I tip my hat to the Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) and the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC). If this were baseball, I’d say, “Team Eggs” just smacked two fastballs out of the park.

The first off the bat was for EFO, committing $1 million toward developing the antidepressant drug, Rellidep™, named after Ron Ellis, who was a star player with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Team Canada in 1972. The research is being done by United Paragon Associates Inc., a privately owned, Ontario-based company.

If this exciting project is successful, the impact could be felt around the world, much like another great Canadian medical discovery – insulin. Lianne Appleby wrote an excellent story about Rellidep in the June edition of Canadian Poultry and if you haven’t read it, you really should.

Ron Ellis played for the Leafs from 1963 to 1981. I was such a huge fan of Ellis, I wrote him a letter when the Leafs let him go. He responded with a handwritten note thanking me for my comments. He is a class act and I was shocked when I later found out he had been suffering from serious depression for many years.

Like thousands of other Canadians, Ellis had managed to hide his depression. To his credit, he later decided to use his fame, name and personal story to raise public awareness about this debilitating and often life-threatening medical condition. Today, he is a leader and the face of Rellidep.

Ontario’s egg farmers deserve a standing ovation for stepping up to the plate to help champion this important medical research. I wish the Rellidep project and Ron Ellis all the success in the world.

As for Team Eggs’ second home run, anyone who reads Canadian Poultry magazine knows that despite relentless media attacks, supply management has the support of the federal government, all provincial governments and the vast majority of individual MPs and MPPs – but what about municipal governments? Why not find out what those people think, too?

Well, that is exactly what Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) did.

The EFC recently commissioned Ipsos Reid to conduct a survey called “Canada’s Mayors and Reeves on Supply Management.” The survey included 124 intensive interviews with mayors, deputy mayors and reeves across Canada. It included many of Canada’s largest cities – meaning that the survey wasn’t limited to rural areas. The jurisdictions included represent 25 per cent of Canada’s population, and there were interesting results.

For example, there was an overwhelming understanding of the need to keep local dairy and poultry farms healthy, realizing the important role farming plays in the local economy. Almost 90 per cent of those surveyed support supply management, with 40 per cent being very supportive. Eighty per cent agreed that supply management is important to the survival of farmers and communities, with almost 50 per cent agreeing strongly.

The survey also revealed that 74 per cent of those surveyed agreed there is no guarantee that getting rid of supply management would lower dairy, egg and poultry prices for consumers. And that result alone was worth the price of admission.

EFC has concluded there is an opportunity for farmers and stakeholders to expand education efforts to dispel myths and falsehoods in an effort to increase further dialogue at the local (municipal) level.

I couldn’t agree more, because nobody is closer to local issues than elected municipal representatives. I think EFC’s decision to commission this survey was brilliant and the timing was perfect. Despite the hundreds of anti-supply management articles and columns that have been published in major daily newspapers or posted online, and the heavy criticism we have all heard and seen on radio and TV, it is important to remember that supply management is not an issue for most Canadians.

In fact, many people (of those who are even aware of it) support supply management. The Ipsos Reid survey has reminded us of that.

The Mayors and Reeves survey and Rellidep are both home runs in my book. Well done, Team Eggs.
Published in Health

Jun. 28, 2013, Ottawa, ON - Genome Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions have partnered to support a $1.4 million project that will help protect consumers from Listeriosis, a serious foodborne illness caused by Listeria bacteria.

The project, led by Dr. Linda Chui of the University of Alberta, will sequence and map the genomes of different Listeria strains to identify those that are likely to be most harmful to human health, as well as those most likely to survive in food processing facilities.

Through this research, a database of Listeria genome sequences will be developed and genetic markers identified. These markers will be used to rapidly spot harmful Listeria strains in foods and food processing facilities.

"Genomics research such as this is equipping us with new, effective ways to combat threats to food safety. The impact this research will have on averting potential outbreaks and the consequences for Canadian families and industry is tremendous," said Pierre Meulien, President and CEO of Genome Canada.

"Ensuring the safety of food products is critical to public health and the competitiveness of our agri-food and agriculture industries," said Dr. Stan Blade, Chief Executive Officer of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions. "New Listeria detection tests that produce results quickly will allow food producers and regulators to act swiftly and provides assurance of an even higher level of food safety for Canadians," he added.

Dr. Chui's 18-month research project is supported through an investment of $250,000 each from Genome Canada (via Genome Alberta) and the CFIA, and $100,000 from Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions. This investment is also being leveraged through co-funding from federal, provincial, academic and industry partners, including Maple Leaf Foods, increasing the total investment to $1.4 million.

"The strength of our project is in the world-class expertise of the research team and the support of many distinguished organizations from across Canada," said Dr. Chui. "The different researchers on the team bring leading-edge expertise in many areas including food sample preparation, assays development, state-of-the art capacity in bioinformatics and genomics, pathogen detection and outbreak response."

For more information, please visit, and

Published in Turkeys
Jun. 19, 2013 - Cargill’s Animal Nutrition business and Purac, a subsidiary of CSM, announce their collaboration in the development and commercialization of bio-based animal feed solutions. These solutions promote stronger growth and better feed conversion in suboptimal conditions in poultry production while at the same time have the potential to significantly reduce the usage of antibiotics. A first commercial product, Aloapur, will reach the market in July of this year.Under the collaboration, Purac, world market leader in lactic acid and lactic acid derivatives, is focusing on technology development and production of Aloapur, while Cargill Animal Nutrition’s Provimi business, a leading global premix, specialties and feed additives supplier, is focused on application development and commercialization of the product.

