November 19, 2015 - UC Davis today unveiled its new Pastured Poultry Farm, home to 150 young laying chickens and a living laboratory where students and researchers hope to develop innovative solutions benefiting pasture-based poultry farms, integrative crop-and-poultry farms, and backyard flocks.

Pasture-based chicken production offers many benefits as well as some challenges in terms of food safety, animal health and welfare, and environmental impacts, said Maurice Pitesky, a Cooperative Extension poultry specialist with the School of Veterinary Medicine and co-leader of the poultry project.

The new 4.5-acre farm, located about one mile west of the central UC Davis campus, includes a seeded, irrigated pasture, where the chickens can forage, as well as a bright red, student-built Eggmobile for protection and overnight housing. The pasture uses a portable electronic fence to protect against predators and is surrounded by a 50-foot band of uncultivated land to serve as a wildlife buffer.

"This is a unique innovation, research and outreach resource for the Western United States," Pitesky said. "The project includes faculty and students with expertise in veterinary medicine, husbandry, welfare, pasture management and engineering, which allows us to address issues related to predator control, welfare, food safety and food efficiency."

Debbie Niemeier, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and her team have already developed a number of innovations for the project, including a tarp-pulley system, portable-shade and predator-mitigation structures, an automatic watering system, and modular roll-out nest boxes.

New solutions for changing times

"The poultry industry is going through significant changes in how poultry products are produced -- including the manner in which the birds are housed," Pitesky said, noting that one of the nontraditional methods gaining in popularity is pastured production.

One of the advantages of the pasture-based system is the opportunity for a farmer to integrate chicken production with a farm's existing cropping system, with the chickens providing natural fertilizer for the crops.

"It's also a way for crop farmers to move into poultry production without expanding their land or adding nitrogen fertilizer to their farming system," Pitesky said.

Students driving demonstration project

Pitesky is quick to point out that the new project is largely driven by students, who designed and constructed the red and white Eggmobile -- a mini chicken-barn on wheels. The mobile barn includes 32 nest boxes, each capable of accommodating several chickens. It can be moved to different locations in the pasture, gradually fertilizing the grass with chicken droppings as it goes.

Students also seeded the pasture, developed and installed a pasture irrigation system, and have been caring for the young chickens since they arrived in early October as day-old chicks.

The student and faculty research teams will be delving into issues involving diseases and chicken health, predation by wildlife, and occupational health for workers.

Participating students are drawn from the School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Engineering, and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Eggs for the community

Eggs produced by the project's flock will initially be donated to food shelters. The potential for eventual egg sales to the community is being explored.

"We really want this to be a local and regional demonstration project," Pitesky said, noting that producers and community members are welcome to stop by and view the project and will be invited to future educational events at the site.

Eventually, the research team hopes to construct multiple Eggmobiles with different designs, in order to optimize cost, ergonomics and sustainability. And in time, the researchers would like to expand the project to include broiler chickens as well as cropping systems that integrate poultry, in order to fully maximize the potential of the land for food production.

Funding the project

The Pastured Poultry Project received $40,000 in startup funding from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

In addition, several stakeholder organizations have contributed a total of nearly $20,000 and donated feed, birds and equipment. A list of donors and other information about the UC Davis Pastured Poultry Farm can be found at:


Published in Eggs - Layers


Despite routine utilization of standard vaccination protocols in broiler breeder and broiler flocks, outbreaks of diseases in broiler flocks still occur.  However, limited data on pathogen prevalence and associated risk factors among commercial broiler flocks in Canada are available.

Dr. Michele Guerin, a Poultry Epidemiologist from the University of Guelph recently completed a comprehensive project that investigated the prevalence of nine viruses * and four bacteria of health significance for the Ontario broiler industry.  The study included the associations of exposure to the pathogens with management and biosecurity practices, flock mortality, and condemnations.  

“As a contribution to disease control initiatives, this study will enable producers to adopt better strategies to reduce the incidence of these pathogens within their flocks,” said Dr. Guerin in an interview.

Pathogen exposure
Guerin’s team investigated 231 randomly selected Ontario broiler flocks and results showed frequent exposure to AAAV, ARV, CAV, pathogenic FAdV species, IBDV, Clostridium perfringens, and Enterococcus cecorum, and no exposure to, or low prevalence of, AEV, IBV, ILTV, NDV, Brachyspira spp., and Clostridium difficile.

Beyond prevalence, the genotypes of several of these pathogens were determined.

“Potentially pathogenic genotypes of FAdV, IBDV, and IBV were identified that can guide vaccine development and disease control efforts in Ontario,” she explains.

Although no specific management or biosecurity practice was identified as a predictor of all pathogens investigated, several factors were significantly associated with the prevalence of more than one pathogen (e.g. feed, barn and environmental conditions, hatchery, manure disposal, and antimicrobial use).

“Geographic and seasonal variation in the prevalence of a number of pathogens was evident,” Dr. Guerin indicated. “However no one district or season stood out as being a hot-spot or time period of high prevalence for all pathogens investigated.”

Of interest, a high proportion of Clostridium perfringens isolates were found to be resistant to antimicrobials commonly used in feed, and use of these antimicrobials was a risk factor in the development of resistance.  

“Finding alternatives to the use of antimicrobials in the feed to prevent necrotic enteritis should continue to be a priority for the industry,” Dr. Guerin asserted.

Dr. Guerin highlights that of all the pathogens surveyed, only Clostridium difficile poses a potential risk of infection for humans via the food chain, and despite the fact that toxigenic strains were found among the isolates, the proportion of positive flocks was low.

This research was funded by the Animal Health Laboratory’s AHSI, Poultry Industry Council, OMAFRA- U of G Partnership, and Chicken Farmers of Ontario. 

*Avian adeno-associated virus (AAAV), Avian encephalomyelitis virus (AEV), Avian reovirus (ARV), Chicken anemia virus (CAV), Fowl adenovirus (FAdV), Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), Infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), Infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV), Newcastle disease virus (NDV).



Published in Health

 Canada’s Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey has been testing wild birds for the AI virus since 2005

The 2015 Avian Influenza outbreak was the largest animal health event in U.S. history, affecting 48 million commercial birds at 223 farms in 15 states over six months. North of the border the outbreak affected 245,600 birds across Canada, at 11 farms in BC, three in Ontario.

But it was minus forty degrees when the AI virus first appeared in poultry flocks in the Midwest U.S. How did the wild birds interact with the poultry in that extreme cold? Are the wild birds really to blame?

While the experts still shake their heads about the reasons why the outbreak got out of control or even got started, Jane Parmley, Epidemiologist with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC), continues to investigate the role of wild birds in the spread of the Avian Influenza (AI) virus.  

Parmley has been part of Canada’s Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey coordinated by the CWHC since 2005. From 2005 through 2014, over 50,000 wild birds have been tested for the AI virus in Canada. The first screening determines if the birds carry AI of any type. Positive birds are then further tested for H5 or H7 specifically; further positive tests then lead to investigation of the origin and pathogenicity of the AI virus.

Does the detection of low pathogenic AI in wild birds indicate a risk to domestic poultry? “We tend to blame wild birds when we don’t have an easy explanation,” Parmley told delegates at a Poultry Industry Council Health Day in Stratford, Ont., but would early detection of the AI virus in wild birds could provide a sentinel to poultry producers?

It’s a global story: the high pathogenic H5N8 strain was originally identified in South Korea in 2014, showing similarities to a virus detected in 2014 in China, eventually reaching birds in Russia, North America, Europe and Japan.  There were three HPAI virus strains seen in North America in 2014/15: H5N8 Eurasian lineage, H5N1 and H5N2. It is believed that the North American viruses came across the Pacific because of their closer similarity to the Asian strain than the European strain, and the timing of arrival made more sense, said Parmley. So far the virus is not considered zoonotic, but that could shift quickly.

Wild birds that are considered as natural reservoirs of low pathogenicity strains include waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans), and shorebirds (such as waders and gulls). There are four flyways across North America – the Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic – connecting wintering and breeding grounds in every part of the continent, from Alaska and Greenland through to Mexico and the Caribbean.

