While chefs and dieticians encourage the consumption of turkey and turkey products with nutritional information and delicious recipes, geneticists work away at the other end of the production chain, trying to create a better bird for a global market.

The consumer may never have to worry about how to stuff a 60-pound turkey in their oven for Thanksgiving, but at our current rate of progress, it’s not out of line to suggest that the farmer can expect to turn out a 20-week tom of that size for further processing markets, while still needing to produce a smaller table bird with different and possibly unique characteristics.

It’s a challenging task. Paige Rohlf is the research and development manager for Aviagen Turkeys Inc., where she manages the breeding program, selects pedigree lines, and implements new technology and selection techniques. As she explained to the audience at the 2015 PIC Innovations Conference, it takes up to four years for anything at the pedigree level to filter back into the farm level commercial bird and have an effect on the industry.

“It still takes time,” Rohlf said. “It’s very important that we have feedback.” At the pedigree level, everyone is your customer. What’s working? What’s not working? Where is the industry going? What are the domestic and global trends?

What does our Canadian bird look like now? AAFC monitors domestic turkey meat production by bird size: over 40 per cent of domestic Canadian turkey meat production is comprised of heavy birds – those weighing more than 11 kilograms – and mature turkeys. Turkey breasts coming from these large birds are used for deli products or turkey breast roasts, while the dark meat or meat from mature birds will end up as turkey kielbasa or pepperoni, turkey bacon, or turkey burgers and franks. The remaining birds that hit the market are less than 11 kilograms, with 75 per cent sold at retail as whole birds and the rest sold as parts. Our seasonal market parallels that of the U.S. with nearly 80 per cent of whole birds ending up on our Christmas or Thanksgiving tables.

Globally, Aviagen is keeping its eye on current increased production in North Africa and Russia, and potential for increasing markets with importing countries such as Mexico, the EU, China, South Africa and Russia. In terms of consumption, Asia presents a real opportunity: South Central and Eastern Asia will be dependent on importing meat because the population is growing faster than production can support. In Taiwan, turkey is a working man’s meal, as it is more affordable for restaurants to purchase whole turkeys and boil them down to serve over rice than it is to purchase broilers.

But it’s not just volume that must be contemplated when trying to define a “better bird.” The industry is also faced with factors such as increasing competition for land, water and resources, as well as an evolving consumer, making genetic decisions more challenging. In the EU, the industry has started labeling the carbon footprint on food. Rohlf predicts this trend will come our way. It’s hard to calculate but it makes people feel good to buy a product with claims of a lower carbon footprint. Add to this consumer concerns about fertilizer and pesticide use, housing and management systems, raising birds organically or with restricted antibiotics, and layered on top of changes from a whole bird market for making bigger birds and more eggs to a resource management perspective, all while keeping turkey competitive with broilers and pork.

On the production side, think about where we raise the birds. It’s different all around the world, but over the past 70 years, there has been a global trend to raise them indoors, which Rohlf points to as a big step in the right direction in terms of survival. The bird we see is the result of genetics expressed in that environment. There are a lot more inputs we can now measure every day: their weight, feed conversion and health. We can control their environment, their feed, their water and their lighting, but how much can we control their genetics?

What we can control by genetic selection is determined by the heritability of the trait – a highly heritable trait allows faster progress. For example, growth rate is highly heritable: a heavy tom mated with a heavy hen will have heavy offspring; the environment doesn’t matter as much. But it’s not all just as simple as weighing a bird. Feed efficiency is less heritable; reproduction traits, fitness or survival, and livability are much more influenced by the environment, therefore it is harder to make improvements in these traits and we have to rely on technology to collect information to make selection decisions.

When it comes to nutrition, Rohlf then raises the question, how do we feed the birds to realize their full genetic potential? “This is where the challenges are.” While large companies have their own in-house nutritionists and feed companies generally know how to feed turkeys, there are no recent published standards (the last was in 1994). Since then, U.S. heavy toms have gotten 10 pounds heavier. Are we breeding for growth rate or breast meat yield? As the saying goes, the last bit of feed is the most efficient: the birds need to gain weight for maintenance, then they put on additional weight, then the feed goes to the breast. How do the birds use different feeds for maintenance? For growth? For breast meat production?

Some in-house research is indicating protein levels can be reduced as long as amino acids are balanced, while alternative feedstuffs and fillers offer different amino acid spectrums over the traditional corn and soybean diet. More research is needed to determine how the birds utilize amino acids, or use new feeds such as dried distiller’s grains, or how probiotics will affect genetic potential.  

Rohlf is excited about a new genetic opportunity with satellite cells. These myoblasts – baby muscle cells – are determined before a bird hatches but defined after the bird is hatched. Can we make more breast meat by promoting feed intake in the first few days after hatch to stimulate these satellite cells?

Genetic programs have so far focused on efficiency, growth and fitness. For this year, Rohlf expects an improvement of 0.34 per cent in breast meat yield as per cent of live weight in toms at 20 weeks of age, continuing a steady pace of improvement. She also predicts four points of improvement in feed conversion for toms at 45 pounds (20.4 kg), from 2.45 to 2.41 pounds of feed per pound of gain. In weight, toms at 20 weeks of age will be 0.70 pounds (320 g) heavier this year. Aviagen Turkeys’ breeding goal also includes several measures of fitness, including walking ability and livability. These traits receive similar emphasis in selection as the growth and efficiency traits.




Published in Meat - Turkeys

May 12, 2016 - New data from a survey of wheat samples from across Canada is helping to drive optimized feeding strategies for pigs and poultry.

The survey was led by Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.) and the University of Manitoba in cooperation with farming operations and feed mills across four provinces. 

"Feeding strategies are becoming more sophisticated and represent one of the greatest opportunities for livestock operations to improve efficiency and profitability," says Rob Patterson, Technical Director of CBS Inc. "The key to maximizing value from feed is to first understand the nutritional profile of the ingredients at the deepest level possible, then apply this knowledge to strategies designed to get the most bang per bite. The wheat survey is a new effort to help provide this knowledge for feed wheat." 

For the 2015-2016 wheat survey, wheat samples were collected from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario from August to October 2015. Location, variety, date of collection and other pertinent information was recorded at the time of collection. All samples were analyzed over the following months at the University of Manitoba’s Department of Animal Science, producing a wealth of data on a variety of parameters including crude protein, starch, non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) – both water soluble and water insoluble – and neutral-detergent fibre, as well as total phytate and non-phytate phosphorus. 

"The picture presented by the analysis gives us a fresh look, at an in-depth level, at the nutritional value available in the feed wheat, as well as the potential to unlock more of the feed value – for example, through the use of feed additives that help break down the hard-to-digest components," says Patterson. "The new data collected from this survey will be made available to industry, to help in the formulation of precision diets, particularly for swine and poultry." 

The results show some regional variation, he says. They also confirm characteristics that can be addressed through feeding strategies. 

"Overall we see a high-quality feed ingredient," says Patterson. "We also get a clearer picture of how to get the most value and best performance using this feed source. For example, the survey results help us pin down the levels of water soluble and water insoluble NSP present in the wheat. Water soluble NSP are significant because they can slow feed passage. Water insoluble NSP are significant because they are hard-to-digest and thereby lock away nutrients. With knowledge from the survey, we see ways to optimize the performance of the animals. We also see ways to improve the overall nutritional value obtained from the wheat, by five percent or more." 

The 2015-2016 wheat survey follows up on an initial survey conducted in 2014. Plans are to continue this approach for multiple years, in order to build an increasingly valuable resource of information, says Patterson. 

"As we strive to get more customized and precise in feeding approaches, feed wheat is near the top of our list of priorities in Canada.