Aloapur®, a bio based animal feed solution for the improvement of the general health of animals, has been developed and patented by Purac. Aloapur is based on Lactylates and has been developed for the first time in animal nutrition and has demonstrated to significantly improve growth and feed conversion in poultry and turkey production in particular in suboptimal conditions. The efficacy of Aloapur has been extensively tested and demonstrated in both scientific research as well as actual production farms by Purac and Cargill.

Commercial production will start in July in a newly built production facility at the Purac site in Gorinchem, the Netherlands.

Cargill brings its animal nutrition expertise and global footprint to the partnership. Cargill’s Provimi business will develop the application and offer Aloapur to customers to help them improve animal health and nutrition. Cargill Animal Nutrition is committed to selecting and developing innovative solutions that can significantly improve animal nutrition.

Marco Bootz, Vice President Chemical & Pharma at Purac, comments: "CSM is developing into a leading provider of bio-based ingredients and solutions. Our collaboration with Cargill is fully in line with our strategy to develop commercially attractive bio-based alternatives using renewable and sustainable resources. This new technology, Aloapur®, for animal health is based on our core competence in lactic acid derivatives and emulsifiers. We believe that this technology has the potential to significantly reduce the usage of low dosage antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed, without negatively impacting production. Cargill, the world leader in animal feed, will market Aloapur®, opening up a world of opportunities."

“The use of lactylates in poultry feeds is an exciting new concept in animal nutrition,” said Scott Ainslie, Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Technology at Cargill Animal Nutrition. “This technology offers a promising, innovative nutritional solution to improve broiler and turkey health and growth in suboptimal conditions; and Cargill’s Provimi business is perfectly positioned to help bring this solution to the marketplace.”
Published in Nutrition and Feed

It was 1873 when Robert Oettel, a German poultry fancier, first described “feather pulling” or “feather eating.” Today, studies in the United Kingdom indicate that 78 per cent of hens engage in severe feather pecking, with similar numbers in the European Union. Bring those numbers to Canada, where there are about 22.5 million hens, and that means the behaviour could affect up to 17.6 million Canadian birds.

The answer to why hens feather-peck has eluded researchers for 140 years. “It’s an old problem,” says Austrian veterinarian Dr. Alexandra Harlander, one of the world’s experts on feather pecking in laying hens, who has recently joined the poultry welfare faculty at the University of Guelph.

Harlander posed a question at a recent lecture in Guelph hosted by the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare: Is feather pecking redirected behaviour from food pecking, ground pecking or dust bathing? As she explains, it’s generally accepted as a multi-factorial process, involving genetics, management and nutrition.

So far, detective work has explored many facets of feather pecking, from natural behaviours to diets to digestive differences in the birds themselves. However, Harlander is convinced that feather pecking is redirected foraging behaviour, not redirected dust-bathing behaviour.

She describes foraging as having two components: seeking and consumption. It’s possible that feather pecking is part of exploration. Hens without some sort of floor substrate, such as wood shavings, will display an increase in feather pecking behaviour. Is it possible that birds may misperceive feathers as a foraging substrate?

It is known that birds don’t mind working to find food, but do they work as hard for feathered feeds?

Feather pecking is an old problem, but a very important one.

Harlander references her study where hens with high and low feather-pecking (HFP and LFP) tendencies were offered food pellets, loose feathers and fixed feathers as a food source. The results showed that both groups of birds ate the same amount, but the HFP hens preferred a higher-feather diet (see photo above).

But would HFP and LFP birds prefer feathers over shavings?

Birds were then individually presented with a bowl of wood shavings, a bowl of feathers, an empty dish and a bowl of mash. The HFP birds voted for the feathers.

This raised another question: How hard would birds work to get wood shavings or feathers? Birds were asked to peck a key or press a lever with food, wood shavings or feathers as a reward (known as operant conditioning). The HFP and LFP lines didn’t differ when food or shavings were the reward, but when feathers were rewarded, the HFP birds became highly motivated.

What is it about feathers that make them attractive? Harlander described the process of consumption as follows: we see the food, touch it, smell it, taste it and decide to either swallow it or spit it out.

But for feathers, the distinction is more difficult. Feather colour doesn’t seem to make a difference; neither does feather placement. While some flocks start in pecking in one area, others concentrate on other areas and we don’t know why – research has shown no area preference so far.

Birds have shown a preference, however, for shorter feathers, choosing two- or four-centimetre feathers over six- or eight-centimetre feathers. This shows that physical characteristics are important, says Harlander. Birds also seem to prefer the tip or middle part of the feather and avoid the calamus, the stiff part.

It is possible that chemosensory cues have an influence as well. Birds preferred washed feathers to unwashed feathers, and they loved feathers soaked in garlic but avoided bitter quinine feathers.

With the quinine feathers, both groups of birds showed a reduction in severe feather-pecking bouts, but returned to their old behaviour after three weeks.

If HFP birds are so highly motivated to feather-peck, why not mix feathers into the food? Harlander says that making feathers available in the HFP feed will substitute the specific appetite for feathers and therefore actually reduce pecking activity compared with birds provided with normal feed or birds given feed containing insoluble cellulose instead of feathers.

