuel-quality fat for processors. This will generate greater benefits for processors by recovering more of the valuable byproducts generated during processing that are now lost in the wastewater stream. It also has the potential to create a very green loop in the processing environment, with fat gathered from birds processed in the morning possibly being used to heat the plant’s boilers during processing that same afternoon.”

Said PSA President Dr. Sally Noll: “Dr. Kiepper’s work may help an already efficient industry do an even better job of lowering processing costs by creating new value-added products from the existing byproducts stream.”

Published in New Technology

Ontario lost a large number of birds last summer to heat, Harry Huffman, an agricultural engineer who specializes in ventilation, told about 60 broiler producers at a seminar in Holmesville, Ont. sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Southern Ontario had 46 days with temperatures over 30 degrees C, 13 days over 34 degrees and eight days over 35 degrees.

While there was little precipitation last summer there were a number of days with very high humidity, which increases the heat stress, he said.

“Heat stress is most severe when high temperatures are coupled with high humidity,” he said.

Environment Canada has developed a formula that combines the two factors to create a Humidex reading. These readings reflect the comfort level for people.

While no Humidex reading has been done for livestock, Huffman said, it’s safe to assume that animals will have somewhat similar degrees of discomfort with heat stress.

Humidex comfort levels on the chart are as follows: 29 or lower, no discomfort; 30 to 39, some discomfort; 40 to 45, great discomfort, avoid exertion; above 45, dangerous; and above 54, imminent heat stroke.

As long as the humidex is below 54, growers can do a number of things to reduce the severity of heat stress. Above that level, “it is quite likely some bird losses will occur regardless of housing management,” he said.

The first thing is not to overcrowd summer flocks.

Second, acclimatize the birds to possible heat stress at four weeks of age by allowing the barn temperature to rise for several hours. Research shows that short bouts of heat stress will help the birds survive future heat stress periods.

Third, increase the light level in the pen prior to operating large-diameter fans or opening tunnel ventilation doors. This will reduce the fear reaction and subsequent flight from the bright areas. This type of flight reaction has caused piling near the centre of the barn and suffocation.

Fourth, exhaust sufficient air in hot weather. Try to keep the barn within two degrees of the outside temperature and aim for a complete air change every minute.

Fifth, ensure that the air inlet has sufficient capacity to handle the fresh airflow. There should be at least 1.5 square feet of inlet opening for each 1,000 CFM of fan capacity and some insurance companies insist on two square feet for heat prostration coverage.

Sixth, verify proper air intake velocity with a static pressure gauge. In order to have good air movement it is important to have lower static pressure in summer. The usual range for summer, he said, is .03 to .06 inches while in cold weather the range will be .05 to .08 inches static pressure.

Seventh, if the static pressure is too high increase the fresh air openings. Ideally, this will be done by increasing the air inlet opening of the addition of more air inlets to enhance the airflow over the birds. Doors can be used, he advised, if they are only opened to the extent necessary to bring the static pressure down to the correct range. Opening too many doors will eliminate the vacuum and airflow will be less than required everywhere except directly in front of the openings.

Eighth, make sure the air is moving across the barn at bird level. This air movement is required to remove the heat from the bird as quickly as possible. Moving air at a reasonable speed around the birds’ heads and necks has the potential to reduce the perceived temperature by one to three degrees Celsius.

There are a number of ways to increase air movement at bird level, he said.

These include: a deflector board for a typical side air inlet; a new double side air inlet system; a second air inlet lower on the side wall; a second air inlet on the opposite side of the barn; tunnel ventilation; tunnel ventilation baffles to increase air speed; and internal air circulation fans.

Ninth, make sure the birds get plenty of cool water. Water consumption should double during hot weather.

Tenth, slowly walk the birds during periods of heat stress. This promotes air movement and releases the heat trapped under the birds, Huffman said. It also encourages the birds to move to the drinkers and allows you to more closely monitor the birds. However any bird activity generates more body heat and can increase heat stress. Therefore, this walking exercise may be best if done in the morning when it is usually cooler.

Eleventh, ensure that the attic is properly insulated and ventilated.