For pigs and poultry, year-to-year, wheat is the most common feed ingredient in Western Canada and it is also important in Eastern Canada. Building this knowledge base is a great opportunity to help Canada reach a new, higher level of livestock production success." 

More information on the 2015-2016 wheat survey, including a map and key charts, is available on request by contacting CBS Inc.

Published in Nutrition and Feed

April 27, 2016 - Hybrid Turkeys is giving back to the agricultural science community by donating $125,000 to the University of Guelph, Canada.

This gift will support turkey welfare research at the University’s Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare (CCSAW). The centre, under the direction of Prof. Tina Widowski, promotes the welfare of animals through research, outreach and education and seeks to better understand how animals perceive and respond to their environments and the ways that we handle them. 

Prof. Widowski’s research group has tackled some difficult issues including transportation of pigs and methods for euthanasia in poultry. Her goal is to determine how we can match agricultural systems to the animals’ behavioural biology in order to develop best practices for their care. 

Dave Libertini, Managing Director of Hybrid Turkeys says, “Our support of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare and Prof. Widowski’s research team, demonstrates the commitment Hybrid Turkeys has to the overall health and wellbeing of animals, not only under our care, but within the entire industry.”

Poultry welfare research priorities will be determined in consultation with a poultry welfare advisory committee, which will include representatives from both the University of Guelph and from Hybrid Turkeys. This collaborative approach will ensure industry issues are considered for research and that research results are shared.

Dr. Helen Wojcinski DVM, a University of Guelph alumna and Manager of Science and Sustainability for Hybrid Turkeys says, “Ensuring animal health and wellbeing is at the centre of our business, and so we highly value this relationship with the University of Guelph. We look forward to the positive outcomes of this research in animal welfare.” 

 “I am pleased that Hybrid Turkeys has joined a number of other industry partners to support the research of the poultry welfare group of CCSAW,” says Widowski. “The Campbell Centre is currently the largest of its kind in North America with over 40 associated faculty members who all specialise in various areas of animal welfare and behaviour.”

Published in Researchers


The poultry industry has a long and complicated supply chain, incorporating a wide spectrum of costs and benefits. When you think about sustainability in that chain, it doesn’t make sense to improve one part of the system if that change may unintentionally burden another part of the process and outweigh the advantages achieved.

Nathan Pelletier is the president of Global Ecologic, an independent sustainability consulting firm that measures and manages strategy in food and other industrial systems. Speaking at the 2015 Canadian Poultry Sustainability Conference in London, Ont., he explained how life cycle thinking could be used to help analyze the past, present and future of the poultry industry in the quest for sustainability.

Life cycle thinking – changing from a management perspective to a systems perspective – is an analytical process that helps to examine the relevant interactions associated with the production of goods and services, allowing us to pinpoint which aspects of the supply chain have the biggest impact.

The results of life cycle thinking can often be counterintuitive, flying in the face of our current thoughts. For example, is local food more sustainable? With life cycle analysis, this argument is no longer credible if you factor in the efficiencies of transport over long distances by rail, truck or boat. “There will always be trade-offs,” said Pelletier. “We need to be conscious of these to make decisions regarding our own priorities.”

For the poultry industry, he sees no alternative but to embrace this management philosophy throughout the supply chain, but Pelletier says it won’t be a straightforward journey.

Complexity will surround everything from agreeing on definitions of sustainability to operationalizing the information, but he predicts that life cycle thinking will become a requirement in the new marketplace, coming to the forefront of regulatory guidelines within 10 years.

Looking back over 50 years, in an in-depth historical life cycle analysis published in the Poultry Journal in 2014, Pelletier compared the environmental footprint of the poultry industry in the U.S. in 1960 versus 2010, putting some hard numbers around poultry production.

The modern poultry industry is not the same as it was 50 years ago, and that’s an interesting story itself. His results show astonishing changes.

While egg production in the U.S. has risen 30 per cent in 50 years, the environmental footprint per kilogram of eggs produced in 2010 is 65 per cent lower in acidifying emissions, 71 per cent lower in eutrophying emissions, 71 per cent lower in greenhouse gas emissions and 31 per cent lower in cumulative energy demand during that same time.

According to Pelletier, the reduction could be attributed to factors such as feed and manure management. Up to 30 per cent of the improvement is based in improved efficiencies of background systems, for example supply chain efficiencies in transportation and energy use. Thirty to 44 per cent was from changes in feed composition, reflecting efficiencies realized in crop production with less inputs for increased yields. Another 28 to 43 per cent was due to improvements in genetics, feed conversion and bird health.

Productivity has increased 50 per cent, from 195 eggs to 297 eggs annually. In 1960, 3.1 kg of feed equaled one kg of eggs; now only two kg of feed is needed per kg of eggs. Not only that but the birds are healthier, with 63 per cent lower mortality.

This is a good news story, but how does poultry stack up against other protein sources? It’s hard to compare unless studies have been done with the same protocols, said Pelletier, but in general, monogastrics are more efficient. The most efficient protein source is pork, followed by eggs, both better than beef. This matters because sustainability is becoming such a differentiating factor in the marketplace, for social license, regulatory compliance and market access. In this respect, poultry is well positioned for the future.

Looking forward, Pelletier suggested that proactive engagement in sustainability is essential, making four suggestions.

First, develop a Canadian life cycle inventory of consistent data to support production. Defending any kind of comparison requires such data.

The poultry industry also needs to develop and implement a transparent, multi-criteria sustainability benchmarking program for producers, to support sustainability initiatives and provide benchmarking and goal setting targets.

He sees a third opportunity in acting as a leader in pushing new frontiers. “Don’t be too attached to the status quo,” said Pelletier. “Just think about the changes in your industry over the past 50 years, and imagine where you could be 50 years from now?” Support and participate in the research that will be necessary to define the sustainable poultry production systems of the future.

Finally, formalize a commitment industry wide by engaging all stakeholders in a round-table discussion on sustainability, defining a common vision and a strategy to achieve it. As Pelletier says, “use it as an opportunity to see sustainability not as a challenge or as a hoop to jump through, but as a source of competitive advantage, as an exciting and necessary collaborative journey toward that shared vision of the future.”




Published in Environment

April 9, 2016 - Connections and collaboration were a key theme during the Poultry Health Research Network (PHRN) Research Day at the University of Guelph March 29.

The research day brought together representatives from government, industry and academia to provide updates on current research and prompt discussion for future collaborations.

“The whole intent was to ensure that our industry partners and our researchers, either from academia or the government agencies that work with us, have a chance to mingle and talk about their research needs and what we can do to address those research needs,” said Dr. Shayan Sharif, an immunologist in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Pathobiology and leader of the PHRN.

The University of Guelph has had a long-standing commitment to innovation in animal health and production, with one of the largest groups of poultry scientists and poultry experts in North America. The Poultry Health Research Network has been steadily expanding since its inception in 2012 and now includes more than 60 members from across the UofG campus, as well as industry and government researchers. 

Lloyd Longfield, Member of Parliament for Guelph, addressed the group during lunch, pointing out how important it is to work together to “share resources and specific expertise to solve global problems.”

Bringing everyone together in the room is where it needs to start, he added. “We’ve got researchers from the government here, we’ve got researchers from university, we’ve got industry and that’s really the chemistry we need to drive forward.”

“Here at the University of Guelph we have an unprecedented and unique gathering of expertise in support of the poultry industry,” said OVC Dean Jeff Wichtel, in addressing the group. “It involves upwards of five of our seven colleges and spans the breadth from poultry welfare right through to vaccine development and molecular basis for immunity to disease.”

During the day, UofG researchers, including MSc, PhD students and post-doctoral researchers, outlined current research in a variety of areas, including poultry welfare, biosecurity, vaccine development, nutrition, and antimicrobial resistance. Afternoon presentations with industry representatives, including pharmaceutical, feed, genetics and equipment companies, and researchers provided a forum to explore areas of mutual interest for future collaborations.