This further led Harlander’s team to wonder if the fibre source or concentration would make a difference. When birds were fed isocaloric (similar caloric content) feeds of similar particle size, those with five per cent chopped feathers and five per cent cellulose in the diet had the same number of severe feather-pecking bouts, while providing a diet of 10 per cent feathers reduced feather pecking significantly and improved plumage condition.

However, the mechanism by which fibre reduces feather pecking remains unknown.

Harlander hypothesizes that feathers, as non-nutritive substances, may act the same as insoluble fibre, by speeding up feed passage time. Studies have shown this to be the case, with feed passage time being fastest with high-feather diets.

The physical structure of the feathers increased the grinding activity of the gizzard, affecting peristaltic movement of the gut. Ingested feathers increased the speed of feed passage, but wood shavings did not.

In summary, both HFP and LFP birds explore at similar levels, but because the HFP birds showed a specific, strong appetite for feathers, substituting litter substrate was not effective. As well, feather ingestion increases the rate of food passage and can affect gut micro biota.

Feather pecking seems to be a multi-factorial issue that affects both organic and conventional commercial operations, resulting in mortality and loss of productivity. Group housing may actually encourage feather pecking, with birds picking up the behaviour by watching and imitating other birds.

Birds with access to an outdoor run (free-range birds with access to outside light) do not have a lower or higher level of feather pecking than birds kept inside their entire lives. Light intensity in general can influence feather pecking, but the behaviour has nothing to do with indoor or outdoor housing.

While her research at Guelph will continue to explore the feather-pecking mystery, Harlander suggests that producers experiment with genetic selection for feather-pecking propensity or spraying birds with a bitter-tasting substance if feather pecking is a problem.

Published in Welfare

Eggs, it can be said, have had their fair share of the media spotlight. There was a time when it seemed they were to be blamed, solely, for high cholesterol and, (if we really want to exaggerate), for the heart attacks of many an unsuspecting consumer. Now, as with many dietary staples, it’s generally accepted that when consumed in moderation, eggs can be part of a healthy diet.

Most readers will be thinking, “well, we knew that all along, it’s common sense”. And, like many, other examples of bad media, the only thing to do was to ride out the unwanted publicity storm.

What do you do when the reverse is true, though – when ground-breaking research shows that eggs may be the answer to one of the most crippling conditions a person can suffer? Well, if you’re Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO), you support further work on the subject and view it as a research and development investment.

Thus, on March 26, EFO announced at their annual meeting in Mississauga that they will provide $1 million to United Paragon Associates (UPA), an Ontario-based privately-held pharmaceutical developer, to fund clinical trials for a new antidepressant drug that could help millions of people, worldwide, who suffer from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

Cleverly named Rellidep™* (after former hockey great, Ron Ellis, long-time champion in the fight against MDD, and UPA’s Vice-President of Public Relations) it would be an understatement to say that there are high-hopes for Phase 2 of clinical trials.

If any of this sounds familiar, it shouldn’t. EFO has never before supported such work. In fact, when it comes to commodity groups, Ontario’s egg board is probably the only group in Canada currently funding the development of a human health drug. And whether you eat eggs or not, depression is very likely a condition that has affected you or someone very close to you.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Website, “depression is a term used to describe a long period when a person is sad to the point of feeling worthless, hopeless and helpless. It can be caused by stress, a loss, or a major disappointment, but sometimes, it seems to happen for no particular reason at all – the result of a chemical imbalance in a person’s body.” Statistics Canada’s 2002 Mental Health and Well-being Survey showed that 5.3 per cent of the Canadian population aged 15 years and over had reported symptoms that met the criteria for MDD in the previous 12 months, including 4.8 per cent for major depression and 1 per cent for bipolar disorder.

When EFO was approached by UPA, they were told that the company had found that fertilized eggs could play a key role in alleviating depression. Given the millions of Canadians battling the disorder and the simple “good news story” that could come of it, it was a no-brainer for Ontario’s egg farmers to get behind the work.

“I got introduced to it last fall,” said EFO chair Scott Graham. “Our general manager, Harry Pelissero, had been introduced probably a year previous to that. We’ve signed a letter of intent for a million dollars that we hope is going to be a stimulus to help [UPA] raise another $7.5 million [to undertake] a second clinical trial.”

Graham is hopeful the results will be as favourable as they were in the first trial. Those findings indicated that Rellidep may be more successful in alleviating depression than other drugs currently on the market, while at the same time resulting in fewer and less disruptive side effects.

“Despite recent advances in treatment, there continues to be great unmet need specific to three key areas in the fight against major depressive disorder,” George Yeung, UPA’s president of Research and Development told the audience in Mississauga. “Early phase trials with Rellidep have demonstrated tremendous promise, as it may offer improvements over currently available drug treatments in three areas. Potentially better efficacy, shorter time-to-clinical-benefit and significantly fewer side-effects were observed.  We are hoping to see similar results in the next phases of our research.”

At a certain stage of development, Yeung explained, a specific molecule is taken from embryonic stem cells in fertilized eggs through a proprietary and patented process. It then forms the foundation of the antidepressant, Rellidep. While he agrees with Graham that early results were encouraging, he emphasized that the sample set was small.