Over 75 per cent of Canadian wild bird species spend at least half of the year outside of Canada; representatives of all of these species are in all the flyways. Because the greatest number and variety of viruses have been seen in waterfowl and shorebirds and their large population, these birds have been the focus of live bird surveillance; most of the live birds sampled have been ducks.

On average, 16 per cent of live birds and one per cent of dead birds have so far tested positive for the low pathogenic North American viruses during the survey period. So far in 2015, 1134 live birds have been tested across Canada, with 93 positive for AI and three for H7 viruses that are not HPAI. In Ontario alone, 624 live birds have yielded 86 positives with no H5 or H7 so far. Also in 2015, 1576 dead birds have been tested across Canada, with 16 positive, four H5 and one H7 (not HPAI); in Ontario alone 266 have been tested with two positive and no H5 or H7. The updated results are available on the CWHC website at

But Parmley says that the surveillance effort has varied over the past ten years for several reasons. Survey objectives have changed and available resources have changed; sample sizes are low compared to real populations, and samples are taken haphazardly across the country, often piggybacking on bird banding procedures that may not necessarily be anywhere near poultry farms. We also need to be careful when extrapolating past results over a wide geographic region to the viruses of today.

Moving forward there are still many questions. Will virus based warnings even work? Can wild birds be sentinels? Ultimately we’re trying to develop an early warning system to predict risk and see how the virus is evolving, said Parmley, something she called “incredibly hard to do.” To better protect poultry farms, Parmley says this effort will take more resources – people, time and money.

When is the best time of year to test? How early do we disseminate findings to react in a timely manner? Does wild bird monitoring detect the risk sooner than monitoring the poultry population itself? Can we verify the signals and the risk associated with those signals to avoid an unnecessary response? Is there adequate infrastructure and political will to design and implement a sustainable system?

While wild birds are acknowledged as a reservoir for the AI virus, the relationship between hosts and virus remains diverse and complex. We need to further consider the epidemiological, climatological and agricultural differences across such a vast area, from the Arctic to the Caribbean, as well as at the interface between wild and farmed birds. So far we suspect that the virus can move through migratory birds, but it can also move through trade in poultry and poultry products as well as other human activities.

Nationally, for 2015/16, the goal of testing 1500 dead wild birds has already been exceeded. In Ontario the plan is to test 1500 live wild birds. One live trap site has been set within the control zone of the central Ontario AI outbreak in the spring of 2015.

Despite the challenges, so far Parmley reports a greatly improved understanding of the ecology and epidemiology of AI.  We now have a better understanding of the role of waterfowl as a source and vector, the activity of the virus itself within the host, and a better grasp of how the virus is shed.

Beyond 2015, Parmley suggests a thorough process review to identify gaps, identify locations and populations that may be more vulnerable to infection, to help target both resources and surveillance.  A national strategy would clarify roles, responsibilities and performance expectations.

“The virus keeps changing and so we need to keep learning,” said Parmley. The question that remains from the 2014/15 outbreaks in North America is how the virus got into poultry? “We can’t look at wild birds and domestic poultry separately – it is the points and places where these populations intersect where we need to focus our attention if we hope to prevent and prepare for the next outbreak.”




Published in Housing

Study using genetic lines of Virginia Tech chickens reveals evolution happens faster than previously thought

November 4, 2015 - A critical component of an experiment that proved evolution happens 15 times faster than was previously believed relied upon genetic lines of chickens from Virginia Tech.

The discovery utilized the DNA of lines of White Plymouth Rock chickens that have been developed for more than 50 years.

The research was published recently in Biology Letters, a journal of Royal Society Publishing. The discovery involved researchers from several universities, including the University of York, Oxford University, the University of Sydney, Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Virginia Tech.

“This experiment and many others involving everything from animal appetites to genetics could never have been done without the pedigree lines here at Virginia Tech,” said Siegel, distinguished professor emeritus of animal and poultry sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  “This experiment was also an excellent example of international collaboration between six countries that was necessary for the success of the study.”

Siegel, along with Ben Dorshorst and Christa Honaker, also in the Virginia Tech Department of Animal and Poultry SciencesDepartment of Animal and Poultry Sciences, were co-authors on the paper.

The pedigree lines of White Plymouth Rock chickens were developed by Siegel, who began breeding them in 1957. From the common founder population, he produced two distinct lines of chickens selected for high- and low-body weight. Today, the high-weight line dwarfs its low-growth counterpart by an average of 12 times more by the time they reach the eight-week selection age.

In the latest experiment, researchers analyzed blood samples of chickens of the same generation using the most distantly related maternal lines to reconstruct how the mitochondrial DNA passed from mothers to daughters.

Mitochondria are specialized structures in the cells of animals, plants, and fungi that generate energy, synthesize proteins, and package proteins for transport to different parts of the cell and beyond.

Previously, estimates put the rate of change in a mitochondrial genome about 2 percent per million years,” Greger Larson, professor of archaeology at Oxford University, said in a news release. “At this pace we should not have been able to spot a single mutation in just 50 years, but in fact we spotted two.”

The sampling scheme yielded 385 mitochondrial transmissions that were analyzed for linkages within the mitochondrial DNA.

The rate of evolution was calculated by analyzing the number of observed mutations in the approximately 16,000 samples of mitochondrial DNA in the genome over 47 generations.

The scientists then reconstructed the maternal pedigree based on the mitogenome sequences.

“Our observations reveal that evolution is always moving quickly, but we tend not to see it because we typically measure it over longer time periods,” Larson said in the news release. “Our study shows that evolution can move much faster in the short term than we had believed from fossil-based estimates.”

The experiment also determined that mitochondria are not solely passed down from maternal lines. Strictly maternal inheritance has long been thought of as the characteristic of mitochondrial genomes.

“The thing everyone knew about mitochondria is that it is almost exclusively passed down the maternal line, but we identified chicks who inherited their mitochondria from their father,” said Michelle Alexander, lead author. This finding supports the theory that “paternal leakage” is not such a rare phenomenon.

This is not the first time the scientific community has benefited from the research done on Virginia Tech’s high- and low-body weight chicken lines.

A 2010 article in the scientific journal "Nature" highlighted a breakthrough in genetic studies of animal domestication, thanks in part to these two lines.

In 2010, the American Poultry Historical Society inducted Siegel into the American Poultry Association Hall of Fame, the industry’s top honor. In 2011, he was given an honorary doctorate from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.



Published in Genetics

November 2, 2015 -  The Department of Animal Biosciences is pleased to announce Elijah Kiarie has been appointed as the McIntosh Family Professor in Poultry Nutrition. Kiarie will join the department as an assistant professor effective January 1, 2016.

“We are very happy to welcome Dr. Kiarie into this important role for the department and the poultry industry,” shares Jim Squires, chair of the Department of Animal Biosciences. “He has experience in both academia and industry, which will be vital in supporting his success.”

“His superior understanding of industry needs and priorities showcase he is a great match for the demands of the new position,” Squires adds. “He will be working collaboratively to develop a world-class program that address the research opportunities presented in poultry nutrition.”

Kiarie will focus on the digestion of feed and absorption of nutrients, which will help improve efficiency. For example, feed still represents the main cost of production in the Ontario poultry industry. Global changes affecting corn, soybean and other ingredients have increased feed prices, a trend expected to continue.

Kiarie attained his Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba, where he was also most recently an adjunct professor. He has been a research scientist at DuPont Industrial Biosciences since 2011. Both his master’s and undergraduate degrees are from the University of Nairobi.

A donation from James and Brenda McIntosh, owners of McIntosh Poultry Farms Ltd. in Seaforth, Ont., established this new professorship position.


Published in Nutrition and Feed


I was attracted to a review article on this topic in the September 2015 issue of the World’s Poultry Science Journal (Harlander-Matauschek et al, vol.71, pp 461-472).  It is the outcome of an International Keel Bone Workshop held in Switzerland in 2014. For local interest, I also reviewed the paper of Petrik et al in Poultry Science, vol.94, pp579-585.