Twelve, any colour other than white will absorb significant solar heat. There can be significant attic heat reduction if the roof is painted white. In addition, there are now ceramic paints or coatings available, in a variety of colours that will reduce solar heating.

Thirteenth, if possible have the air inlet on the shady side of the building.

Fourteenth, talk to your feed company representative and veterinarian about feed withdrawal practices during periods of heat stress.

Fifteen, consider some form of evaporative cooling. Adding water vapour to the air is an excellent way to bring down air temperature, he said. Depending on the humidity levels evaporative cooling can reduce air temperatures anywhere from one to six degrees because the water vapour absorbs heat.

The impact can be dramatic. For example (referring to the Humidex chart), it can be seen that if one could bring the temperature down from 34 degrees to 30 degrees the Humidex would be in the safe zone even if the humidity rose from 80 to 85 per cent. Even at 90 per cent humidity the Humidex is 45.6 compared with 52 at 80 per cent humidity.

In summary, Huffman said there are a number of things that can be done to help your birds survive the heat, but they require planning and may involve some spending.

“Therefore, give the various options some thought over the winter and have your improvements in place prior to next summer’s heat wave,” he said.  

Published in Research

To determine the cost-benefit of a biosecurity system, one needs to juggle two types of information: facts about the economics associated with the type of production and the costs of implementing a biosecurity system; and estimates of the relative risk and cost of disease.

Many relatively inexpensive biosecurity measures may generate substantial benefits. Most are designed to control people access to the farm and to improve sanitation. However, these are dependent on compliance. The challenge is to convince all poultry personnel of the impact of their actions on the risk of breaking with an infectious disease. Education and communication are key factors in determining people’s perception of disease risks and, consequently, their assessment of the potential benefits of a biosecurity system.

In high density areas, a regional perspective is essential to the design of a biosecurity system, mainly in the face of an epidemic. Hence, the challenge for today’s poultry industry is to determine the cost-benefit in partnership with regional competitors.


Infectious diseases have always been a limiting factor in commercial poultry production. The scientific community has responded fairly successfully by producing effective vaccines for conditions such as Marek’s disease, hemorrhagic enteritis, Newcastle, infectious bronchitis, etc. However, even when vaccines exist, diseases remain costly; in particular in a global market economy where they can be used as trade barriers.

In the United States, the vertical integration of the industry has produced large efficient multi-site complexes designed to enhance productivity and reduce production costs. This model has been very successful economically. However, over the past few years, it has been challenged by emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. For example, several outbreaks of infectious laryngotracheitis and of mycoplasmosis have been reported. Poult enteritis mortality syndrome (PEMS) has had a devastating effect on the turkey industry in the South East United States. Turkey coronavirus enteritis (TCE) is still very much prevalent in the eastern part of North Carolina. In the northeast and the south, many industry people and health officials have expressed concerns over the presence of Avian Influenza in live bird markets.

These public health and production concerns need to be addressed. Biosecurity should certainly be the corner- stone of any long-term response to disease aggression. However, given the concentration of farms in certain areas, such concerns cannot be addressed solely by on-farm biosecurity.

A regional perspective is needed, and should be part of a biosecurity system. How do you determine the cost-benefit of such a system? This is not an easy question to answer. Preventing the occurrence of a given disease on a given farm cannot be, without a doubt, attributed to a specific set of biosecurity rules. In other words, you do not know for sure whether your biosecurity system is truly effective or whether the flocks on your farm have simply not been at risk. It is also true that the most stringent biosecurity system does not offer an absolute protection against diseases. Rossigneux (1998) suggests that the word biosecurity is indeed misleading because security implies the absence of danger (i.e., infection), which is probably never achieved under field conditions. So, to answer this question, one needs to juggle with two types of information: facts about the economics associated with the type of production and the costs of implementing a biosecurity system; and estimates of the relative risk and cost of disease.