Sharif recognized funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for part of the research day and also acknowledged the Poultry Industry Council, Canadian Poultry Research Council, Livestock Research Innovation Corporation and the Ontario Veterinary College for their ongoing support for PHRN’s work. 

Published in Housing


CPRC adjusted its funding program for the 2016 call for Letters of Intent (LOI) to fit better into the annual funding timeframe.  Government funding organizations generally look for industry financial support to show that the proposed research is an industry priority.  Some funders, such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), require industry funding approval prior to application. Others will accept an application prior to industry funding commitments but will not provide final approval until industry support is confirmed.  CPRC moved its call for 2016 LOIs to mid-December with a submission date in early February so that it can complete its review process and issue funding decisions by the end of June.

CPRC uses a two-step review and approval process. The first step is an internal review by the CPRC Board of Directors and its support staff to determine the level of support for a research proposal by the member organizations. The review assesses the proposal’s importance to industry and how well it aligns with priorities identified in the 2012 National Research Strategy for Canada’s Poultry Sector as well as new priorities identified by CPRC and its member organizations (e.g.: climate change, precision agriculture).  A short list of projects is developed to move on to the next part of the process.

The second step is to complete peer reviews conducted by research scientists of the short-listed projects, which looks more at technical aspects of the project and the validity of the research (e.g.: duplication of prior research, methodology).  The peer reviews provide valuable input to CPRC’s final decisions on the projects that will be funded.  The final funding decision will be made at CPRC’s June Board of Directors meeting.  CPRC received 28 LOIs in the 2016 call.

The 2015 CPRC Scholarship was awarded to Sasha van der Klein, a PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Martin Zuidhof, University of Alberta. Sasha completed her M. Sc. at the University of Wageningen in 2015 in the areas of immunology, genetics and nutrition. She published one and co-authored another paper following from her thesis in genetics, about the relationship between production traits and immunology in laying hens.

Sasha’s research at the University of Alberta will look at broiler breeder management strategies. Her objective will be to better understand the long term effects of broiler breeder rearing strategies on production and the effects on offspring performance. The focus will be on lighting and body weight management. She will also conduct research on understanding the mechanisms of transgenerational effects of nutrition. In her studies she will use the Precision Broiler Breeder Feeding System, developed by Dr. Zuidhof, which can control individual bird feed intake using real-time body weight measurements to make feed allocation decisions.

CPRC has redesigned its website ( to take advantage of developments in website design and management.  The redesigned website was activated in March and includes the same content as the previous website but packaged in a more concise format. It is also designed for use on a cell phone.  Please check out the new website and let us know what you think ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

CPRC, its Board of Directors and member organizations are committed to supporting and enhancing Canada’s poultry sector through research and related activities.  For more details on these or any other 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, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at

The membership of the CPRC consists of Chicken Farmers of Canada, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, Turkey Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors’ Council. CPRC’s mission is to address its members’ needs through dynamic leadership in the creation and implementation of programs for poultry research in Canada, which may also include societal concerns.





Published in Turkeys


Recently, there has been a significant increase in calls for the reduction or exclusion of in-feed antibiotics in North American poultry production. Notable restaurant chains and retailers, including McDonald’s and Costco, have publicly announced their intentions to eliminate the use of “medically important” antibiotics in their supply chains, prompting further announcements by major U.S. integrators, including Tyson, Pilgrim’s and Foster Farms to  eliminate use of these antibiotics in their production systems in the coming years.

To be clear, while removing medically important disease prevention antibiotics such as bacitracin and virginiamycin,  many of these companies are promoting the continued use of in-feed coccidiostats, parasiticides that control the intestinal parasites of Eimeria species.  

The reason for these announcements, as noted in earlier articles in Canadian Poultry Magazine (October and December 2015 issues), is to address concerns over the development and transmission of antibiotic resistance to pathogenic bacteria in humans; so-called “superbugs”. While some continue to debate the contribution of animal agriculture’s use of antibiotics to the development of resistant bacteria in humans, as an industry, we have a responsibility to mitigate this risk where possible. This will support maintaining the effectiveness of the limited toolbox of antibiotics for treating human, as well as food production animal infections.

In order to maintain current levels of performance and health in our flocks we must find alternative feed additives or production strategies to replace these valuable tools. This story is not new. In fact, a ban on antibiotic growth-promotants (AGPs) was initiated in the EU in 2006. What is new is a rapidly growing North American demand for effective additives to replace antibiotics.

One of the concerns in antibiotic-free programs is the increased risk of necrotic enteritis (NE). Key antibiotics have claims for control of Clostridium perfringens (Cp), the causative agent in NE. New additives or feeding programs should offer some protection against Cp to help prevent NE outbreaks.

Feed companies are bombarded with products positioned as alternatives to traditional medicated feed programs, with numerous modes of action (how they work). A dominant category of these additives are essential oil or plant-derived extracts, registered largely as flavours, with anecdotal reports of improved growth in chickens. Essential oils are also widely considered antibacterial and have been shown to directly inhibit growth of Cp in the lab. Other technologies include yeast byproducts, prebiotics, probiotics, short and medium chain fatty acids, various acidifiers and antioxidants, most of which are single bioactive products. The reality is there is no single additive that is as effective as a drug, nor as inexpensive – no “silver bullet”. Despite the plethora of antibiotic-alternative feed additives that are promoted, little, if any, data are available to support the performance of these products under production conditions similar to a medicated feed program.

Nutreco Canada (Shur-Gain and Landmark Feeds) believes that a combination product, which improves the immune system and integrity of the digestive tract while inhibiting pathogen growth and colonization in the digestive system, will provide the strongest protection. No single bioactive compound can address all of these modes of action.

This formed the basis of a succession of studies over many years in screening various individual bioactive compounds and commercial products both in the lab, and under disease challenge conditions at our research facilities in Canada to identify  products that would best meet the combined mode of action approach at a reasonable cost. We also used the experiences of our European Nutreco colleagues  subsequent to the antibiotic ban in Europe, to develop alternative feeding programs to test.

The culmination of this effort was a three-site multi-location controlled study (a total of 180 experimental pens) comparing the performance of five dietary feeding programs, all with the same coccidiostat program:

  1. Negative control (no antibiotic);
  2. Positive control (includes 55 ppm bacitracin methylene disalicylate, or BMD);
  3. Alternative program 1 (combination of products with ingredients that have indirect pathogen inhibition and improvements to intestinal integrity/health/microflora);
  4. Alternative program 2, which later became the Nobelo program (combination of products with ingredients that have indirect pathogen inhibition and improvements to intestinal integrity, health and microflora and immune systems competency); and
  5. Alternative program 3 (combination of products to support digestive and immune systems competency).

Under non-challenge research conditions we saw no differences in mortality, but we did see, as expected, a significant improvement in overall feed conversion when feeding BMD (two points lower). We also noted that Alternative programs 1 and 2 (Nobelo) had similar improvement in FCR as the medicated treatment (Fig. 1), while alternative program 3 had little benefit.

Overall average mortality was lower when using BMD (as expected), but we were excited to see that both alternative programs 1 and 2 also had significantly lower mortality compared to the non-medicated control (Fig. 2).

Pen-based studies alone are not sufficient to help producers make informed choices as to whether  products will work under commercial conditions. Our next step was to validate the performance of the alternative program 2 (branded as Nobelo and selected over alternative program 1 due to its lower cost) under field conditions. We repeated the field validation in two separate regions  using different in-feed antibiotics with 38 commercial flocks in Quebec (19 flocks randomly assigned to antibiotic and 19 to Nobelo) and 20 commercial flocks in Ontario (10 flocks randomly assigned to antibiotic and 10 to Nobelo) in the fall of 2011. Under real-life commercial production conditions we saw no significant differences in average market weights, feed conversion or mortality in either region (Fig. 3), nor did we see any differences in production costs for antibiotic versus Nobelo.