With a mandate to explore potential uses of eggs and expand the market, this investment seemed like a great fit for EFO, although its $1 million won’t kick in until UPA raises the remaining $7.5 million to go ahead with Phase 2 of the clinical trials. EFO, according to Graham, was also keen to keep the research in Canada (specifically Ontario) by supporting UPA. Besides that, he cited the innovative nature of the research, the fact that it is not food-related and its potential economic impact as draws for EFO to infuse money into the project. Speaking to a small group of reporters after the announcement was made, Graham’s emotions were evident when he talked about the humanitarian implications of the new drug, should it reach the market.

There is, however, much work to be done before the drug gets to that point. Yeung explained that even if the money needed for Phase 2 is procured, it could be years before the drug is at the point where it can be prescribed. And likely, Rellidep would be out-licensed to a larger multinational pharmaceutical company after Phase 2, so there are still a lot of unknowns, he added. It could take longer than six years for Rellidep even to be approved for human use.

For now, the needed $7.5 million to start up the next trial phase is the most crucial factor for UPA to tackle in getting the drug to market. For Ron Ellis, though, that figure dwindles in comparison to the statistics around economic loss related to depression. In reference to published studies, he said, “the economic cost of lost productivity in Ontario due to depression, as measured by short-term and long-term disability days, is estimated to have been $8.8 billion in Ontario in 2000. Costs due to depression are estimated to have been over $2 billion in Ontario in 1998.”

Thus, for Ontario’s 440 egg producers, there is a collective holding of breath to see how this potential great news story ends. Stay tuned.

* Rellidep is a trademarked product.

About United Paragon Associates Inc. (UPA)
UPA is an Ontario-based, privately held pharmaceutical developer. For more information, contact George Yeung, UPA’s president of research and development at 416-207-1001 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Published in Health

Every summer, Canadian poultry farms experience some degree of heat stress. High temperatures (those above 30°C), combined with elevated humidity, can result in reduced feed intake and possibly heat prostration mortality.

During times of heat stress, flock performance and health may be compromised by reduced intake of vitamins and minerals. Thiamin requirements double during heat stress and there is also reduction in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E.1 This is concurrent with increased excretion of minerals such as sodium (Na+) and potassium (K+), which, in turn, negatively affects the heat dissipation capacity and acid-base balance of the bird, resulting in decreased growth performance.

Birds can get rid of excess heat in one of five ways:

  1. Conduction – Hot birds will try to cool down by touching water pipes or digging into litter to contact a cool floor. In extreme cases, the breast muscle will develop a pale, cooked appearance after the bird sits for prolonged period of time.
  2. Convection – Moving air over the birds is the most effective way to keep them cool, but if air is not moving quickly enough, heat can build up around their bodies. In severe heat situations, birds can often be found dead along walls where air does not circulate efficiently. These birds usually die from heat prostration, not from lack of oxygen.
  3. Radiation – Birds will raise their wings to allow heat to radiate from areas where feather cover is poor. Note that many leghorns survive well in cages because of poor feathering and lack of floor litter, which permits maximum radiation.
  4. Excretion – Defecation is another means by which heat is lost because birds will typically double their intake of water during periods of heat stress and thus excrete more hot urine and water in feces. It is therefore especially important to ensure your barns have an appropriate drinker ratio, clean water filters and well-adjusted pressure regulators to maximize water delivery during warm weather.
  5. Evaporative Cooling – Evaporation of water takes place on the surface of the skin and from the respiratory tract. In heat stress conditions, the bird will try to maximize heat loss by panting.

Under heat stress conditions, maintaining water and electrolyte balances are important factors affecting the survivability and productivity of the birds – especially when humidity is high.

By panting, the birds could increase their respiratory rate tenfold; this would result in excessive CO2 loss, which would alter the internal acid-base balance of the bird. By altering their own metabolism, the birds would increase the energy spent towards homeostatic regulation rather than processes supporting growth.2

Excessive water can also be lost through panting and higher urine flow, which negatively influences the birds’ capacity to dissipate heat.3 Unfortunately, ions of sodium, potassium and chloride are also lost. This is dangerous because the ions are important in maintaining the internal acid-base balance and cell membrane integrity of the bird. Some research has shown that sodium chloride and potassium chloride, when administered in the water, were able to alleviate the adverse effects of heat stress.4

Gut lining integrity, which will cause interference with the natural absorption of essential vitamins and minerals, is also compromised under heat stress conditions.

In summary, valuable vitamins and electrolytes can be lost with the rapid respiration and increase urine output caused by heat stress and must be replaced. In many cases, the few dollars spent on water medication such as Electrolytes Plus could have a significant effect upon the productivity of poultry and livestock.


  1. P.R. Ferket; M.A. Qureshi (1992). Performance and immunity of heat-stressed broilers fed vitamin- and electrolyte-supplemented drinking water. Poultry science. 71: 88-97.
  2. Mongin, P. (1981) Recent advances in dietary cation-anion balance: applications in poultry. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 40: 285-294.
  3. Belay T. and Teeter, R.G. (1993). Broiler Water Balance and Thermobalance During Thermoneutral and High Ambient Temperature Exposure. Poultry Science 72: 116-124.
  4. Smith, M.O. and Teeter, R.G. (1987). Influence of feed intake and ambient temperature stress on the relative yield of broiler parts. Nutrition Reports International, 35(2): 299-306.
Published in Environment

The Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) recently held its Annual General Meeting during which Roelof Meijer, the Turkey Farmers of Canada (TFC) board representative, was elected chair and Helen Anne Hudson, representing Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC), was elected vice-chair. Meijer replaces Jacob Middelkamp, the former Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) representative, who was on the board for six years and served as chair for four. The CPRC board and staff wish to express their gratitude to him for his dedication and leadership. Ed O’Reilly, the CFC board representative for Newfoundland and Labrador, replaced Middelkamp on the board.