The Economics

Economic models developed to assess the value of biosecurity systems suggest that prevention of disease in the end is always less expensive than treatment (Morris, 1995). Gifford et al. (1987), working on a model for broiler breeders, confirmed “that expenditure on protective measures can be justified by both the risk of introducing a disease and the magnitude of losses that may occur following infection”. On a broiler breeder farm, the benefit-cost ratio of biosecurity is at least three for a farm considered at a 30% risk of being infected by an agent causing a severe disease. In the case of the most pathogenic conditions, they found that investment in biosecurity was justified even with a 0.01 probability of outbreak. However, the challenge in assessing the cost-benefit of a specific biosecurity measure is to contrast the resulting investment with other potential ventures. For example, adding an automatic gate to limit access to a breeder flock (with automatic recording of visitors and times) may represent a $13,500 investment. These funds could potentially also be used to purchase a piece of equipment that could immediately reduce the number of people required for a specific task, providing an immediate and easily quantifiable return on investment. However, the potential benefits in both cases should be assessed over the projected life of the equipment, considering the magnitude of the savings if this gate contributes to the prevention of a serious disease. In this case, of course, the return would be very high, but so may be the degree of uncertainty that this preventive measure will be effective.

Estimating the  Risk of Disease

Estimating the risk of disease is also partly a subjective exercise. However, substantial evidence has been reported regarding major risks such as:

  1. Poor farm location: farm located in high density region (other farms within 2 km of premises);
  2. Introduction of birds of unknown origin;
  3. Introduction of contaminated material or infected birds;
  4. Presence of an infectious disease of interest in a region;
  5. Presence of this disease in neighbouring farms;
  6. Pest infestation (rodents and/or insects);
  7. Poor sanitation;
  8. No restrictions or requirements for visitors (i.e., high on-farm traffic, including hired help going from farm to farm);

These are common sense hazards that must be considered when estimating the risk of disease transmission. Although self evident, these risks are often ignored in practice. A similar situation exists in human medicine where significant health risk and protective factors are often neglected by patients. In the 1950’s, the United States Public Health Service developed the Health Believe Model to explain such behavior (Rosenstock, 1974). This model proposes that health risk assessment is determined by the individual’s perception of:

  • His level of personal susceptibility to the particular disease;
  • The degree of disability that might result from contracting this condition;
  • The health action’s potential efficacy in preventing or reducing susceptibility or severity;
  • Physical, psychological, financial barriers or costs related to compliance.

This model may very well apply to a grower’s perception of risk for his flock. One can also assume that this belief model pertains to the decision-making process of managers of integrated companies, shaping their appreciation of risks and of biosecurity measures. One supportive evidence is the fact that a similar proportion of poultry people comply with biosecurity measures as the general population does for disease prevention strategies designed to help them (Vaillancourt, unpublished data).

Table 2 offers an assessment of relative risk and of potential benefits based on the literature and on personal experience (Biosecurity in the poultry industry, 1995; Rossigneux, 1998; Wojcinski, 1993; Chiu, 1988). Of this list of usual suspects, one should consider in particular the following risks: poor employee training; lack of communication; lack of incentives for people associated with the farm; absence of a regional perspective; no auditing, and poor record keeping of the biosecurity system.


Assuming that Table 2 offers a valid assessment, it highlights the fact that many relatively inexpensive biosecurity measures may generate substantial benefits. Most are measures designed to control people access to the farm and to improve sanitation. However, these are dependent on compliance. In high density areas, a regional perspective is essential to the design of a biosecurity system, mainly in the face of an epidemic.


The cost-benefit assessment of biosecurity measures is determined by people’s perception of the level of risk to which they and their birds are exposed. This will also determine their degree of compliance with biosecurity measures.

The challenge is to convince all poultry personnel of the impact of their actions on the risk of breaking with an infectious disease. Education and communication are key factors in determining people’s perception of disease risks and, consequently, their assessment of the potential benefits of a biosecurity system.