Shur-Gain and Landmark feeds introduced the Nobelo feeding program in 2014, resulting in a 33 per cent reduction in our in-feed antibiotic use in broilers, with no difference in production performance when compared to flocks placed before or after Nobelo (Fig. 4a and Fig. 4b.).

What does all of this mean?  It shows that producing poultry without feeding the birds medically important antibiotics is possible in a safe and economically sustainable way while maintaining performance. Perhaps most importantly, using this Nobelo strategy will help safeguard the use of our limited supply of antibiotics for when they are truly needed for disease treatment.

CP april16 feedingfigures


Published in Nutrition and Feed

March 10, 2016 -A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. has announced a major commitment to become the first national quick service restaurant in Canada to serve eggs from hens raised in better cage-free housing. According to a company press release, the company expects to achieve this goal within two years. "A&W has already established its leadership role by being the first and only quick service restaurant chain to serve eggs from hens in enriched housing and raised without the use of antibiotics," the company said. "Currently, there are no open barn housing options available that meet A&W's supply needs and allow for an antibiotic-free environment."

A&W is committing to improving and redesigning housing for egg laying hens, and will source eggs from hens raised without the use of antibiotics while simultaneously advancing the best practices for egg laying hens.  

In the press release, the company said that "as a part of its commitment to improving egg laying hen housing, a $100,000 A&W grant is being made to Farm & Food Care Canada, a leading Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to building public trust in food and farming. With this investment, the organization will bring together industry experts from many fields to help build on existing work and set better direction for hen housing in Canada."
Farm & Food Care Canada released the following statement to clarify  A&W Food Services of Canada Inc.'s assertion that the charitable organization will be receiving funds to further hen housing research:
Contrary to media reports, Farm & Food Care Canada will not be funding research into finding better cage-free housing alternatives for hens. On March 10, A&W announced plans to contribute $100,000 to Farm & Food Care Canada. In its press release, A&W stated the following: “As a part of its commitment to improving egg laying hen housing, a $100,000 A&W grant is being made to Farm & Food Care Canada, a leading Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to building public trust in food and farming. With this investment, the organization will bring together industry experts from many fields to help build on existing work and set better direction for hen housing in Canada.
Farm & Food Care Canada was approached for this work earlier this week as a third party coordinator to host a session to bring egg industry partners, retail and food service from across Canada together with the US Center for Food Integrity’s Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply. The principle of the discussion would be to broaden it beyond hen welfare to include all issues impacting sustainable eggs including food safety, environment, hen health, worker health and safety and food affordability and determine areas that the Canadian egg sector felt this funding would be best spent.
No agreements have been or will be signed for the funding or its terms until after the Farm & Food Care Canada board of directors and egg industry partners have discussed best options. Farm & Food Care and the new Canadian Centre for Food Integrity does not advocate for positions on issues or for specific companies. 
Susan Senecal, President and Chief Operating Officer, A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. said the company is "committed to finding better hen housing options within two years that can benefit Canadians, egg farmers and the entire food industry. "We are investing in innovation to accelerate the pace of change because right now there are no viable cage-free egg options that meet our supply standards regarding the use of antibiotics. We are committed to change because we think it is the right thing for the animals, the industry, our business and Canada."
As the only national QSR serving eggs from enriched housing, A&W says it is already at the forefront of egg laying hen health and welfare. 
"We have a long history of innovating.  We worked with highly committed Canadian egg farmers to move from conventional cages," Senecal said in the company release. "While it costs more, we made the switch because it was the right thing to do. Now we are advancing to the next stage. We have led our industry in the past and we will continue to lead in the future."


Published in Researchers


Furnished cages support behaviours such as scratching, perching and nesting, but their design continues to evolve. Thirty years ago, the earliest models held fewer than 15 hens and allowed them access to dust baths or litter. These prototypes presented problems with hygiene and egg collection, with scratch mats now being the norm. The size of the furnished cages has changed too – some of the newest models now house groups as large as 100 hens.

How does the performance and welfare of the hens respond to higher stocking densities?

A study done by Tina Widowski in the department of animal and poultry science at the University of Guelph, measured these parameters at two different densities in two different sized cages, with comparison to reference groups housed in conventional cages. The production parameters under consideration included feed intake, egg production, egg weight, mortality, body weight and body weight uniformity, feather condition, and bone strength.

“This research is some of the first ever to assess the welfare of hens housed in large furnished cages of different sizes and space allowances using measures of production, health and body condition,” said Widowski. “At any given space allowance hens in these larger groups have more total space available to them and more ‘free space’ since they tend to cluster together at different times of day leaving some parts of the cage largely unoccupied.”

Widowski used 1218 conventionally reared LSL-lite laying hens housed at the Arkell Research Station near Guelph, Ont. Eighteen-week old hens were individually weighed and wing banded before being placed in either larger standard commercial furnished cages or custom built smaller furnished cages.

The cages were populated with 80 (high density) or 55 (low density) birds in the larger cages and 40 or 28 birds in the smaller cages. This allowed for a stocking space allowance of either 520 cm2 ( approximately 80 in2, high density) or 748 cm2 (approximately 116 in2, low density) per hen.  The European Union standard is 750 cm2/hen; a reference population in conventional cages was used for comparison at 465 cm2 (72 in2)/hen.

Furnishings included curtained nest boxes, claw shorteners, two linear feeders, nipple drinkers and a smooth plastic scratch mat where a small amount of feed (20g) was distributed several times per day. Perch allowances and nesting areas were proportionally sized for the cages and the hens were given feed and water ad libitum.

Egg quality was monitored continuously over the 50 weeks of the trial and egg quality was assessed every four weeks to provide an indication of shell strength. Hens were randomly selected for individual body weight measurements at 30, 50, 60 and 70 weeks of age, at which time they were also scored for overall cleanliness, feather condition, as well as keel, toe and foot damage health.  At the end of the trial 10 per cent of the birds were assessed post-mortem for bone strength.

Overall the results indicate that most measures of productivity were not affected by the parameters of the trial. Hen day egg production, egg weight and eggshell deformation were not affected by cage size while there was slightly greater egg deformity (weaker shells) at 57 weeks of age in low space allowance.

Mortality was lower in conventional cages than any of the furnished cages (4.6 per cent vs. 2.0 per cent), unaffected by cage size. The majority of mortality occurred early in the study, due to injury or entrapment, while both birds and researchers adjusted to the new systems.

Feather condition deteriorated under all treatments over time, but hens in the high density furnished cages were poorer than the others, with the increased potential for abrasion by the furnishings or the possibility of increased feather pecking. This is supported by other research that found feather condition deteriorates with decreased space allowance.

Hens in large cages were the cleanest, possibly explained by cage design – the large cages were fitted with a wire partition over the scratch mat area that kept them from roosting and defecating there – or simply that higher density resulted in closer contact.  

All bones were stronger in furnished cages than conventional cages, but leg bones tended to be weaker in the small cages with lower space allowance. Overall, space allowance and cage size had no effect on the rate of keel damage. Toe damage was higher in the furnished cages over conventional, possibly because the furnishings allowed greater opportunity for mechanical injury. Footpad damage increased significantly as space allowance decreased.

The only unexpected result was that hens in small furnished cages consumed significantly higher amounts of feed compared to large furnished cages, a result that Widowski explained may be due to the difficulty in gathering feed intake data and possibly greater feed wastage with this experimental design.