Unusually for a review paper, this one is primarily targeted at what is not known, and mainly consists of 9 recommendations for further study.

Most scientists in the field, and also experienced managers of layers, intuitively know that the keels of laying hens are susceptible to damage during the laying cycle.  This was first brought to light several years ago when scientists in England examined carcases of spent hens following slaughter, and found a high incidence of keel damage and breakage.  The degree to which this causes pain or distress during the life of the birds is not known.

In live birds, damage to the keel can only be determined by palpation, and there is no recognized standard method, or protocol for evaluating or reporting the results.  There is also the distinction between actual fracture of the keel, and various levels of distortion or deformity.  Fractures usually result in a callus around the fracture site that can be detected on handling the bird.  So the first recommendation in the review paper is to develop a uniform method of evaluating keel bone damage so that future results will be comparable.  Petrik et al studied only keel fractures.

The second recommendation was to investigate the kind of event or bird activity that results in keel damage.  In non-cage systems, collisions with other birds and with furniture and equipment are thought to be some of the factors.  However, even in conventional cages, keel damage occurs, but the reasons are not known.

Another unknown is whether initial deviation or distortion of the keel, from whatever cause, may result in keel fracture.

Do birds reared in different environments have different potential for keel bone damage in adult life?  This is yet another unanswered question.  Growing birds in an environment where wing flapping is encouraged is thought to improve locomotor skills and thus may avoid some of the (also largely unknown) challenges that result in keel damage.

In non-cage laying systems, individual birds as well as groups may display escape reactions to events that result in panic or fright. This can result in keel bone damage.  These events may result from management activities and are thus susceptible to variation and potential improvement, but they must first be identified and studied.

As with any, even imprecisely measured, characteristic, there is always the question of a genetic influence.  Interestingly, these 21st century scientists managed to find a study reported in 1955 showing that the tendency to develop keel deformity could be altered by genetic selection. Whether the methods used in this selection experiment would be relevant to contemporary keel damage observations would need to be confirmed.

If genetics is involved, can nutrition also play a part in affecting keel bone damage?  The answer to this question is, of course, related to how nutrition influences bone development and maintenance.  And this in turn may be related to the interactions involved in egg shell deposition and bone integrity.  The likelihood of direct involvement of calcium balance as it affects shell deposition and keel bone integrity is probably low.  This is because the calcium flow from bones to the egg shell gland is from the long bones and not the keel.

There are large differences in keel fracture incidence between housing systems and even within similar systems.  Perches, although considered desirable from a welfare standpoint, seem to result in elevated keel damage and fracture.  But different materials used for perches result in widely variable keel damage.  Round metal perches seem to be inferior to other designs.  Petrik et al’s work in Ontario compared keel fractures in conventional cages with single tiered floor housing and found almost double the incidence in the floor systems.

The final recommendation from the Harlander-Matauschek paper in to investigate and quantify keel bone damage and production losses.  A new report (as yet unpublished) shows that birds with keel fractures laid eggs with reduced shell breaking strength.  This would represent a serious challenge if confirmed.  The fact that most of the keel fractures appear to occur during the period of peak egg production would suggest that the nutrient status of the affected birds is inadequate to support both maximum egg production and bone maintenance.  The inadequacy must be minimal though, since many flocks continue to lay at or near peak level for many months and if keel damage is compromising productivity, its effect must be very small.

In reading this research, one can sense the authors’ frustration at the lack of clear information. Obviously, much more research is needed before industry would be able to take firm action to deal with this problem.



Published in Welfare


Cargill has launched a new proprietary feed formulating platform called the Cargill Nutrition System (CNS). It combines nutrient analysis of feed ingredients from all over the world, and is updated constantly with the latest feed research and Cargill ingredient sourcing – all to provide livestock producers with clarity and consistency in making feed decisions.

The database behind CNS is comprised of over 2 million nutrient samples, covering more than 200 ingredients and 10 million annual nutrient predictions, explains Dr. Jason Shelton, Cargill Animal Nutrition global technology application director. “This data is combined with the knowledge and experience of Cargill Animal Nutrition’s 18,000 employees, including more than 500 research and development professionals,” he says. “It’s all about providing customers with certainty in feed application to achieve the desired results, rather than just a ‘best guess.’”

What stands out about the CNS is that wherever producers are located in the world, and no matter what their production target goals, they will receive unique feed formulations. The system accounts for climate factors, nutrient-content requirements and cost considerations of available ingredients. Vitamin D and Omega-3 ingredients are included in the system. Shelton says that the specificity of CNS can help farmers achieve similar or better production results at a lower cost, at the same time reducing nitrogen and phosphorus supplementation with a consequent excretion reduction anywhere from 10 to 40 percent. Better for producers and better for the planet.  

Recently, poultry customers in Indonesia went through a CNS review process. It was discovered that by decreasing levels of crude protein and changing amino acid and fiber levels in the feed, farmers would see improved animal performance along with better feed cost per unit of production. The wetness of the litter was reduced as well when the feed changes were made. CNS was also instrumental in a recent trial in Switzerland, where a reduction in calcium and phosphorus levels and an increase in phytase in broiler feeds led to better feed costs per unit of production and easier compliance with local environmental legislation. The amount of phosphorus declared on the label of the feed was reduced by more than 10 percent, which allowed farms using the feed to meet government regulations relating to having a balanced nutrient input/output.

CNS is also built into Cargill’s MAX modelling system to provide producers with alternative options, if for example, a major crop failure occurs or the price of common ingredients like corn or soy spikes, Shelton explains. “In the U.S., Canada and Mexico, CNS employs the MAX modeling system in pork and beef in the U.S. and Mexico, and for dairy and pork in Canada,” he notes. “It is now being rolled out for poultry globally. A Canadian pilot project will begin late this summer/early fall and is slated for full deployment across North America during summer 2016.” Shelton says the MAX modeling system matches availability of supply for ingredients, with farm needs or predicted needs to meet production goals. “So, if you have this or that ingredient mix, MAX will give you the price change and the performance prediction change,” he explains. “It’s the CNS with a prediction model.” For its part, Cargill provides its own feed (under the Purina and Nutrena brands) and pre-mixes (under the Provimi brand) in every province, and all Cargill feed products are now being developed using CNS.

In addition to MAX modelling, CNS also supports ‘Reveal,’ a system that analyzes ingredient variability and nutrient content. It’s useful for farmers who make their own feed, which is gaining in popularity among Canadian poultry producers. It’s estimated that the percentage who make their own feed is as high as 30 to 40 percent, depending on the region. “The customer could have ten different corn meals, or ten different soybean samples for example,” Shelton says, “and using the analysis results, is assisted with choosing ingredients for his or her own formulations.” ‘Reveal’ is also licensed to feed mills.

In terms of specific environmental or regulatory issues in Canada that CNS helps solve, Shelton says that “By implementing CNS in Canada, emissions of nitrogen to the environment can be reduced. This is because CNS allows for a reduction of the total protein that is fed to animals, resulting thus in better utilization of dietary nitrogen, even with better performance of animals.”

“Reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus excretion are two important environmental concerns,” adds Dr. Bruno Marty, director of nutrition for Cargill’s animal nutrition business in Canada. “Excessive nitrogen excretion in poultry primarily results from an amino acid imbalance between feed supply and animal demand. Through the more accurate description of digestible amino acids, CNS reduces these imbalances and consequently waste.” Marty says the same concept applies to phosphorus, where contribution from plant-based feedstuffs is poorly digested by poultry. For this nutrient, CNS additionally estimates the quantity of phosphorus liberated by the application of phytase enzyme technology which enhances phosphorus digestibility and thus nutrient efficiency.

Marty agrees that every region in Canada faces specific feed challenges which change with shifting ingredient market conditions and CNS is designed to help with that. “A CNS analysis might find the best value may come from the use of non-traditional feedstuffs and by-products,” he says. “It’s all about helping producers to more accurately assess for digestible nutrients to support animal performance and long-term business goals.”