Facts and Figures

Disease: Fowl Cholera
Type of Production: Commercial turkeys
Cost: $0.59/bird, $0.02/kg
Carpenter, et al. 1988

Disease: Reovirus infection
Type of Production: Broiler breeders
Cost: $6.89/bird

Disease: Influenza (nonpathogenic)
Type of Production: Egg layers, Pullets, Commercial turkeys
Cost: $1.67 to $2.94/bird, $5.05/bird, $5.83/bird

Disease: Influenza (Highly pathogenic)
Type of Production: Chickens
$6.06/bird (government expenses only), $19/bird (cost to industry)

Disease: Mycoplasma Gallisepticum
Type of Production: Egg layers
Cost: $1.72/bird
Johnson, 1983

Disease: Coronavirus infection
Type of Production: Commercial turkeys
Cost: $0.05/kg
Rives, and Crumpler 1998

The estimated cost to the industry of the 1983-1984 Influenza outbreak in Pennsylvania based on the reported cost ($329 million in 2000 US dollars) published in a state extension document.

Procedures and Benefits

Partial list of biosecurity procedures and their relative cost independently of potential benefits ($$$ = very expensive; $$ = expensive; $ = inexpensive; ¢ = virtually no cost) and potential benefits (+++ = High; ++ = moderate; + = minimal)

Isolation (distance) from other farms and feedmill, slaughter plant, etc. $$$; +++; difficult to control over time.

Disposal of used litter away from all farms: $$; +++; difficult in high density regions.

Serologic monitoring: $$; +++; essential for regional level and farm level.

All-in, all-out production: $$; +++.

Introduction of new birds of known health status only:$; +++

Fence around premises: $$$;++

Gate at entrance of farm:$$; +++

Cost depends on quality; potential benefit dependents on compliance.

Sign advising to stay off farm if no authorization to enter:¢;+.

Parking area away from poultry barns: ¢; ++.

Requirements before a vehicle can enter:¢; +++.

Wash station for vehicles: $$; +++.

Use of locks for each poultry house: ¢; +++.

Dead bird disposal on farm: $$; +++.

Composting litter before removal: $; +++.

Removing litter after each flock: $$; +++

Downtime between flocks of at least 2 weeks: $; +++; can be expensive if much longer than 2 weeks but substantial benefits.

Pest control (rodents and insects):$; +++.

Access restricted if visitors

have been in contact with poultry: ¢; ++.

Shower in, shower out facilities: $$$; +++.

Coveralls provided by farm or requirement to wear clean coveralls: $; +++.

Clean rubber boots for all people on farm: $; +++.

Plastic boots for visitors: ¢; ++.

Changing clothing for employees leaving and returning to the farm on the same day: ¢; +++.

Auditing biosecurity rules: $; +++; compliance is critical for a biosecurity system.

Published in Research

The University of Alberta rewards excellence in teaching by individuals and groups. In the early fall of 2000 the seven person teaching team at the Alberta Poultry Research Centre received the award. This was the first time that the award has celebrated excellence in teaching at the group level.

To qualify, the teaching unit must have been in existence for at least three years. It may work at the graduate or undergraduate level and may include some or all members of a faculty, school, department or division, or may be an interdisciplinary team. Students taught by such a teaching unit must be able to identify results that they were taught by a group of instructors and not just a series of individuals.

The University of Alberta’s poultry group is made up of Dr. Gaylene Fasenko, Dr. John Feddes, Dr. Douglas Korver, Dr. Lynn McMullen, Dr. Robert Renema, Dr. Frank Robinson and Martin Zuidhof. To reflect their involvement with poultry, they are often referred to as the “Coop of Seven”.

Dr. Fasenko is a Research Associate, Avian Incubation and Embryology; Dr. Feddes is Professor, Animal Housing and Welfare; Dr. Korver is Assistant Professor, Poultry Nutrition; Dr. Renema a Research Associate, Avian Reproduction and Metabolism; Dr. McMullen is Assis-tant Professor, Food Microbiology; Dr. Robinson is Professor, Avian Physiology and Production; and Martin Zuidhof is the Poultry Specialist

with Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, who is working towards his PhD on bio-economic computer modelling of the broiler chicken supply chain. Details about the courses they teach, complete with colour graphics can be downloaded from the website: ca/aprc/award.pdf.

In early 2000, the University of Alberta’s Student’s Union recognized three faculty members for their undergraduate teaching and mentorship skills. Two of the three—Professor Frank Robinson and Assistant Professor Doug Korver—were from the Poultry Group, which Dr. Ian Morrison, the Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry, and Home Economics described as, “A group of enthusiastic, committed and innovative educators who I take great pleasure in nominating for the ‘Teaching Unit Award’.”