Widowski concluded that while productivity and mortality were not influenced by space allowance, the differences in feather condition and foot health might be a reflection of compromised welfare of hens housed at the lower space allowance. Given current research results of this study and a comparable research project at Michigan State University, she suggests a cage space allowance of at least 581 cm2 (90 in2) per hen would be considered appropriate for maintaining the physical measures of welfare quality specifically for the white laying hens used in this study.

This research was supported by OMAFRA and Egg Farmers of Canada with in-kind contribution of Farmer Automatic Cages from Clark AG Systems.




Published in Eggs - Layers


When it comes to developing a vaccine in response to emerging diseases that threaten the lives of animals, a pharmaceutical company needs to move quickly.

What it comes down to is being “first to know” and “fast to market”, said Dr. Raja Krishnan, formerly senior director of Swine and Poultry Research and Development for Zoetis and now of companion animal and equine biological research. Speaking to the Poultry Industry Council Health Day in Stratford, Ont., Krishnan put a global perspective on some of the corporate thought processes that precede his company’s decision to develop a vaccine.

Use of surveillance
“The world is becoming a smaller village,” said Krishnan. Zoetis, a leading pharmaceutical company with 10,000 employees in 120 countries, has access to global surveillance networks that use targeted regional surveillance to help guide rapid, high quality product development.

As an example, Krishnan called Avian Influenza (AI) a “disease that is travelling around the world, creating headaches.” With that kind of migration, how do we become proactive? How do we get ahead of the next round of disease? “It’s a decision that can’t wait,” said Krishnan. “Seasons change whether we’re ready or not,” leaving the company to do the right thing for their customers and the entire industry, sometimes making those decisions in a matter of minutes.

Questions, questions
The AI outbreak affected over 48 million birds between December 2014 and June 2015. A lot of questions swirled around the decision to develop a vaccine; the disease was moving quickly. Did the industry want a vaccine? Would they use it? Would the government endorse it? Would the USDA recommend culling or vaccinating? Even if a product were developed, would it be relevant? Does it make sense?

Adding to this uncertainty is the fact that AI doesn’t play by the rules. The virus can mutate rapidly, meaning that the vaccine needs to be changed frequently. That’s one of the challenges. “AI constantly surprises us,” said Krishnan. “Nothing beats preparedness but we may have to course-correct collectively.”

When asked about the drivers behind the U.S. poultry industry deciding to use or not use the AI vaccine, Krishnan listed several of the questions such as, when will the product be available? Is there a risk of AI going into broilers as we go into the winter? Will this pressure us to act?

Political aspects
“Let’s not underestimate the economic and trade implications,” said Krishnan, what he called “the political aspects.” Will use of a vaccine result in trade restrictions? How does the issue get played out in the news? How does the consumer view the issue? What will the government do? How will pressure from retailers like Walmart affect vaccine use? He described the vaccination issue as “a jigsaw puzzle with so many uncertain parameters.”

Under a similar disease challenge in April 2013, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) was identified in the United States; by September 2014, conditional vaccine licenses were being issued in the U.S. Everything happened rapidly, said Krishnan, fuelled by a commitment to U.S. pork producers and the veterinarians who support them to help contain an outbreak in 30 states that was responsible for the deaths of more than seven million piglets in the U.S..

What if their company goes down the wrong path? Krishnan admitted that sometimes a vaccine works in a test tube but falls apart in the real world; sometimes a disease doesn’t cause a problem, in which case the resources will be pulled back and re-invested.

With AI, are we headed in the right direction? Is it easier to cull the birds, clean up and move on? “That’s the million dollar question,” answered Krishnan. Thirty years from now we’ll have stories to tell.


Published in Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Environment

January 19, 2016 - Feed innovations are set to tackle the sustainability file in 2016, as a changed regulatory landscape and broad swath of fresh advancements take hold for pigs, poultry and ruminants. The innovations cover efficiency, profitability, environmental footprint, animal health and welfare, and more. 

The wave of modernization is propelled by new science, says Rob Patterson, Technical Director for Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.), which researches, develops and manufactures a range of new bio-based livestock feed supplements. Another driving force is shifting demand toward alternative supplements, as industry adapts to new rules for more limited and judicious use of traditional options such as antimicrobials. 

“The story of feed innovation for animal agriculture is entering a distinct new chapter in 2016,” says Patterson. “Regulations have tightened dramatically and there is more scrutiny and expectations of on-farm practices across the board. But at the same time, there is strong reason for optimism. We are seeing the latest advancements take a major step forward, in line with today’s sustainability demands, to bring more options for feedmills, producers, nutritionists and others in industry, to get more efficiency and value from production systems.” 

One of the most promising areas of advancement for the new year is "multi-carbohydrase" feed enzyme technology, says Dr. Bogdan Slominski, a leading feed technology researcher at the University of Manitoba and a pioneer in developing enzyme technology for animal agriculture. CBS Inc. has a long-standing partnership with Slominski’s program. 

“Multi-carbohydrase is the forefront of enzyme technology today, leveraging our best knowledge from 30 years of research and development,” says Slominski. “The latest multi-carbohydrase formulations can now consistently produce substantial improvements in weight gain and feed efficiency. There’s a strong production benefit and also a strong environmental benefit.” 

The multi-carbohydrase approach involves combining multiple unique enzyme strains that between them express multiple unique activities  and therefore can breakdown a much larger portion of otherwise indigestible feed components.  “It’s a game changer,” says Slominski. “This innovation, in my opinion, has the greatest potential among the feed supplement innovations we see today, to greatly improve the economics and sustainability of livestock production.” 

Nucleotides are another standout example taking a leap forward for 2016. Though relatively new to the livestock feeding sector, nucleotides are widely recognized for their importance in human infant nutrition. “Now a growing body of research shows nucleotide formulations designed for livestock feed can deliver strong feed efficiency, growth promotion and health benefits, particularly for young animals,” says Patterson. 

With the threat of mycotoxins rising in the industry consciousness, advancements that help safeguard feed quality and protect animal performance have also risen to the forefront. “We see growing demand for new options that offer an insurance policy and bring peace of mind,” says Patterson. 

Also grabbing more of the spotlight in 2016 are specially designed yeast-based supplements that defend against stress loss and support animal welfare, offering unique value during critical times such as weaning or transport. 

“These are just a few leading examples among many,” says Patterson. “It’s an exciting time of new options and choice in the feed business.” 

Published in Nutrition and Feed


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω-3 PUFAs) play a fundamental role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in humans. Health authorities advise people to consume Ώω-3-PUFAs, particularly the long chain (LC) ω-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Consumers’ preference favours whole foods to supplements, and chickens are ideal for efficient transfer of Ώω-3-PUFA from feed to product. Fish oil and marine algae oil are currently used to facilitate enrichment of eggs with LC Ώω-3 PUFA. However, these products are in high demand by various industries, leaving identification of alternate sources of LC Ώω-3 PUFA necessary to ensure sustainability of poultry product enrichment. A new approach to increase the LC Ώω-3-PUFA in poultry is to use a modified form of flaxseed plant, altered to express a high proportion of steriodonic acid (SDA). Table eggs can incorporate a higher proportion of LC ω-3-PUFA than muscles, and as laying hens are capable of depositing LC ω-3-PUFA into a saleable product with less product stability challenges, they were an excellent starting point for this research.

Dr. Doug Korver and his research team from the University of Alberta examined the potential of using SDA-enhanced flaxseed to substantially increase LC Ώω-3 fatty acids in table eggs. This approach examines the effectiveness of bypassing bioconversion of LNA by utilizing SDA-enhanced flaxseed. The goal of the project was to develop an effective SDA-enhanced flaxseed enrichment program and ensure that interactions with other dietary lipids did not interfere with SDA flax as an enrichment source.  

The Experiments
Two main experiments were performed to examine the potential of including SDA-enhanced flaxseed oil in laying hens diets.  