Published in Nutrition and Feed


Although only viruses of the Influenza virus A genus are known to infect birds, the complexity of this genus is increased by the possible combinations of the subtypes present, based on the antigenicity of surface glycoproteins hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA).  Each virus consists of one of the 18 identified HA antigens and one of the 11 NA antigens, generating a large number of virus subtypes.

Avian Influenza (AI) is classified based on the severity of the disease caused; highly pathogenic AI (HPAI) and low pathogenicity AI (LPAI).  HPAI is restricted to strains with H5 and H7 subtypes exhibiting a multi-basic cleavage site (MBCS) at the precursor of the HA molecule.  HPAI is a ‘dead-end infection’ in certain domestic birds and its effects are variable in domestic waterfowl and feral birds, in which it may or may not cause clinical signs and mortality. Viruses belonging to subtypes without the MBCS are maintained in feral bird populations and serve as an ever-present source of the virus.  A large portion of the influenza gene pool is present in waterfowl whereas shorebirds and gulls maintain a number of isolated subtypes of the virus.  These viruses cause LPAI when introduced into domestic bird populations.

Several mechanisms result in the virus mutating to HPAI once the LPAI (H5 and H7 subtypes) is introduced into poultry. However the factors that bring about this mutation are not fully understood and can occur at any time.  It is therefore imperative that both LPAI and HPAI should be controlled.

The complexity of the variants of the virus, their omnipresence in nature and the ability to mutate to a highly pathogenic strain from a low pathogenic strain all contribute to the challenge that this virus presents to the poultry industry.

Transmission of the virus between birds is poorly understood, although research suggests that bird-to-bird transmission is extremely complex and determined by the virus strain, bird species and environmental factors.  Studies also show that the virus is present in considerable quantities in bird feces, to the extent that the virus can be isolated from untreated lake water in waterfowl habitats. Nonetheless, the primary route of introduction of AI virus in domestic poultry occurs through direct or indirect contact with infected birds affirming that implementation of biosecurity measures at the farm level can prevent AI infections.

CPRC has been funding AIV studies since 2006 and has committed almost $520 thousand to 11 research projects with total research budgets of more than $2.5 million.  This research has looked at a range of issues associated with AIV.  The issues studied included:

  • Identifying the molecular determinants that confer a bird’s immunity to the virus and the immune system cells that recognize these determinants. The project was also aimed at determining the dynamics of immune system cells in response to AI virus infection and the genetic pathways that control that response.
  • Three related-research projects from the first Poultry Science Cluster investigated adaptation of AIV from its natural reservoir in wild fowl to domestic poultry, how avian influenza is transmitted to domestic poultry and the bird’s immune response to AIV.  These projects provided information that is important to developing AIV controls and responses.
  • AIV vaccines are difficult to create because the virus is prone to change that interferes with a vaccine’s activity. Researchers investigated the use of RNA interference (RNAi), a natural mechanism present in many animals including birds, that can decrease the activity of specific cellular genes and has been shown to serve as a natural antiviral response.  This research could lead to improvements in a bird’s natural immunity.
  • An ongoing series of projects have been moving toward development of an effective AIV vaccine and delivery system to provide poultry with broad protection delivered efficiently and effectively.  This research is being continued in CPRC’s second Poultry Science Cluster and has already provided patentable results.
  • Present approaches to testing for exposure to avian influenza for the national surveillance program are based on taking blood samples from birds and sending them to a laboratory for analysis.  CPRC is supporting research that will evaluate a standardized test to use egg-derived immunoglobin for screening of antibodies to avian influenza to avoid the stress and cost associated with handling birds and taking blood samples.

CPRC and its member organizations will continue to support research on this important threat to Canadian poultry production in its ongoing research activities.


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



Published in Researchers


Given the experience British Columbia has had with avian influenza (AI), the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture (BCMA) is now trying to develop an early warning system for the disease.

Because AI originates in wild waterfowl, BCMA environmental epidemiologist Michelle Coombe says the BCMA has started collecting and testing “pond scum” in wild waterfowl resting areas to determine the presence of AI. The hope is the environmental sampling can be used “as an early warning system for both poultry and human health,” she told the first annual B.C. poultry symposium, held May 27th in Abbotsford.

Since AI is shed in wild duck feces, testing the droppings is bound to be more efficient than waiting for dead wild birds to show up at the BCMA animal health lab.

“The results will tell us what strains are present in the environment and how prevalent they are,” Coombe said, adding the test results would be used to give industry green, yellow or red alerts similar to what is done during forest fire season.

BCMA avian pathologist Vicki Bowes said BC’s experience with its 2014-15 AI outbreak is “much different” than in 2004. “We had a very successful disease containment result.”

AI was detected on only 11 commercial premises and two backyard flocks in the Fraser Valley, leading to the destruction of less than 250,000 birds. The 2004 outbreak was only contained through a mass depopulation of over 18 million birds.

“Considering the density (of the Fraser Valley poultry industry), this is an incredible success story,” Bowes said. “The initial producers did what was right.”

She also credited the BCMA’s AI-certified Level 3 containment lab, telling producers “you’re so lucky we’re here.”

Dr. Stewart Ritchie of Canadian Poultry Consultants, the symposium’s chief organizers, acknowledged both the lab and Bowes’ own considerable contributions by giving her the first “B.C. Excellence in Poultry Service and Leadership Award” on behalf of a grateful industry.

While B.C. has learned the value of and benefitted from good biosecurity practices, American producers did not appear to heed those lessons.

“The United States is definitely a mess,” said COBB Vantress technical services manager Shawn Carlton of Arkansas. “We have already lost eight per cent of our total egg production.”

Between December and June, AI had been confirmed on over 200 commercial and backyard flocks in 15 US states, leading to the destruction of close to 50,000,000 birds. Almost 80 per cent of the cases were in Minnesota and Iowa, part of the Mississippi flyway. Only 10 were in the Pacific Flyway (which stretches from California to Alaska).

The best way to manage AI and other crippling diseases is to keep them out of a poultry flock in the first place, and that takes excellent biosecurity. Carlton says no one takes that more seriously than Cobb. As one of the world’s main producers of poultry breeding stock, their birds are among the most valuable in the world.

“Just one of our pedigree hens leads to 25,000 parents which leads to 3,000,000 broilers. It’s major dollars,” Carlton pointed out.

The first line of defense is to distance a flock from other producers. While that is difficult, if not impossible, to do in the Fraser Valley and many other poultry-dense production areas, Cobb has done that by locating its Oklahoma breeding facility on 500 acres in the middle of a 3,600-acre farm. It then restricts all movement on and off the facility and requires all workers to wear protective clothing and footwear and shower in and out of each barn.

“My record is 13 showers in one day,” Carlton said.

While AI dominated the symposium, several speakers touched on other diseases, such as Marek’s disease and IBD (infectious bursal disease), which may not spread as quickly as AI but can also devastate individual flocks.

Marek’s usually shows up when birds are about 13 weeks of age. During the 20 weeks it takes the flock to build up enough resistance to fight off the disease, it can cause reduced performance and up to 50 per cent mortality, says Hyline Chicks technical services veterinarian Dr. Danielle Botting of Iowa.

IBD generally infects younger chicks. It has variable mortality, increases the bird’s susceptibility to other diseases and may even lead to Marek’s. Botting recommends vaccinating birds for Marek’s on the day of hatch and for IBD at 18, 24 and 30 days of age using a live vaccine.

She stressed the need to use good vaccination practices as poor vaccination is sometimes worse than no vaccination at all. In a poorly vaccinated flock, a disease could nestle in unvaccinated birds and build up resistance to the vaccinations. She also strongly recommended thorough cleaning and disinfecting (C&D) and 4-6 weeks of downtime between flocks.

“We can’t reiterate how important C&D is,” Botting said, stressing a barn should be washed and dried before a disinfectant is used.

“Removing debris is most important. Disinfectants don’t remove dirt,” Carlton added.