The Coop of Seven’s award nomination also included letters of support from the provincial Department of Agriculture, Food And Rural Development, graduate and undergraduate students. It also listed the awards and certificates of excellence earned by those who had completed the Poultry Group’s courses.

Those letters of support included phrases such as, “awesome course,” “the highlight of my university career,” “unbelievable assistance,” “unprecedented enthusiasm,” “impressive team... committed faculty,” and “the entire Poultry Group is without peer.”

The Unit Teaching Award carries with it a monetary prize of $3,500. It is indicative of the broad support that the Poultry Group has earned over the years that this amount has been matched twice–by Alberta’s poultry industry (the chicken, egg, hatching egg and turkey producer associations) and by the Depart-ment of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science at the University of Alberta.

The Poultry Group has announced that these funds will be used to enhance their creative teaching efforts in the poultry area.

Published in Research

“What I’m doing is just from a farmer’s point of view, using trial and error. I want to improve my bottom line and I found that adding whole wheat to complete feed did that,” John Bartel told me. He added, “As one nutritionist in Germany told me, ‘We sometimes do not know why some things work … but one thing for sure the farmers here in Germany and Holland have proven to us that it does work’.”

Later, Bartel said that he’d found that he shouldn’t fluctuate the wheat percentage up and down. “Don’t jump around unless you have a good reason.”

John Bartel was a dairy producer in the Chilliwack, B.C. area for 23 years until he sold out seven years ago. He now holds a 42,000 roaster quota, although he also manages a 1,600 head, free range, white veal calf operation. When his transitional quota is added in, it means he grows around 50,000 birds per cycle on average. To date his experience with feeding whole wheat has produced results better than he originally expected.

About three years back Bartel came across references to the addition of whole wheat to chicken rations in an effort to improve bottom line results. He found some references to the practice on the Internet and also talked to some Alberta chicken producers who had been using the strategy for a couple of years. One source was an article by Carlyle Bennett, a poultry specialist with the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Saskatchewan, now with the Manitoba Department of Agriculture. Some information from his most recent report and his contact information is shown at the end of this article.

Then, while accompanying his daughter on a school trip to Europe, he spent a free day visiting farms. One of them had been using wheat added to complete broiler feed for some time with excellent results. Bartel reported that some European processors pay a premium for birds that were not over-fat and that the addition of whole wheat to the ration helped meet that goal.

Fast Growth, But More Flips

“The genetics of modern birds produces fast growth but a higher rate of ‘flips’,” Bartel said. “But I was told that restricted feeding reduced mortality by 1% as well as reducing feed wastage, which improves the feed conversion.”

He said that he started using wheat quite tentatively, starting with 6% on day 10, increasing by one-half percent per day to a maximum of 20%, continued right through to marketing. He’s used various different programs since then, even starting the flock with wheat at five days—which didn’t seem to provide much benefit for him. He has increased the percentage of wheat by as much as 1% per day, but this is dependent upon the quality of the broiler ration. When the percentage of additional wheat reached the 45 to 50% level he found that the feed conversion suffered, providing no net benefit.

With a mixed roaster flock the pullets are shipped first and the males later. He was advised to cut the wheat off early because of the stress caused by loading the pullets. However, he now feeds the wheat straight through without any adverse affect on his contamination rate.

“I’ve found that I get the best results by starting the flock at 10% additional wheat at 10 days of age, increasing this slowly up to a maximum of 35% wheat and continuing at that level straight through to slaughter.” However Bartel cautioned, “But I must stress that this is what I’ve found suits me based on my trial and error process. If anybody else intends to try adding whole wheat to their chicken ration they would be well advised to start at a more tentative level and build up their own experience before using the higher rates.”

In Case Of Health Problems

I asked Bartel if he has a pre-planned strategy ready for use if his flock encounters a health problem—such as enteritis. He replied that he monitors his flock closely and although he’s never found it necessary, he is always prepared to back off from the addition of wheat by 20% immediately. He said that he’s found that the addition of wheat to his ration has actually reduced his wet litter problem significantly. “I haven’t encountered an enteritis or cocci problem during the 2-1/2 years that I’ve been adding whole wheat to the complete roaster or broiler ration.”