The first experiment compared the addition of SDA-enhanced flaxseed oil with conventional flaxseed oil in the diet. Additionally, it investigated the potential metabolic competition among fatty acid sources (including fish oil), and thus potential limitations of the enrichment process. Feed consumption, body weights, egg weights and egg traits were measured, and egg yolks were collected at regular intervals during the course of the 35 day experiment. On termination of the experiment, liver samples were collected to perform fatty acid analysis and ovary weight and follicle size were used to determine the reproductive status of the hens.

The second experiment tested the impact of feed form on the enrichment process of the LC Ώω-3 PUFAs in table eggs. This experiment compared ground SDA-enhanced flaxseed with extruded SDA-enhanced flaxseed along with addition of enzymes to increase digestibility. Egg weights were measured daily.  Feed consumption and body weights were measured and egg yolks were collected at regular intervals during the course of the 35-day experiment. Eggs collected on day 34 were used to determine lipid stability and hence, an indicator of product quality and shelf life.

The Findings
In experiment one, supplementation of experimental diets had no effect on feed intake, body weight, egg production and egg trait parameters. Egg yolks from hens fed a SDA-enhanced flaxseed diet showed a 1.5-fold increase in LC Ώω-3 PUFA compared with hens fed a conventional flaxseed diet (152 mg/egg vs. 110 mg/egg). Additionally, changing the ratio of fatty acid sources (corn, canola, fish oil, flaxseed, SDA-flaxseed) did not result in lipid competition for bioconversion enzymes. Therefore, SDA flax can be used to enrich table eggs with LC Ώω-3 fatty acid regardless of other dietary oil sources.

In experiment two, extrusion and enzyme addition had no effect on feed intake, body weight, egg production or egg trait parameters. Similarly, feed processing (including enzymes) did not significantly impact egg yolk fatty acid profiles, however, egg yolk levels of Ώω-3-PUFA were consistently higher in eggs from hens fed SDA-enhanced flaxseed compared to conventional flaxseed. In comparison to other eggs stored for 30 days at 4°C, SDA-enhanced flaxseed enriched eggs had a higher index of oxidation, suggesting additional antioxidant protection may be required in the diets of hens fed SDA-enhanced flaxseed to extend storage life of Ώω-3 fatty acid enriched eggs.

The results of this study show that inclusion of SDA-enhanced flaxseed oil in the diets of laying hens can increase the levels of LC Ώω-3 PUFA in eggs, providing an alternative to inclusion of fish oil.  

The Next Steps
SDA-enriched flaxseed could be adopted by producers as an alternative to other sources of Ώω-3 PUFAs.  Future studies will be done to determine the potential economic impact of the results obtained through cost benefit analysis and to improve the efficiency of Ώω-3 PUFA enrichment.

This research was funded by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, the University of Alberta and Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC).

For more details on these or any other CPRC activities, please contact The Canadian Poultry Research Council, phone: (613) 566-5916, fax: (613) 241-5999, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at





Published in Nutrition and Feed


Held every four years, the World’s Poultry Congress is being held in Beijing Sept. 5 to 8, 2016.   The Congresses are sponsored and supervised by the World’s Poultry Science Association (WPSA), and organized and operated by local WPSA branches. This year, the Congress is hosted by the China Branch at the China National Convention Centre, part of the Beijing Olympic Park. For complete details, check the Congress website   

The two most important components of the Congress are the Scientific Program and the Exhibition.  The Scientific Program presents various subjects through Plenary Sessions with invited speakers, as well as submitted papers and posters.  The scientific sessions are wide-ranging and cover every aspect of poultry science and the poultry industry.  The WPSA has worked over the years to make congresses attractive to the widest possible range of visitors — not only to scientists and technologists, but anyone working in or for a supplier to the industry  will find parts of the program of interest. Congresses also offer ideal opportunities for networking, making new contacts and forging new business and scientific relationships.

Contemporary issues like Biotechnology and Waste Management are included alongside more traditional areas such as Nutrition, Incubation, Health and Disease in this very comprehensive program.  The Plenary sessions will consist of reviews of recent research, while the submitted papers will include original research and cutting edge science from around the world.

A number of years ago, WPSA entered into a relationship with the Network for Family Poultry Development, and this has led to the introduction of information on  Small-scale Family Poultry Production. In many countries, the proportion of birds kept in industrial systems is much less than those kept in small flocks under “village” conditions.  These flocks often provide much-needed protein for families, as well as modest income. Getting science to these flock owners has always been a challenge, and WPSA has helped by including the subject at the last several Congresses.

The Exhibition, an essential part of the Congress, is being run by the Dutch company VIV and is called VIVChina2016.  It will run from September 6th to 8th and include exhibits relating not only to poultry, but also dairy, hogs and aquaculture.  The venue for the Exhibition is the New China International Exhibition Centre, and the space available is 30,000 m2.  It is not part of the Congress Centre but there will be frequent shuttle buses provided between the two locations.  A subway connection is also available.

Canadian Attendance
For Canadians going to the Congress, there will be the opportunity to see first hand the developments taking place in Chinese science and in its poultry industry.  Like most other aspects of life in China, both the industry and the science world have undergone massive development over the past few years.  When I toured China (sponsored by the US National Renderers Association) in the 1990’s, the poultry science community was quite small, but growing.  Interestingly, at the end of my visit, I met Dr. Ning Yang, who is now Chairman of the 2016 Congress.  Industry at that time was relatively primitive, but preparing for rapid expansion.  So today, Canadians can expect to encounter a vibrant scientific community and a very modern industry.

Registration for the Congress is already open (see the website) and reduced rates are available until March 5th, 2016.  There is also a significant reduction in the registration fee if you are a member of the WPSA.  You can join the Canada Branch and enjoy this benefit, as well as all the other privileges of membership, by contacting the Branch Secretary, Tennille Knezacek at the University of Saskatchewan. ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . or by phone at 306 966 6597).

As usual at World Congresses, there will be a wide-ranging social program; details are not yet available but are to be announced on the congress web site in January, 2016.  The same applies to pre- and post-congress tours.




Published in New Technology


New data analysis has shown there is a genetic link between pendulous crop in turkeys and how well the birds convert feed. This means certain birds may be more predisposed towards developing pendulous crops given their nutrition, management, environments, or combination of these.

This type of correlation is not uncommon in genetics when breeding for certain traits, and geneticists work hard to find balance between desired traits and resulting effects in other areas.

A pendulous crop is a pouch that hangs down lower than it should in poultry and becomes filled with feed and water that the bird can’t digest. Birds suffering from this condition will slow their growth and in some instances can become emaciated.

“Our research was aimed at determining what, if any, genetic relationship there might be between feed efficiency and pendulous crop in turkey, and if there was, whether we might be able to correct for this in a breeding program,” says Owen Willems of Hybrid Turkeys – the company behind the research.

“Avoiding pendulous crops in the turkey population is important to having an economically successful flock, as there is no recovery from this affliction,” he adds.

Researchers at Hybrid Turkeys examined eight years of data from their Ontario-based turkey breeding program in both a sire and dam line to come to their conclusions.

They discovered a small genetic relationship between pendulous crops and feed efficiency in the sire line, which over time, could cause a slight increase in occurrence of pendulous crop as the feed conversion ratios are improved through the breeding program.

In the dam line, however, there was no link, which shows that feed efficiency can be improved through that avenue without increasing the risk of pendulous crop.

Researchers concluded that the correlations between pendulous crop and feed efficiency traits show that pendulous crop should be included in the selection index whenever a feed efficiency trait is also included.

“Given the results of this work at Hybrid, we now have a clearer idea moving forward on how to decrease the incidence of pendulous crop in turkeys through genetic selection,” Willems says.