As well, the Canadian Hatching Egg Producers (CHEP) representative, Cheryl Firby, is stepping down after three years on the CPRC board. She has been a valuable voice in all board decisions and we wish her well in all her future endeavours.

New Poultry Science Cluster Application
On behalf of the Canadian poultry industry, CPRC submitted an application to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for a new five-year Poultry Science Cluster under the recently announced AgriInnovation Program (AIP), which is part of the Growing Forward 2 policy framework for Canada’s agricultural and agri-food sector. A broad range of industry organizations and companies that have come together to provide resources to support the proposed research endorse the application. If the application is successful, the new cluster will secure considerable government funding to match industry investment (significantly larger than the first three-year cluster that ended on March 31, 2013).

A “cluster” brings together multidisciplinary teams of scientists to solve complex problems and to create synergies in research efforts, in order to make the most of available resources and support a strong business case for investing in Canadian poultry research. Pooling intellectual and financial resources to address issues of common interest is a powerful way to maximize the impact of our collective investment in research.

The research proposed within the application represents consensus of needs by the poultry reflects major sector priorities and research target outcomes identified in the National Research Strategy for Canada’s Poultry Sector including economic viability, genetics, food safety, animal health products, poultry health, poultry welfare, on environment and poultry feedstuffs. The strategy was the result of in-depth consultation with producers, producer organizations, the research community (both government and university) and representatives of the poultry processing sector.

The application focuses on four themes, each encompassing several sector priorities:

  1. Poultry Infectious Diseases –Impact on poultry health and/or zoonosis.
  2. Alternative Animal Health Products and Management Strategies – Enhance avian immune function and mitigate the impact of infectious pathogens while displacing the need for traditional antimicrobials.
  3. Poultry Welfare and Well-being  – Focusing throughout the production chain, as impacted by early immune function, bird harmony within various alternate production systems, restricted feeding options of breeding stock, bird stocking density and the effects of temperature extremes during live bird transport.
  4. Environmental Stewardship – As impacted by emissions of particulate matter, ammonia and greenhouse gases and their effect on poultry, poultry workers and the industry’s environmental footprint.
The proposed cluster would provide capacity to resolve many current issues facing the poultry industry. The unique co-operation among scientists, industry partners and government departments across Canada will synergize efforts to address these issues. The scale allows for basic research and more near-term, applied studies that will provide both immediate answers and future information for the poultry and food industries, as well as factors impacting consumer well-being. We will provide updates on the application in future issues.

For More Information
For more details on these or any other CPRC activities, please contact the Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, Ont., K1R 7S8, phone: 613-566-5916, fax: 613- 241-5999, e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at

The membership of the CPRC consists of 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 Nutrition and Feed

Apr. 24, 2013 - At Experimental Biology 2013, scientists from around the world are gathering to share research on a variety of topics, including nutrition and health. Given the growing global burden of chronic disease, there is particular interest in the important role of diet and nutrition in overall health. Several studies presented at the conference looked specifically at the role of whole egg consumption in high-risk groups, including those with metabolic syndrome and heart disease, as well as the satiating effects of high-protein breakfast consumption for overweight adolescents.

Evidence to Support Eggs as Part of a Heart Healthy Diet

Research from Yale University explored the impact of daily whole egg consumption in men and women with coronary heart disease1. The subjects were randomized to consume either two eggs, ½ cup of egg substitute or a high-carbohydrate breakfast for six weeks as part of their typical diet. The subjects who ate either whole eggs or egg substitute did not experience any negative impact in total cholesterol, blood pressure, body weight or endothelial function. The researchers concluded that whole eggs can be a part of a heart healthy diet, even in those with existing coronary heart disease.

Whole Egg Consumption Promotes Favorable Lipid Changes in those with Metabolic Syndrome

Research from the University of Connecticut suggested that daily whole egg consumption may have a positive effect on the function and composition of HDL cholesterol in adults with metabolic syndrome. Subjects followed a carbohydrate-restricted diet, and consumed either three eggs per day or an equivalent amount of egg substitutes2. After 12 weeks, subjects consuming whole eggs experienced improvements in HDL (good cholesterol) composition and ability to remove cholesterol from the blood.

Those eating three whole eggs daily also had HDL that was lower in triacylglycerol and higher in a beneficial component of egg yolks (phosphatidylethanolaime)2. "Taken together with previously established benefits of egg intake on HDL profiles, these findings further support the notion that eggs serve as a functional food to reduce cardiovascular disease risk in individuals with metabolic syndrome," says Catherine Andersen, lead study author and PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut.

High Protein Breakfast Results in Decreased Daily Calorie Intake

Researchers at University of Missouri presented data comparing the effects of a normal-protein cereal breakfast (15% meal calories), high-protein egg and pork breakfast (40% meal calories) and no breakfast on satiety in overweight/obese adolescents who normally skip breakfast(3). The group that consumed the high protein egg and pork breakfast reported a decrease in hunger and an increase in fullness compared to the normal protein and breakfast-skipping group. The individuals eating a high protein breakfast also voluntarily reduced their intake by more than 400 calories per day over the 12-week study. No significant differences were seen in weight between groups; however, breakfast skippers were found to have significant increases in percent body fat mass compared to those who ate the normal and high protein breakfasts. This study supports the benefits of a high protein breakfast as a weight management strategy among overweight and obese adolescents(3).