Flock health has improved during his trial of the addition of wheat to his chicken ration, “You know the difference when you walk in to the barn,” he said.

With condemnations Bartel said it is hard to tell because they fluctuate throughout the year. “My condemnation rate with roasters had been around 3-1/2%, but now it runs consistently below 3% and overall results fluctuate less from flock to flock. The condemnation rate with my broiler flocks has ranged from a low of 0.69% to a high of 1.47%.”

Bartel admits that growth rate slows when wheat is first added, “But their legs are stronger, mortality is lower and the growth rate catches up after about two weeks.” He added that the flock’s feed conversion may be slightly poorer, but is more than offset by the lower overall feed cost. “The odd flock seems to be a day behind in weight, but when the feed conversion stays about the same, what is one day? And the litter is so much drier.”

He provided results from three recent flocks. The females were shipped at from 38 to 43 days, weighing from 1.88 to 2.20 kg. with plant condemneds from 0.87 to 1.65%. The males from these flocks were shipped at from 52 to 61 days, weighing 3.12 to 3.84 kilograms. Condemnations varied from 1.95 to 2.98 %. Included in this figure was from 0.39 to 1.35% attributed to ascites and from 0.29 to 0.92% due to cellulitis. Leg deformities range from 0.08 to 0.65% (with the 61 day old flock). Overall flock mortality ranged from a low of 4.39 to a high of 6.27% in the roaster flocks and between 3.5% to 5.5% with broiler flocks.

The Mechanics

Bartel adds his wheat using a computer controlled, in-line weigh scale supplied by Fancom. The Fancom FWBU.e computer can be programmed to start adding a specific percentage of whole wheat to the complete feed on a specific day and to increase that percentage at a specific rate per day. Both complete feed and whole wheat fall in to the Chore-Time auger feeder hopper simultaneously. No special mixing paddles are required to provide a good mix.

Each floor of Bartel’s 400’ x 40’ double deck barn is equipped with 13 Shenandoah natural gas brooders per floor. Each has two lines off Chore-Time feeders and four lines of Chore-Time nipple waterers. One waterer line is equipped with ordinary nipples, the other three lines with button nipple drinkers. Lights are controlled by a Fancom dusk to dawn dimmer. The Fancom computers control fans, heat, the vent openings as well as the feeding system. Of course, using both complete feed and whole wheat, he has two feed bins, a 32 ton bin for the complete feed and the 16 ton bin for the wheat.

Aside from the cost of the extra bin and supply auger, Canada Poultryman understands that the cost of computer control and galvanized in-line weigh scale is under $8,000. Bartel summarized, “Results have been beyond expectations and investment pay-back has been much quicker than the two years I expected.”


Carlyle D. Bennett, Poultry Specialist, Manitoba Animal Industry Branch presented research findings about the use of whole grain and high grain diets with broilers, leghorns and turkeys at the 1998 Poultry Service Industry Workshop at Banff in mid-1998.

That talk re-inforced John Bartel’s recommendation of caution when trying wheat addition strategies. Bennett reported that in the UK and The Nether-lands, broiler rations have been diluted with up to 20% whole wheat. He said that the digestion of whole wheat requires a larger, more muscular gizzard, which can only be deve-loped over time–possibly as much as six weeks for optimum development. In the interim, some loss in performance occurs until the gizzard does develop. The question is: does the early slaughter of broilers provide sufficient time for the bird to develop the larger gizzard and gain back the lost performance. Bennett states in his article: “…broilers should not be fed over 30% whole grain.”

However, Bennett’s summary states that University of Saskatchewan trials show statistically significant reductions in leg and skeletal problems in one broiler trial and one tom turkey trial. In those trials, early growth rates were slowed and the most noticeable benefit was fewer valgus varus leg deformities.

Some references to other research into the use of whole grains provided by Bennett included a report by Forbes and Covasa of Leeds University (UK) (World’s Poultry Science Journal, Vol. 51. July 1995). This report indicated that high fibre diets reduced the incidence of coccidiosis.