Pendulous crop is largely a seasonal problem, occurring particularly during hot weather, and is attributed to over-drinking and over-feeding or gorging.

To minimize the risk of birds developing pendulous crop, producers should:

  • Make sure birds have access to clean, cool water at all times
  • Sanitize drinkers regularly and monitor chlorine levels in the water
  • Monitor water consumption to determine if turkeys are drinking more or less water than usual
  • Maintain regular, consistent access to feed
  • Ensure poults don’t become overheated. During brooding, room temperatures should be 29-33C

Visit for additional information.

“Prevention is key here as there is no economically viable treatment available for pendulous crop,” Willems advises.

The research was funded by Hybrid Turkeys (a Hendrix Genetics company), the Poultry Industry Council, and the University of Guelph. More information is available from Ben Wood at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or from the full abstract at




Published in New Technology


December 18, 2015 - Cranberry extracts, derived from the pulp of pressed berries, may be a promising, natural treatment to increase the life expectancy of young broiler chickens.

Healthier birds, with enhanced immunity from a natural source, could reduce production costs for farmers while meeting consumer demand for high-quality, antibiotic-free poultry products.

Dr. Moussa S. Diarra, a research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Guelph Research and Development Centre, is currently conducting trials to examine the effects of cranberry fruit extracts on the immunity of broiler birds during their first 14 days of life, a critical period when “they need something to build up their immunity” against infectious disease. “Young birds are fragile and can be hit by several types of infections” if preventive measures aren’t administered, he notes.

Cranberries have long been used in human nutrition and are reported to have various human health benefits because of their high antioxidant compounds and immune-boosting properties. “If they are good for humans, why aren’t they for other animals?” speculated Dr. Diarra.

“Results have shown that cranberry extracts could decrease mortality by 50% in the early life of broiler birds, when treated with 40 mg of cranberry extracts per 1 kg of feed.” - Dr. Moussa Diarra, Research Scientist, Guelph Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Dr. Diarra is the first research scientist in Canada to study the benefits of cranberries on the immune systems of broiler chicks. Since cranberries “are already accepted in human consumption,” it may be possible to satisfy producers’ needs for cost-effective, benign methods to increase animal health by using a food by-product, he notes.

Dr. Diarra and his team conducted a research study of broiler growth performance that was jointly funded by AAFC and the Canadian Cranberry Growers Coalition. The team fed commercial cranberry fruit extracts, derived from cranberry juice, to 1,200 one-day-old male broiler chicks. The chicks were studied in a sanitary facility, where mortalities were examined in comparison with non-treated chicks for up to 35 days. The results have shown that “cranberry decreased mortality by half” in one-to-10-day-old birds, when treated with 40 mg of cranberry extracts per 1 kg of feed.

Dr. Diarra explains that increasing birds’ resistance to the colonization of pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, while boosting overall birds’ immunity, can increase the sustainability of chicken production.

Currently, Dr. Diarra is leading a multidisciplinary team of scientists and farmers in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island to examine whether extracts, derived from the cranberry fruit waste (pomace), can replace the use of antibiotics in the young broilers. Pomace is otherwise discarded after the berries are pressed, but, “we can use this by-product,” to develop extracts instead, he notes.

Additionally, the trials will look at meat quality, because the antioxidants in cranberries could help increase storage time. This is because antioxidants prevent the oxidation of molecules in the meat, maintaining freshness, Dr. Diarra explains.

The study speaks to greater issues in animal production, including the increasing need for viable alternatives to using antibiotics as growth promoters and increasing antibiotic resistance. The anticipated results could be advantageous for both producers and consumers.

The Guelph Research and Development Centre is part of AAFC’s network of 20 research centres across the country. Located in Guelph, Ontario, the Centre is committed to specialized research in the areas of food safety, quality and nutrition to ensure Canadian-produced food is the safest and highest quality in the world.

Key discoveries (benefits):

Cranberry extract helps prevent early mortality in 1-to-10-day-old broiler chicks.

Current studies suggest it is a viable immune-boosting agent that could reduce antibiotic usage.

The antioxidant properties of cranberries may help enhance chicken meat quality.


Published in Nutrition and Feed


Like broilers, it is probable that daylength has an impact on both productivity and welfare in turkeys and therefore it is economically relevant to understand its consequences. Welfare issues seen in broiler research may be more pronounced in turkey production where age and bird size at market have changed considerably over the last decade.  These changes likely mean new challenges for modern strains as previous research was performed some time ago on birds that did not grow as quickly or reach the same market body weights.  The challenges include both bird productivity and welfare.  However, research and literature are lacking on the effects of lighting programs on modern commercial turkeys.  

M.Sc. student, Catherine Vermette, Dr. Hank Classen and the research team at the University of Saskatchewan aimed to determine the effect of graded levels of daylength on the welfare and productivity of modern commercial turkeys.  A more complete understanding of lighting effects can be achieved by using graded levels of daylength to allow prediction of response criteria associated with productivity and welfare.

Productivity and welfare parameters assessed included growth, mortality, meat yield, behaviour, bird mobility and leg abnormalities, skin lesions and ocular measures.  Productivity parameters assessed were not only economically relevant, but applicable to welfare when behaviour and bird health measures were incorporated.  These  measures together provide a description of welfare in turkeys.  Results will provide scientific evidence for recommendations on lighting programs that are known to positively affect the welfare of turkeys and optimize productivity in Canadian flocks.

Four graded levels of daylength (14, 17, 20, and 23 hours) were used to raise male and female turkeys to 18 weeks of age.  The research included two trials with two replications per trial.  Each trial consisted of 4 lighting treatments with two room replications for each lighting program. Productivity and welfare parameters were assessed at regular intervals during the course of the trials.

This study’s findings show that daylength affected turkey productivity in an age and gender dependent manner and use of longer daylength during the production cycle of males and female turkeys also affected a number of other measures indicative of reduced welfare.

At young ages, growth rate increased with increasing daylength, although this was reversed in older birds, sooner in males than females.  In terms of mortality, shorter daylength treatments had beneficial effects on older birds and had a more pronounced effect on males.  Carcass characteristics were affected by daylength in an age, but not gender dependent manner.  Furthermore, the incidence of culling was increased with 23 hour daylength regardless of gender or age.  

In general, longer daylengths had negative welfare implications in regards to turkey health and behaviour for both genders, but with a more pronounced effect in males.  Mobility decreased with longer daylength for both genders, but the proportion of birds with poorer mobility associated with pain was only evident in males.  Similarly, the incidence of breast blisters increased with increasing daylength, only in males.    

Lighting program recommendations derived from this research for meat turkeys are dependent on gender and the age at which birds are marketed.  For both genders regardless of age beyond early brooding, 23 hours of daylength was found unacceptable due to reduced welfare, with birds experiencing poorer mobility, increased ocular size and increased mortality. In addition, for toms and older hens, the rationale for not recommending 23 hours daylength includes reduced growth rate.  

For hens marketed at a younger age, a maximum of 20 hours of daylength is recommended, while the recommendation for older hens and toms is between 14-17 hours of daylength.

This research was funded by the Poultry Industry Council, Lilydale Inc., Charison’s Turkey Hatchery Ltd, and CPRC.

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, email: 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 Chicken Farmers of Canada, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, Turkey Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors’ Council. CPRC’s mission is to address its members’ needs through dynamic leadership in the creation and implementation of programs for poultry research in Canada, which may also include societal concerns.




Published in Consumer Issues


Ontario now has a research study underway that will generate baseline information about the main pathogens – viruses, bacteria and parasites - present in non-commercial poultry flocks in the province.