"This year's EB program showcased cutting-edge nutrition research with wide-reaching public health implications," says Mitch Kanter, PhD, Executive Director of the Egg Nutrition Center. "Furthermore, many studies underscore a positive role for eggs in the current chronic disease challenges we face." For more information about egg nutrition research and the benefits of egg consumption, please visit

About the American Egg Board (AEB)

AEB is the U.S. egg producer's link to the consumer in communicating the value of yhe egg and is funded from a national legislative checkoff on all egg production from companies with greater than 75,000 layers, in the continental United States. The board consists of 18 members and 18 alternates from all regions of the country who are appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture. The AEB staff carries out the programs under the board direction. AEB is located in Park Ridge, Ill. Visit for more information.

About the Egg Nutrition Center (ENC)

The Egg Nutrition Center (ENC) is the health education and research center of the American Egg Board. Established in 1979, ENC provides science-based information to health promotion agencies, physicians, dietitians, nutritional scientists, media and consumers on issues related to egg nutrition and the role of eggs in the American diet. ENC is located in Park Ridge, IL. Visit or for more information.

1. Katz et al. Effects of egg ingestion on endothelial function in adults with coronary artery disease: a randomized, controlled, crossover trial. Experimental Biology 2013. Boston, MA. April 20, 2013.

2. Andersen CJ, Blesso CN, Lee J, Barona J, Shah D, Thomas MJ, Fernandez ML. Egg consumption modulates HDL lipid composition and increases the cholesterol-accepting capacity of serum in metabolic syndrome. Lipids. 2013; doi 10.1007/s11745-013-3780-8

3. Leidy HJ, Hoertel HA, Douglas SM, Shafer RS. Daily addition of a protein-rich breakfast for long-term improvements in energy intake regulation and body weight management in overweight & obese 'breakfast skipping' young people. Experimental Biology 2013. Boston, MA. April 20, 2013.

Published in Consumer
Apr. 23, 2013 - Scientists at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and The University of Manchester in England designed to tell scientific and general audiences about their research to better understand the health and anatomy of the 30 billion broiler chickens that are bred for human consumption each year.

Having gone live on last month, the team plans to keep the site updated with their latest work and encourage feedback and interaction with readers. It is also planned to make the site a resource for information and images under a creative commons licence.

Dr Jonathan Codd, senior lecturer in integrative vertebrate biology at Manchester University, said: "The idea is to use it as a vehicle to get the results and reasons behind our research out to not just the scientific community but also the general public.

"We are going to use it to provide summaries of the research being conducted, who funded the work, publications will also be provided as well as copies of conference talks, press releases and details of media exposure."

Up to 30 per cent of broiler chickens develop lameness or heart and lung problems, linked to the rapid growth rate of the chickens which has been selectively bred for.

John Hutchinson, professor of evolutionary biomechanics at RVC, said: "We haven't yet disseminated the site in an aggressive way, but feedback via social media and colleagues' comments has been good and 100% positive. It is hard to let the entire community know about the website so we're super keen to let the world know what we're doing, any way we can!

"We're excited to try to find new ways to interact with our huge and diverse target audience."
Published in Genetics

Apr. 22, 2013 - A signature sound of the farm is the rooster crowing as the sun rises to announce the start of the day. But why does the rooster crow? And how does he know when is the right time to do so?

Researchers at Nagoya University in Japan discovered that male birds do not need light cues in order to start crowing, but seem to "know" when it is the right time.

According to Dr. Takashi Yoshimura, who co-authored the study published in Current Biology, the crow itself is not a learned vocalization like human speech, but a more innate and natural sound that is controlled genetically (like a dog bark or a cat meow).

"We believe that chickens provide an excellent model for understanding this mechanism and we are now analyzing the genetic basis of rooster crowing," said Yoshimura.

During the course of their experiments, the researchers determined that crowing is not controlled by the presence of light, but by an internal mechanism. The mechanism is known as a circadian clock – a biochemical process that alternates between day and night cycles approximately every 24 hours and causes changes in behaviour, such as in sleeping and feeding patterns.

"To our surprise, nobody demonstrated the involvement of biological clock in this well-known phenomenon experimentally," added Yoshimura.

The experiment used a specific breed of rooster known as PNP, which were inbred and used in order to make all the test animals as similar as possible. Four of the animals were placed together, since roosters do not crow in isolation, in a light and sound-tight room and recorded experiencing 12 hours each of light and dim light conditions. The results showed that the animals did not crow as light broke, but a few hours earlier.

"The roosters usually crowed 2 or 3 hours before the sunrise (when it is still dark) under normal 24-hour cycle. We call this "anticipatory predawn crowing,"" he said.

In a secondary experiment, the researchers kept the roosters under 24 hours of dim light, and discovered that the animals internally adjusted their internal clocks to a slightly shorter day, approximately 23.8 hours. This caused what Yoshimura called "free-running rhythm of crowing" – the roosters crowed when they thought it was dawn, approximately 10-15 minutes earlier every day under dim light conditions.

The next step in Yoshimura's research is to identify the specific genes regulating rooster crowing, which is traditionally viewed as a warning signal advertising the males territory, as well as helps to determine social ranking.