However, they were unable to demonstrate why a muscular, active gizzard was able to reduce the incidence of oocysts. Carlyle Bennett has advised that he is prepared to send this 16 page article by “pdf” file attached to an e-mail message to those who request it.  A “pdf” file requires you to have Adobe Acrobat Reader–a freely available program from Adobe’s website.

Alternatively, he’ll mail you a copy. Contact Carlyle Bennett at: Manitoba Dept. of Agriculture, Animal Industry Branch, Agric. Services Complex, 204-545 University Cresc., Winnipeg, MB R3T 5S6, Phone: (204) 945-0381, Fax: (204) 945-4327, E-mail: CBennett@agr.

John Bartel alongside his computer controls in his barn. His home computer is also able to monitor barn operations by modem. The galvanized, in-line Fancom weigh scale is fed by augers from his broiler ration and whole wheat bins. Specific percentages of wheat and complete feed are dropped into the supply hopper below and automatically mix as they are augered away to the feed lines.

John’s seven year old doubledecker broiler barn, with two bins alongside for wheat and complete feed.

Published in Research

The past decade in animal health has been influenced by an increasing consumer awareness, especially in Europe. That trend resulting in large part from a much faster exchange of news and information, is expected to continue with the same intensity throughout North America.

Some trade barriers are rooted in real food safety concerns, basically because of fear, but the politicians have to be concerned on behalf of the electorate. Consumers demand more than testimonials from experts and scientists. Many are fed up with the cheapest possible products and insist on quality in every respect, a demand extending to animal health industries.

Drugs and pharmaceuticals will still be developed but we will see no further development of antibiotics for some time because of steadily rising costs. The last antibiotic used in both the human field and animal husbandry was fluroquinolones, which have come under severe attack, not only from small consumer groups but from independent scientists and established national authorities. Animal health companies would be wise to pull out of the large animal market since the human market is much more lucrative and prestigious. The Danish experience has shown that other measures such as improved hygienic measurements and feed will give the same result as antibiotic feed additives.

Prudent trend setters in agriculture have set up better disease control systems and herd health survey systems in their barns in co-operation with the veterinary society. Hopefully, the vet society is aware of its responsibilities and will continue to master applied science. HACCP is a beginning.

The European ban on growth hormones is generally supported by consumers, but is under attack from British scientists who question the reasons behind the ban. And if the consumer is in doubt, she will not buy the product.

Introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is largely blocked by European consumers, and a campaign against GMOs has been launched in Canada. U.S. consumers have largely ignored the debate in Europe, although a bill may soon be introduced that would require labeling on meat products. The Food and Drug Administration will also review its policy on genetically modified foods.

Animal Health companies in the biological business are relatively safe. The general trend is toward prophylaxes. Vaccines based on new biotechnology have already been developed; for example, vaccines

for E. coli, equine influenza, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, and Gumboro.

Marker vaccines that allow vaccination and eradication programs go hand in hand and we will probably see more of these. Conventionally developed vaccines, both live and killed, are generally of high standard and will continue to serve in the future. Biotechnology will help concentrate on specific attenuation and new ways of combining or compiling antigenic determinants for example, new combinations of

non-reactive Newcastle and a Marek’s disease vaccine are a possibility in the future.

What we probably will also see more of are vector vaccines, i.e. vaccines using a carrier virus with no pathogenecity to carry the wanted immunological determinants into the animal’s immunological system. This has already been introduced in small animal vaccines.

New carrier and delivery systems are being worked on. The most recent progress in modern vaccine technology is with intradermal or intramuscular application of so-called naked DNA. Much more work will be done on bacterial and protozoal disease protection using the new techniques.

Much of today’s work is focused on salmonella vaccines of different kinds and constructed in different ways. Salmonella is a disease which is here to stay and will continue as a potential threat to human food safety. Coccidiosis vaccines are used today only in breeders because of the cost, but will be tailor-made for the large broiler segment.

Presented at the Poultry Industry Council Poultry Health Conference in Kitchener, Ont.

Published in Research

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