Saying a barn has accumulated three million units of debris/square inch by the end of a flock, Merial Canada technical services vet Dr. Louis Coulombe of Quebec detailed the effectiveness of various C&D options. Blowing the barn down with air only reduces debris by 3.4%. Airing it out drops it down by 31%. Washing with water and detergent reduces the debris count to 100,000 while finishing up with a disinfectant drops the number below 1,000.

He recommends using a gel detergent, saying it does not drip like a foam detergent, can be left on the walls longer and is easy to rinse off. He also urges growers to use a product like CID 2000 to clean and disinfect the drinking water pipeline.

While University of Arkansas poultry science extension specialist Dr. Susan Watkins also advocates the use of CID 2000 between flocks, she said it should not stop there. She urged growers to add 25-50 ppm of hydrogen peroxide to their water lines as a daily cleaner.

“Poultry water systems are perfect for growing bugs,” she said.

Instead of just using antibiotics, also known as anti-microbials, (AM’s) to treat diseases when they occur, many poultry producers have been relying on them to prevent disease outbreaks and/or boost bird performance.

“We use more antibiotics in Canada than in the US,” asserted Jan Breckman of JEFO Nutrition.

However, that will change as jurisdictions outlaw their use in order to stave off building resistance to those antibiotics in humans and food processors and retailers, such as Pilgrim and Tyson Foods in the US and A&W in Canada respond to consumer concerns by promoting antibiotic free chicken.

“A&W says their current no hormones and no antibiotics campaign is their most successful ever,” Breckman noted.

Even though Saskatchewan epidemiological consultant Dr. Leigh Rosengren said it is “unfair” to point at agriculture for all of society’s ills, noting only three of the 17 resistant infections in humans are food-borne related, she said producers must “reduce your reliance on AM’s so we can retain their use in animals.”

Her list of ways to reduce AM usage includes preventing infections in the first place through good biosecurity, good hygiene and reduced stocking density and increasing disease surveillance to permit early detection.

She urged producers to work closely with their vets to “know what you’re treating, what you’re using and why,” and to support the Canadian Poultry Research Council’s research into alternatives.

Finally, she said producers must step up their communication with and education of consumers.

“Let’s find out what the public thinks or knows and talk about how and why we are using those products.”




Published in Biosecurity

August 27, 2015 - Aviagen has announced it will continue its contribution to the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) through the CPRC’s Research Sponsorship Program. 

Aviagen has presented the CPRC with a check for $25,000 in support of the program. This check represents the fourth in a series of annual sponsorships contributed to the CPRC since 2012, qualifying Aviagen as a Platinum sponsor of the program. 

Established in 2001, the CPRC creates and implements programs for poultry research throughout Canada. The goal of the CPRC’s research is to effect discoveries that lead to improved food safety through enhanced poultry nutrition. The programs also focus on heightened environmental safety measures. 

“The CPRC has made invaluable contributions to the success of Canada’s poultry industry. Vast components of the poultry value chain stand to benefit from the research conducted by the CPRC, including producers, feed suppliers, animal health care companies, processors, distributors and ultimately, consumers,” explains Scott Gillingham, Canadian 

Regional Business Consultant for Aviagen. “Aviagen is proud to support the organization’s research efforts and we look forward to continued collaboration in the future.” 

CPRC Executive Director Bruce Roberts, Ph.D., says he values Aviagen’s support of the council. “Aviagen has helped fund 29 projects, enabling us to address critical issues such as poultry welfare, alternatives to the use of antimicrobials in poultry production, poultry health food safety and the environment,” adds Roberts. “As a premier sponsor of the program, Aviagen assists the CPRC not only financially, but also through cooperation and sharing of ideas and expertise. In addition to its value add to the CPRC, Aviagen supports Canadian university research activities outside of the CPRC. For these reasons, Aviagen should be commended for its strong commitment to advancing the poultry industry on a global basis.” 

Roberts concludes that efforts are currently underway for considerable future marketing and expansion of the CPRC’s Research Sponsorship Program.

Published in Genetics

August 17, 2015- Registration for the Poultry Service Industry Workshop (PSIW) is now open.  Celebrating its 40th year, the PSIW is recognized as one of the leading poultry workshops in North America, having a program that is focused on relevant, contemporary and practical topics.  For more information, visit

Published in Researchers

August 4, 2015 - A new study with broiler chickens shows that supplementation with a multi-carbohydrase enzyme formulation can substantially boost the nutritional power of camelina meal, a unique feed source on the rise in Canada and the U.S.

Results were unveiled at the 2015 Poultry Science Association (PSA) Annual Meeting, July 27-30 in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Camelina is the new kid on the block as a feed option for poultry,” says Rob Patterson of Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.), who conducted the study along with Dr. Tofuko Woyengo and Dr. Ruurd Zijlstra of the University of Alberta. “Our study confirms it has a lot to offer from a nutritional standpoint and that using the right formulation of multi-carbohydrase is an effective way to capture more of that full nutritional value.”

While it’s one thing to have strong nutritional value, it’s another to make sure as much of that  value as possible is available for absorption and use by the animals, explains Patterson, CBS Inc. Technical Director. Multi-carbohydrase enzyme technology, with its multiple enzyme sources and activities, acts as a universal key that frees nutrients from a number of otherwise hard-to-digest feed components. “This supports the maximum nutrient extraction possible for energy and growth.”

Camelina, also known as ‘false flax’ or ‘wild flax,’ is an oilseed crop that initially experienced significant demand before the recent era of dominance of rapeseed and canola. The unique crop, recognized as an excellent source of Omega-3, is now enjoying a fresh resurgence due to its advantages as an option for healthy oils, biofuels, high-end bio-lubricants and bio-plastics, and even jet fuel. It grows well on the Canadian prairies and in key U.S. growing regions, where it is well adapted and has resistance to many common pathogens and pests.

“The rise in camelina production is now becoming a good news story for livestock and poultry industries, because the residual meal left over after oil extraction has shown an attractive nutritional profile for animal feed,” says Patterson. “As an added advantage, the high concentration of Omega-3 oils in the meal has been shown to produce Omega meat in broiler chickens – making it a great source not only of high quality feed but as an means of adding value to poultry products.”

The study highlighted at PSA 2015 focused on variations of a diet using corn and cold-pressed camelina cake (CPCC). Diets that included multi-carbohydrase supplementation showed a substantial increase in the standardized ileal digestibility (SID) of three different major amino acids – methionine, threonine and tryptophan – along with a strong overall boost to the apparent metabolizable energy, N-corrected (AMEn) value of the diet, which increased by 5.6 percent.

The AMEn value shows the difference between the gross energy in the feed and the gross energy in the feces, urine and gasses, to reflect how much energy is actually captured by the animal instead of passed through undigested.

“The results show multi-carbohydrase is effective with camelina meal and strong gains are possible,” says Patterson. “Indications are the level of advantage can be further increased depending on the level of multi-carbohydrase used and the overall diet composition. Each poultry operation can determine the ratios that work best economically and effectively for them, depending on their own specific objectives and feeding approaches.”

Earlier this year Canadian approval was granted for feeding cold-pressed non-solvent extracted camelina meal to broiler chickens at up to 12 per cent inclusion, and approval for inclusion in layer feed is also being considered.

Similarly, the U.S.-FDA has expressed “no objection” to feeding camelina meal to broiler chickens and laying hens up to 10 per cent of their final diet.

The CBS Inc. and University of Alberta study involved 600 male broiler chicks divided into 40 groups and fed five diets in a completely randomized design with eight groups per diet, from 15 to 21 days of age.Differences were observed among variations of a corn-based basal diet, the same basal diet with 30 percent replaced by CPCC, and both of these diets without or with multi-carbohydrase enzymes supplementation, as well as an N-free diet.

The corn-based basal diet was fed to determine nutrient digestibility and retention for CPCC by substitution. The N-free diet was fed to estimate basal endogenous amino acid losses, for determining the SID of amino acids.On a dry matter basis, CPCC contained 39.8 percent crude protein, 1.89 percent lysine, 0.70 percent methionine, 1.56 percent threonine 0.45 percent tryptophan, 12.7 percent ether extract, and 38.3 percent neutral detergent fiber. In addition to boosting the availability and absorption of methionine, threonine and tryptophan, multi-carbohydrase increased the AMEn value of CPCC from 1,533 to 2,072 kcal/kg of dry matter.