Added Yoshimura, "Interestingly, our preliminary data suggest that the highest-ranked rooster has priority in breaking the dawn, and lower-ranked roosters are patient enough to wait and follow the highest-ranked rooster each morning."

Published in Genetics
Apr. 15, 2013 - Adopt a heritage chicken and get some fresh eggs!

In an effort to preserve five heritage chicken breeds, the University of Alberta’s Poultry Research Centre is selling farm fresh eggs from the five breeds to the general public.

For a fee of $75, consumers can adopt a heritage chicken and in turn, pick up a dozen farm fresh eggs every other week from the Poultry Research Centre on the university’s South Campus.

The free run chickens are raised using strict bio-security farming practices and fed an all-natural diet.

“The benefits of the natural environment in which we raise our chickens are passed on to the eggs, which are of high quality and very nutritious,” said Agnes Kulinski, business director of the Poultry Research Centre.

The program begins March 28 and will run for five months. A second, bigger program is expected to start later this year.

It’s important to preserve the genetic material of the heritage breeds as they are the basis for today’s commercial poultry. Poultry experts have expressed concerned that these antique birds should be conserved in case they are required in the future. The breeds are Light Sussex, White Leghorn, Dark Brown Leghorn, Barred Plymouth Rock and New Hampshire.

To register or for more information, please contact Agnes Kulinski by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Published in Genetics

Interest in poultry is alive and well among students at the University of Guelph, whose Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) and Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) Poultry Clubs have both worked with the Poultry Industry Council (PIC) on projects since 2009. “These projects help the students develop links with industry, and in some cases earn credits toward their degrees,” says former PIC executive director Tim Nelson. “Industry, in turn, benefits from the new ideas that the students work on.”

For the 2013 school year, the clubs will have extra money for a joint project, thanks to the legacy of the late Bruce Hunter, OVC Professor Emeritus, who, sadly, passed away in 2011. Hunter was an avian disease expert who had a long-standing relationship with the poultry industry, and was working on biosecurity research for small flocks in a joint project with PIC and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). The PIC decided to make some of what remained of Hunter’s research grant ($3,500) available to the two clubs for a project that would both honour and respect Hunter’s memory.

Recent OAC Projects

The OAC Poultry Club is made up of students who share an interest in poultry, whether enrolled in an agriculture-related program or not. The club is responsible for data collection, artificial insemination and genetic selection of the Shaver Heritage hens at the University of Guelph’s Arkell Research Station. They also tour poultry facilities such as hatcheries, research farms and grading stations, as well as hold events featuring guest speakers.

During the 2011 school year, the OAC club created an educational DVD to promote proper on-farm biosecurity measures in collaboration with PIC and OMAFRA.

“We placed an emphasis on pathogen transmission and prevention,” says club president, Jacob Pelissero. “Following completion, we did a formal presentation to industry at the PIC Poultry Innovations Conference in 2011.”

During the following school year, the club worked with the PIC on a Turkey Careers Project, an online pamphlet designed to educate students on job opportunities in the turkey industry. Members also started working with PIC to create a safety awareness campaign called 1000 Ways to Die on a Farm.

“It will contrast potentially dangerous farming procedures with the proper safety precautions and procedures,” Pelissero explains. “In a nutshell, we will produce a DVD and an interactive website that will also have a smartphone version.”

The students are helping to generate the idea story-boards and interview questions for veterinarians, producers and industry technicians, as well as provide some information that will be presented on the website. Some students may also help with the filming of the DVD in the spring/summer. The proposed completion date for the project is November 2013.

“As a part of a class and on our own time, we have a weekly meeting to brainstorm ideas and discuss plans for the video,” Pelissero says. “We’ll present a slide show of ideas to a focus group of industry and the project committee members in the spring. The focus group will also be able to provide us with feedback and input on the ideas.”

Many students are also working with OAC club vice-president and graduate student, Kayla Price, on a coccidiosis project.

“It will educate producers about methods of control and biosecurity measures that can help manage coccidiosis in various production and housing systems,” explains Pelissero. “The initial brainstorming on this project will be performed by undergraduate, graduate and veterinary students as well as other industry members. We intend to make this project as informed and end-user centred as we can.”

The project topic for this year, which will be shared between the OAC and OVC Clubs using the new funding, has not yet been decided. It could be focused, Pelissero says, on biosecurity research/education, genetic research and improvements, or new technologies and animal welfare.

Beyond the University of Guelph in Ontario, the Production Animal Club at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine recently held a poultry-related lab.

“Province of Saskatchewan Poultry Extension people brought in some daily mortalities so that students were able to perform necropsies and determine causes of death,” says Club spokesperson and vet student Tara Zachar. “It allowed students that have had no experience with poultry to get used to the differences in anatomy from that of mammalian species, and also allowed for more hands-on necropsy experience.”

Zachar is also in the midst of planning tours of a local hatchery and processing plant to try to further broaden the industry knowledge base of vet students. However, neither the University of Calgary’s Association of Veterinary Students’ Production Animal Health Club nor the University of Prince Edward Island vet school’s clubs currently have any activities related to poultry in the works.

For More Information

  • Educational DVD on farm biosecurity measures:
  • Turkey Career Project:
Published in Turkeys

The February 2011 issue of the CPRC update introduced a new avian influenza (AI) research program, initiated as part of the Poultry Science Cluster.* Since that time, scientists from across the country have been working collaboratively to answer the following questions about AI:

How does AI virus adapt?