Starting the first of October 2015 until the end of September 2017, small flock (non-quota, non-commercial) owners of chickens, turkeys, game fowl, geese and ducks, are encouraged to submit sick or dead birds to the Animal Health Laboratory in Guelph or Kemptville for post-mortem examination and diagnostic testing. Submissions must be made through a veterinarian, who will do the initial screening of submissions.  While there will be some veterinary fees involved at the farm level the lab testing itself will be done at a substantially discounted cost of $25 per submission. The tests would normally cost over $500.

“In general, there is not a lot of data,” said Leonardo Susta, DVM. “The number of small poultry flocks has markedly increased over the past few years in Ontario, however, there is a void of knowledge regarding the type and number of diseases that affect this segment of the poultry sector.”

Susta, who works out of the Department of Pathobiology at the Ontario Veterinary College, is leading this effort and is providing some of his own research funding to hire a graduate student for this project. Funding for the tests is provided by the Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) within the framework of the Ontario Animal Health Network within the Disease Surveillance Program.

Susta said there isn’t a lower limit on the size of the flock, with the upper limit of less than 50 turkeys, less than 300 broilers, less than 100 layers or 300 or fewer ducks, geese and game birds. Pigeons and doves are excluded from this study.

Through a brief questionnaire, researchers will gather information about common husbandry and biosecurity practices used by non-commercial flock owners. The data collected may help to identify diseases that are specific to the non-commercial poultry population, while helping vets better understand the needs of these flocks and producers. The results will be also tied with current surveillance studies at the Ontario Veterinary College (see page XX).

“We want vets to know and encourage owners (to submit birds),” Susta told a meeting of the Poultry Industry Council in August. He will also be advertising the program through the distribution of flyers at shows and through hatcheries.

Partners in the study include the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the University of Guelph, the Animal Health Laboratory and the Ontario Animal Health Network (Disease Surveillance Program).

For more information, visit:

or contact Dr. Leonardo Susta at 519-824-4120 x54323, email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

or Dr. Marina Brash at  519-824-4120 x54550, email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




Published in Consumer Issues

December 1, 2015 - Research underway at Ottawa’s Carleton University may make it easier and cheaper to detect toxins created by mold. Called mycotoxins, they’re found in everything from grains to fruit and can cause illness and even death in both humans and animals.

A mold called fusarium that can occur in wheat and corn is a particular problem for farmers as it impacts the quality of their crop and the price they can receive for that crop - contaminated grain or corn isn’t suitable for animal feed or human consumption, so it is rejected by buyers.

“Mycotoxins are produced by fungi found in crops and food. They’re very robust and can survive processing, so we need a cheap and reliable test to detect them,” explains Dr. Maria DeRosa, a professor of chemistry at Carleton who is leading the research.

She has been working with Dr. Art Schaafsma of the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus and Dr. David Miller at Carleton to develop a small test strip that will glow in the presence of mycotoxins when illuminated with a handheld UV light.

The device uses aptamers that DeRosa and her team have identified, which are small, single-stranded nucleic acids that can bind to large or small target molecules – in this case, mycotoxins.

“It’s a simple spot of nanoparticles on paper, a test that can be done on the spot at the grain elevator,” says DeRosa, adding the device can currently detect quantities as minute as 40 parts per billion.

Farmers are doing their part to prevent fusarium, such as monitoring temperature and moisture levels in their fields to predict when their crops might be at risk for developing the mold and deciding when to apply fungicides, but the mold continues to pose a challenge.

Current mycotoxin testing methods at Canada’s network of grain elevators – where farmers take their crops to market – involve both a visual inspection and taking and analysing a random sample from a load of grain or corn.

Not only is this time consuming and expensive (each test can cost between $50-80), but it is also far from accurate: taking samples from different parts of a single load of grain can yield very different results.

Aptamers can be made in a lab very uniformly and at a low cost compared to the mouse antibodies used in current available tests, which means they’ll provide accurate and consistent test results without great expense.

“The needle-in-the-haystack nature of the current sampling process is the problem that we’re trying to address,” says DeRosa, adding that the sheer volume of grain and corn produced in Canada means a testing method also has to be quick and cheap.

After early successes in the lab, her team’s next step is to now move testing of the new technology to a larger scale beyond the lab and into a commercial setting.

Published in Nutrition and Feed

Agricultural operations contribute to the atmospheric burden of pollutants, mainly in the form of ammonia (NH3), particulate matter (PM) and greenhouse gases (CH4 and NO2).     Poultry operations are major emitters of PM and NH3 whereas other pollutants are emitted to a lesser degree.  Much still remains unknown about the variability in the emissions of pollutants.

Additional issues are evident with PM that relate to its composition, toxicity and pathogenicity. PM2.5 are typically secondary particles formed by the reactions of specific gaseous pollutants that create fine airborne salts and liquid aerosols. Secondary inorganic aerosol (SIA) formation chemistry typically involves NH3 as an alkaline precursor gas.  As NH3 is produced in poultry houses, SIA particles may be partly responsible for the high PM2.5 levels observed. Thus, if SIA are being formed, it may be feasible to reduce the toxic PM2.5 levels in the house by targeting gaseous NH3 and/or the other reactive gases directly with control methods and thus reduce exposure to both poultry and barn workers.

Dr. Bill Van Heyst and his team from the University of Guelph’s School of Engineering conducted a study to determine some of the impacts poultry production has on our environment.

The study investigated the indoor concentrations and emissions to the atmosphere of a variety of air contaminants from different poultry production systems.  Measurements included:

  • Air emissions from poultry housing units
  • Air emissions from litter storage facilities
  • Ammonia emissions from land application of litter
  • Assessment of nitrogen loss via emissions from deadstock composting

The overall objective of this project was to provide a sound scientific knowledge base regarding actual agricultural air emissions.  Contaminants focused on included: size fractionated particulate matter (PM), NH3, SIA concentrations and emissions as well as that for CH4 and non-methane volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide and other
gaseous gases.  

Air emissions from poultry housing units:
a)    Broiler and Layer facilities
Actual pollutant emissions were determined for broiler chicken (NH3, PM2.5, PM10 and CH4), layer hen (NH3 and PM2.5 and PM10), and turkey grow-out (NH3 and PM2.5 and PM10) housing units

NH3 and PM10 emissions peaked during the winter months, while PM2.5 emissions peaked during the summer months in the layer hen facility

b)    Efficacy of a sprinkler system to control NH3 and PM levels
Use of a sprinkler system reduced pollutant emissions more so for PM10 and PM2.5 than NH3 emissions.

c)    Effectiveness of Poultry Litter Treatment (PLT) application Poultry litter treatments reduced ammonia emissions

Measurement of air emissions from litter/manure storage facilities:
a)    Broiler litter storage facilities emit more CH4 than that from cattle manure but less than liquid swine manure storage facilities.  

b)    Broiler litter storage facilities emit more N2O than that from cattle manure and liquid swine manure storage facilities.

Measurement of air emissions from land application of manure/litter:
a)    NH3 losses from the broadcasted broiler manure were found to be 22 per cent and 25 per cent of the NH4-N applied after 72 and 132 hours respectively.

Measurement of nitrogen loss via ammonia emissions from deadstock composting
a)    The NH3 emissions for piles using poultry litter were greater than that of the control (wood chips) and the finished/mature poultry compost, whereas the CH4 emissions were the lowest.

Dr. Van Heyst’s research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Poultry Industry Council and CPRC.

Aviagen Inc. renewed its Research Sponsorship for 2015. CPRC appreciates Aviagen’s continued support of poultry research through the Research Sponsorship Program (  Aviagen funds have helped support more than $8 million in poultry-related research through both CPRC’s annual funding call and as part of the Poultry Science Cluster since 2012.


CPRC, its Board of Directors and member organizations are committed to supporting and enhancing Canada’s poultry sector through research and related activities. For more details on these or any other 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, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at





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