The specific multi-carbohydrase formulation used in the study was Omegazyme from CBS Inc. More information on Omegazyme is available at


Published in Nutrition and Feed

 Recent scientific advancements indicate that all types of canola meal could effectively replace soybean meal in poultry rations Photo by Canadian Bio-Systems Inc.

July 9, 2015 - A new era of opportunity has emerged for Canadian canola meal as a premium, highly sought feed ingredient across livestock sectors around the world.

One of the keys to unlock its full potential lies in groundbreaking scientific advances to understand and capture the hidden nutritive power of dietary fibre, says Dr. Bogdan Slominski of the University of Manitoba, a featured speaker at the International Rapeseed Congress, July 5-9 in Saskatoon.

Three key approaches include breeding for superior yellow-seeded canola, utilizing new dehulling options and harnessing the power of new multi-carbohydrase enzyme formulations designed to break down fibre and enhance nutrient utilization for monogastric animals such as pigs and poultry.

“The dietary fibre story is really where a lot of the secret lies to truly maximize the feed value of canola meal,” says Slominski, a leading expert in carbohydrate chemistry and new feed ingredient evaluations. “The more we understand about the composition of dietary fibre and the options to address it, the more success we can achieve to benefit producers, industry and the end-use customer. Today is an exciting time with lots of advances showing excellent promise.”

As canola production has rocketed ahead over the past decade, primarily in Canada but also in the U.S. and other key jurisdictions, the potential has risen for more livestock operations to take advantage of canola meal as a valuable feed protein source. The main advantages of canola meal typically include good protein content, good amino acid profile, high oil content and a complex carbohydrate matrix, along with good selenium and phosphorous content. Like many vegetable protein sources, canola meal is limiting in lysine but has high levels of methionine and cysteine.

However dietary fibre is also a significant component that presents an ‘X Factor’ with implications for nutritional value, processing approaches and feeding strategies, says Slominski.

“Our latest knowledge from research studies confirms the dietary fibre component of canola meal is actually quite high,” he explains. “This is a consequence of the small size and also the high oil content of canola seed, which is roughly 42 to 45 per cent. In fact, the neutral detergent fibre and total dietary fibre values of canola meal are higher than those of soybean meal.”

Certain processing approaches such as pre-press solvent extraction and use of the desolventizer-toaster can further increase the dietary fibre content, he says. Based on the recent surveys conducted in Canada, the content of neutral detergent fibre (NDF) and total dietary fibre (TDF) of canola meal averaged 29.6 and 38.0 percent dry matter (DM), respectively, and ranged from 27.1 to 33.4 percent for NDF, and from 34.8 to 41.9 percent for TDF.

However science and technology advances are set to help manage this component, to support higher demand and value for canola meal, says Slominski.

Superior quality characteristics of newly developed yellow-seeded B. napus canola and canola-quality B. juncea mustard have been demonstrated, he says. Although canola meal from these sources is significantly lower in dietary fibre, studies have shown similar growth performance parameters in broiler chickens and turkeys to those fed conventional canola meal and soybean meal, when diets were formulated based on digestible amino acids and available energy contents.

“This indicates that all types of canola meal could effectively replace soybean meal in poultry rations,” says Slominski. “Also, that the development of low-fiber canola would result in quantitative changes as evidenced by increased oil, protein, and sucrose contents, rather than qualitative changes due to decreased fiber content.”

With hull removal, when evaluating the meal from the tail-end dehulling process using sieving technology, a significant increase in protein content of the dehulled versus standard meal (from 36.8 to 42.0 percent) and a substantial reduction in the content of dietary fiber  (from 30.0 to 21.4 percent) were noted, he says. However, when diets were balanced for major nutrients and fed to young broiler chickens and weaned pigs, no difference in growth performance was observed. “This indicates that most of canola fiber is simply a diluent with minimal effect on nutrient utilization.”

One of the most promising and fresh areas of advancement is the new higher power of certain feed enzyme formulations to unlock more nutrients from otherwise indigestible fibre, says Slominski. “Recent studies and literature reviews show that substantial gains in nutrient utilization are possible for all species with properly formulated and applied enzyme supplementation. Also,this approach can make feasible the use of full-fat canola or off-grades of canola seed that can represent an economic,well-balanced source of protein.”

Because canola meal is a complex feed ingredient with multiple hard-to-digest components,research trials by Slominski and others indicate that multi-carbohydrase formulationsare more effective than single enzymes. Specifically, Slominski says fibre components of canola meal, including non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) and glycoproteins, may serve as substrates for multi-carbohydrase enzymes and support the release of additional energy. This is documented by increased apparent metabolizable energy (AME) of 100-150 kcal/kg of canola meal.

"Multi-carbohydrase technology represents the leading-edge of our science-based knowledge on the most effective use of feed enzymes," says Slominski. "It leverages what we have learned from many years of research to offer a much more comprehensive and sophisticated option than traditional approaches."

Dr. Bogdan Slominski has received the Synergy Award for Innovation from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada as well as the National Research Council Award for Innovation in Industrial Research (with Canadian Bio-Systems Inc.). He currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Canadian Poultry Research Council and is a member of the Poultry Science and World’s Poultry Science Association.


Published in Nutrition and Feed

July 23, 2015 -  Poultry industry representatives had an opportunity to connect with the researchers whose discoveries help their industry at a mid-July barbeque held at the University of Guelph. 

A joint venture of the University of Guelph, Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC),Poultry Industry Council (PIC), and the Poultry Health Research Network (PHRN), the poultry industry barbeque brought together industry leaders from the poultry commodity groups and industry with University of Guelph leaders, including UofG President Dr. Franco Vaccarino, UofG Vice President of Research Dr. Malcolm Campbell and Ontario Veterinary College Interim Dean Dr. Kerry Lissemore, and researchers from across the campus and beyond.

In welcoming the group, Ed Verkley, a director with Chicken Farmers of Ontario and chair of the Poultry Industry Council, noted just how important research is for the industry. The Poultry Industry Council works with the industry to deliver poultry extension services, event coordination, program and project management while supporting research for the poultry sector.

The poultry industry is incredibly important to the economy, said UofG president Dr. Franco Vaccarino as he addressed the group.

“Knowledge in action is so very important,” he noted, “and this partnership is an example of that.” He added UofG is doing research at all levels from molecular to production and the questions researchers address often come from the industry.

“The goal of this event was to create a forum for enhanced interactions and dialogue between researchers, as part of the Poultry Health Research Network, and our industry partners,” said Dr. Shayan Sharif, with the Ontario Veterinary College’s Pathobiology department and leader of the PHRN.  “By all accounts, this forum delivered what it was meant to do.”

The University of Guelph has had a long-standing commitment to animal health with one of the largest groups of poultry scientists and poultry experts in North America.

The Poultry Health Research Network, established in 2012, is a network of poultry researchers and poultry health specialists who address a wide range of issues - from basic biology, to environmental concerns, to poultry disease, production and welfare.

The Livestock Research Innovation Corporation works collaboratively on behalf of Ontario livestock and poultry organizations to coordinate research priorities and engage in partnerships to maximize innovation and the return on research.


Published in New Technology

July 7, 2015 - The Poultry Science Association (PSA) released a list of the recipients of its annual awards and other honours for members working in poultry science and related disciplines.  All award winners will be formally honoured on July 30 at PSA’s awards celebration during its 104th annual meeting, which will be held July 27-30 at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.

New PSA Fellows

PSA Fellow is the highest recognition PSA can bestow on a member. An individual is named a PSA Fellow for their professional distinction and contributions to the field of poultry science without regard to longevity. This year four PSA members were selected and are listed below.

  • Mary E. Delany, Ph.D. (University of California, Davis)
  • Billy M. Hargis, D.V.M., Ph.D. (University of Arkansas)
  • Kirk C. Klasing, Ph.D. (University of California, Davis)
  • Robert L. Taylor, Jr., Ph.D. (West Virginia University)

Additional PSA Honors and Award Winners

This year PSA will honour over 40 individuals for their accomplishments and contribution to poultry science. PSA awards professional members for their excellence in areas such as research, teaching and Extension. In addition, PSA recognizes student members for their research and extends travel grants to help students attend the PSA annual meeting.

“We extend a big thank you to those that have taken the time to nominate and recognize efforts of friends and colleagues,” PSA President Todd Applegate said. “You certainly have made each committee’s work extremely difficult with the quality and breadth of work exemplified in those nominations.”

  • American Egg Board Research Award – Dong Uk Ahn, Ph.D. (Iowa State University) and Hyun-Dong Paik, Ph.D. (Konkuk University)
  • American Feed Industry Association Poultry Nutrition Research Award – Mingan Choct, Ph.D. (University of New England)
  • Evonik Degussa Award for Achievement in Poultry Science – Gene M. Pesti, Ph.D. (University of Georgia)
  • Hy-Line International Research Award – Tri Duong, Ph.D. (Texas A&M University)
  • Maple Leaf Farms Duck Research Award – Gregory S. Fraley, Ph.D. (Hope College)
  • National Chicken Council Broiler Research Award – Edgar O. Oviedo-Rondon, Ph.D. (North Carolina State University)
  • Novus International Teaching Award – Wallace D. Berry, Jr., Ph.D. (Auburn University)
  • Phibro Extension Award – Anthony J. Pescatore, Ph.D. (University of Kentucky)
  • PSA Early Achievement Award for Extension – Gregory S. Archer, Ph.D. (Texas A&M University)
  • PSA Early Achievement Award for Industry – Cesar A. Coto, Ph.D., (Cobb-Vantress, Inc.)
  • PSA Student Recruitment Award – Aggie Leadership Council (Texas A&M University)
  • Tyson Foods Inc. Support Personnel Award – Pamela Utterback (University of Illinois)
  • USPOULTRY Distinguished Poultry Industry Career Award – Igal Pevzner, Ph.D, (Cobb-Vantress, Inc.)
  • Zoetis Fundamental Science Award – Alan L. Johnson, Ph.D. (Penn State University)

Honorary PSA Members

  • T. Pearse Lyons Ph.D (Alltech) 

Student Awards

  • Alltech Student Research Manuscript Award – Xi Chen (Purdue University)
  • Biomin Latin American Graduate Student Travel Grant Award – Tiago Ferreira Birro Oliveira (Universidade Federal de Lavras)
  • Jones-Hamilton Co. Undergraduate Student Travel Grant AwardMaurice Stein Fellowship Award – Prafulla Regmi (Michigan State University)
    • Timothy J. Broderick (Texas A&M University)
    • Kyle D. Brown (Texas A&M University)
    • Caitlin E. Harris (University of Georgia)
    • B. Danielle Mahaffey (University of Arkansas)
    • Grace A. Parker (Virginia Tech)
    • Hunter G. Walters (Texas A&M University)
  • PSA Graduate Student Travel Grant Award
    • Abiodun Bello (University of Alberta)
    • Isa J. Ehr (Iowa State University)
    • Manuel Joao Goncalves Da Costa (University of Georgia)
    • Jasper L. T. Heerkens (Institute for Agricultural & Fisheries Research)
    • Shurong Li (Penn State University)
    • Antrison Morris (Ohio State University)
    • Teresa Casey-Trott (University of Guelph)

Andrew F. Giesen III Undergraduate Internship Program Participants

  • Katie L. Burt (Texas A&M University)
  • Lucas E. Graham (University of Arkansas)
  • Nayeem A. Hossain (North Carolina State University)
  • Veronica Nacchia (University of Delaware)
  • Aaron C. Oxendine (North Carolina State University)
  • Kyle Teague (University of Arkansas)
  • Grayson K. Walker (North Carolina State University)

Additional Awards to Be Announced

Winners of the Aviagen Turkeys Communications Award, Student Research Certificates of Excellence, and Student Research Certificates of Participation will be announced at the awards celebration. Student Research Certificates of Excellence are presented in recognition of students who have presented high-quality research papers at the annual meeting. Student Research Certificates of Participation are presented to undergraduate students who present research papers at the annual meeting.

Aviagen Turkeys presents an award to a maximum of two graduate student Certificate of Excellence winners at the annual PSA meeting whose oral paper was given with the turkey as the principal unit of research. The award serves to increase awareness of the opportunities available to students who choose to do research with turkeys. 


Published in Researchers

July 7, 2015 - On August 27, join Farm & Food Care Canada in welcoming Dr. Temple Grandin to Guelph. Dr. Grandin is a famed animal behaviorist, author, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and autism awareness advocate.

Dr. Grandin is a world-renowned inspiration to people with autism for her work as an animal behaviorist. Dr. Grandin has developed humane livestock handling systems, and has worked as a consultant to the livestock handling industry on animal care standards. She has, in addition, designed processing facilities in which half the cattle in the United States are handled while working for Burger King, McDonalds, Swift and others.

Dr. Grandin was named by Time Magazine as one of 2010’s “100 most influential People in the World”. HBO also produced the award-winning biographical film on her life entitled Temple Grandin. She currently speaks around the world on both autism and animal behaviour.

Event details:

The event will be held on August 27 at the University of Guelph’s War Memorial Hall. Dr. Grandin’s talk begins at 7:00 p.m. and will be followed by a Q&A session. A reception with Dr. Grandin begins at 8:00 p.m. Attendees are welcome to bring their copies of Dr. Grandin’s books to have them autographed.

Tickets are $50 each (includes a $20 charitable receipt) or $30 for students. Free parking will also be provided. Tickets can be ordered through or by phone at 519-837-1326.

Published in New Technology

July 1, 2015 - Hendrix Genetics and NPM Capital, a subsidiary of family-owned, SHV Holdings, have completed an agreement that will advance the animal breeding sector. Through the issue of new shares, NPM has become a 25 per cent minority shareholder in Hendrix Genetics, alongside existing shareholders. The Hendrix Family remains the majority and controlling shareholder.

Hendrix Genetics will continue to conduct its business under its current corporate governance and with its existing management team, strategy and structure. Its Vision 2020 plan, created last year, identified many opportunities to invest in R&D, capacity expansion and acquisitions to continue the company’s growth of the last decade. The equity of NPM/SHV will enable Hendrix Genetics to accelerate the execution of its ambitious plan.

Antoon van den Berg, CEO, Co-Shareholder and Co-Founder of Hendrix Genetics commented: “We are privileged as the Management Team of Hendrix Genetics, to have shareholders that fully support the accelerated execution of our ambitions. The fact that we continue to be family-controlled ensures passion and quick decision-making, which is essential to our company’s future.”

Jeroen Drost, CEO of NPM Capital, stated: “We discovered in Hendrix Genetics an ambitious company with dedicated shareholders, capable management and an excellent track-record in building a sound platform for industry consolidation. Their mission to help the world meet the growing demand for food, making animal protein production more efficient, affordable and sustainable perfectly fits our company ethos.”

International Advisory Board

Michel Boucly, member of the International Advisory Board since 2008, will step down per July 1, 2015 and will be succeeded by Cyril Melin, Investment Director of Sofiprotéol.

New member of the International Advisory Board, Investment Director of NPM Capital, Johan Terpstra sees clear benefits: “The strategic and cultural fit of Hendrix Genetics with NPM/SHV was clear from the onset and we look forward to partnering with existing shareholders and management to assist the growth of Hendrix Genetics in the years to come.”

Published in Genetics

June 16, 2015 - The Egg Farmers of Canada has committed $500,000 for avian influenza research to be awarded to and administered by the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University.
Given the significant impact that highly pathogenic avian influenza is having on the entire North American industry, the organization contacted the Egg Industry Center after the center published a call for pre-proposals to fund research needed to answer questions surrounding the ongoing outbreak. The destructive disease has impacted millions of egg-laying hens. It has been found in 15 states and has affected parts of Canada in the past and two Canadian provinces in the last six months.
“We are pleased to partner with the Egg Industry Center to tackle this North American challenge head on,” said Tim Lambert, chief executive officer of Egg Farmers of Canada. “We are confident that the world-class research emerging from the EIC, under the leadership of Dr. Hongwei Xin, will provide practical solutions for producers and ensure a safe and secure way forward for the entire industry.”
“We are extremely grateful to Egg Farmers of Canada for not only recognizing the need for this research, but making the much-needed financial commitment to help make it happen,” said Hongwei Xin, director of the Egg Industry Center and a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State. “Financial support like this greatly enhances our ability to fund additional worthy projects.” 
Researchers from across the U.S. submitted 19 different projects for funding consideration. The Egg Industry Center’s research grant program is structured to focus on the top concerns of the U.S. egg industry.

Published in Biosecurity


What do poultry manure and emissions from Alberta’s oil sands have in common? They are both connected to a plant-like organism call micro-algae, which could help the province meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

Micro-algae grow by leaps and bounds when fed with poultry manure as an organic fertilizer, which in turn make them more effective for scrubbing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from industrial facilities and power plants before they enter the atmosphere.

“Chicken manure is high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. It contains the main nutrients that algae need,” says Bob Mroz, President and Chief Executive Officer of a Maryland-based biotech company called HY-TEK Bio. It is developing and marketing patented technology using micro-algae for mitigation of greenhouse gases.

Alberta likes the potential of HY-TEK Bio’s technology, as the company was recently awarded a $500,000 grant as part of the $35 million international Grand Challenge: Innovative Carbon Uses competition offered by the province’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC). The corporation collects a levy from large greenhouse gas emitters that in turn is used to fund promising technology aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, like the micro-algae technology offered by HY-TEK Bio.

The company has identified a unique strain of micro-algae that is able to absorb 100 per cent of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from flue gases produced by industrial manufacturing and power generation.

Micro-algae are photosynthetic, plant-like organisms that need light, water, carbon dioxide and nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus. They can feed on compounds like carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds emitted from such facilities as heavy oil production plants and coal-fired power plants, releasing beneficial oxygen in the process and growing into a plant commodity with considerable commercial potential.

The challenge for HY-TEK Bio has been to find an inexpensive source of nutrients to fertilize the micro-algae to accelerate its growth to perform as advertised in a greenhouse gas mitigation application. Addition of nutrients like those in poultry manure make the micro-algae grow faster and increases its production, like fertilizer added to a corn crop.

Mroz says that as the company worked to develop its technology, it encountered organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which expressed its concerns about poultry manure seeping into the region’s water drainage system, resulting in considerable algae growth in areas like the Chesapeake Bay. Because of this concern, and the availability of grants, HY-TEK Bio approached researchers at the University of Maryland, which has been working with micro-algae extensively for the past four years, to investigate poultry manure’s potential as a cheap nutrient source. The company already has a working demonstration facility with four bioreactors consuming flue gas emissions from a three megawatt, biogas-fueled power plant attached to a City of Baltimore waste water treatment plant.

University of Maryland scientists are now testing poultry manure as a natural fertilizer to feed micro-algae. The overall plan is to develop a pilot project that demonstrates a process that, in addition to showing how the micro-algae mitigates greenhouse gases, also demonstrates how the poultry manure-derived nutrients can be applied to maintain the growth and health of the micro-algae.

Should the application prove successful and commercially attractive, this could pay a significant environmental and economic dividend to poultry and egg producers, as well as help to solve a growing global problem. Not only would producers of poultry manure have a new and better method for manure disposal, but it could also create a new potential income stream for them.

Dr. Feng Chen, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland Centre for Environmental Science, says there are about 800,000 tons of poultry manure currently being generated annually in the Maryland and Mid-Atlantic area of the United States alone. Most of the manure is land applied as a form of disposal, but the problem is that sometimes the nutrients leach into the water drainage system. An alternative use of this poultry manure as fertilizer for micro-algae would direct that manure into a new, non-polluting direction.

Alberta is one jurisdiction that has shown an interest in what the university and HY-TEK Bio are accomplishing with the use of micro-algae in greenhouse gas mitigation in its massive fossil fuel industry. It has been identified as a notable contributor of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, especially in its oil sands mining and processing operations.

The University of Maryland research has just started and is being conducted at a basic level, with development of a system to economically extract the nutrients from the raw poultry manure, leading to methods of controlled release of the nutrients to the micro-algae to achieve certain performance targets.

While the research project is still in its early stages, the University of Maryland researchers say that they are “quite encouraged” by the results they have witnessed so far in using poultry manure nutrients to encourage micro-algae growth. The poultry manure they are using was collected from various commercial operations in Maryland. Now, the University is working on such issues as how to develop a consistent liquefied nutrient product from raw poultry manure, given the variability of the raw material from one poultry operation to another.

Mroz says while there is some variability, they all seem to work well as nutrients for micro-algae growth. The main issue is cost of production, taking it from its raw form to a liquid.

“When you are talking about 500 to 1000 of these bioreactor tanks to mitigate a power plant, the nutrient has to be really, really cheap,” says Mroz. About 400 of the company’s micro-algae tanks can fit on one acre, “but we can use multi-storey facilities to increase land usage.”

In addition to establishing an inexpensive process to convert the raw poultry manure to liquid form for use as a micro-algae nutrient, what HY-TEK Bio hopes to achieve through its research project with the University of Maryland is to determine if the brown color of the liquid manure is a deterrent to micro-algae growth because the algae needs as much light as possible to grow.

Should the University successfully develop a method to cost-effectively manufacture a clear, odourless liquid nutrient product from raw poultry manure, Mroz says this also has potential as a marketable, commercial product.

Dr. Russell Hill, Director and Professor at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, says the University’s research related to using poultry manure as a nutrient source for micro-algae is novel.

“If greenhouse gas mitigation using micro-algae is ever going to really be used on a large scale, the nutrient requirement will be huge,” says Hill. “It could really help to solve the problem of disposal of chicken manure, and potentially it could even put greater value on the chicken manure.”




Published in Environment

May 22, 2015 - A national training and certification program for those who handle and transport farm animals will be made available online thanks to $180,000 in government funds. The money comes from Growing Forward 2, a five-year provincial and federal initiative that supports a variety of projects in the agriculture and agri-food industries. 

The Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) Certification program was developed in Alberta in 2007 and has enjoyed national and U.S. participation since the program was moved to the Canadian Animal Health Coalition in 2013. This has included growing international recognition of CLT as an innovative, pioneering program and a leading example of industry-driven leadership in livestock welfare. The overall goal is to help ensure that farm animals in
Canada are transported in a safe and humane manner.

The Canadian Animal Health Coalition is very pleased to receive this funding, said Coalition Chair, Jennifer MacTavish. "It will allow us to advance the highest animal welfare standards in the transport of farm animals," she said. The funding will be used to develop interactive multimedia online materials and delivery of the existing CLT program that is offered to transport drivers and handlers of livestock and poultry. 

The program is uniquely Canadian, reflecting Canada's standards and regulations and is available for those who transport or receive cattle, hogs, horses, sheep and poultry. Although voluntary, a growing number of companies that process meat now require drivers and handlers to have this certification, said Mark Beaven, executive director of the non-profit coalition. 

It is estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 people are involved in the transportation of animals in Canada. Currently, about 1,500 transport drivers and handlers who load and unload livestock and poultry are certified. Re-training is required every three years to maintain certification and the online program will not only make the recertification process more efficient and consistent but will allow more people across the country to participate, said Beavan. 

The training involves everything from knowing the regulations and proper techniques for the safe handling of animals, to loading capacities and avoiding overcrowding as well as biosecurity and other protocols that are necessary to protect agricultural industries. Program details can be found at 

"This funding allows us to take the program into the 21st century," he said. "It will be very interactive and intense, but it allows the current participants to be recertified and new ones to come on board and do it at their own pace." 
It will build Canada's reputation as "a world leader" in the safe and humane handling of farm animals, he added. 



Published in Welfare

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