Certain subtypes of AI virus have moved beyond their natural reservoir of wild birds and have developed the ability to infect domestic poultry, sometimes with devastating results. To better understand the biological basis for this adaptation, Dr. Yohannes Berhane and his team at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are using modern molecular biology techniques to, in essence, tear apart and reassemble the viral genomes in different configurations in order to mimic mutations observed in the field. Many so-called “re-assortment” AI viruses have been developed and characterized. These studies are revealing how the virus induces immune responses and causes disease in chickens.

How is it transmitted?

Avian influenza viruses are mainly transmitted by direct bird-to-bird contact and by contact with virus-contaminated materials; however, indirect contact or airborne transmission has been implicated in a number of AI outbreaks. By studying aerosolized viruses in carefully controlled experiments in the lab, as well as under commercial conditions, Dr. Jiewen Guan’s lab, also at CFIA, has confirmed that infectious viruses can be transmitted to chickens from the air and from other chickens through indirect contact. The amount of virus required to cause infection through indirect contact is surprisingly small. The results of this research have important implications for how AI is spread.

How does the chicken react?

Dr. Shayan Sharif at the University of Guelph is the lead on research that continues to produce new information on chicken immune responses to AI virus infection and to a commercial vaccine (not approved for use in Canada). Dr. Sharif’s team has identified components of the virus that elicit the greatest immune responses and may, therefore, be suitable components to include in vaccines. A number of molecules that act as adjuvants (immune system boosters) have also been identified that could improve the efficacy of these vaccines.

Is vaccination a viable  strategy?

One of the main goals of the overall research program is to develop a rational strategy to control AI infection in commercial poultry. Such a strategy may include vaccination. Dr. Éva Nagy and her team at the University of Guelph have developed a vaccine system, based on fowl adenovirus (FAdV), that can deliver AI virus antigens to the bird, and that can be administered via injection in the egg pre-hatch, or given orally in feed or water. Dr. Sharif’s group developed a different type of vaccine, based on what is known as a virosome, which can elicit protective immune responses against AI virus.

Dr. Dele Ogunremi and his team of researchers at CFIA have been working with Drs. Nagy and Sharif to assess various administration routes for candidate vaccine systems. The plan is to build upon the foundation laid by this research and to develop a strategy that combines virosome and FAdV-based vaccines. These two vaccines should complement and synergize each other, leading to enhanced protection against infection.

Furthermore, several adjuvants will be screened for their ability to further enhance vaccine efficacy. Candidate vaccine formulations will be tested against a range of low pathogenicity or highly pathogenic AI viruses using various routes of administration to determine which is most protective and practically feasible for the purpose of mass vaccination. It is expected that this research will lead to the creation of vaccine formulations that can mitigate the negative health effects of AI and control spread of the virus from vaccinated and infected birds.

*This research is part of the 2010-13 Poultry Science Cluster, which is supported by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as part of Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. CPRC and a number of industry and government organizations also provided funding for this work.

For more details on these or any other CPRC activities, please contact The Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, Ont., K1R 7S8. Phone: 613-566-5916, Fax: 613-241-5999, e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at

Published in Biosecurity
Mar. 28, 2013 - A strain of probiotic bacteria that can fight harmful bacterial infections in poultry has the ability to change its coat, according to new findings from the Institute of Food Research.

The probiotic is currently being taken forward through farm-scale trials to evaluate how well it combats Clostridium perfringens – a cause of necrotic enteritis in poultry and the second most common cause of food poisoning in the UK

The researchers at IFR, which is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, had previously found that the probiotic Lactobacillus johnsonsii, when given to young chicks, prevents the colonisation of C. perfringens. Now, in research published in the journal PLOS ONE, they have found that the probiotic bacteria have the ability to alter their coat. They speculate that this could be one way in which the probiotic outcompete C. perfringens.

The researchers noticed when examining the bacteria that a small number of them appear smooth. They identified genes responsible for making a special coat, or slime capsule, which the bacteria surround themselves in. This protects the bacteria from stomach acids and bile salts, and helps them come together to form biofilms. It may also protect against drying out when outside the host. The natural appearance of smooth mutants could be a ploy used by the bacteria to introduce variation into its populations, making them able to take advantage of different environments.

By turning off one or more of the coat genes, they could see what effect this had on its ability to stick to gut tissues. "The next step is to understand the regulation of the genes involved in making the coat" said Dr Arjan Narbad, who led the studies. "We want to find out whether changing the coat affects the probiotic's fitness to colonise and inhabit the gut."

This in turn could prevent C. perfringens from colonising the gut. This competitive exclusion could be one reason why the probiotic strain prevents the growth of other harmful bacteria.

Understanding the role of the slime capsule coat will inform the commercial development of this strain as a preventative treatment for C. perfringens infection in poultry, especially in regard to how the probiotic is stored and produced. Through the technology transfer company Plant Bioscience Ltd, the strain has been patented and is now in large-scale farm trials to assess its efficacy. As these bacteria have previously been used in the food chain and are considered safe for human consumption, this probiotic strain could become new way of controlling C. perfringens.

As there is a growing pressure to reduce the use of antibiotics in farming, new products are needed to maintain animal welfare standards, reduce the huge costs of necrosis in poultry and help keep our food safe.
Published in Genetics

Mar. 26, 2013, Washington, DC - Until now most experimental vaccines against the highly lethal H5N1 avian influenza virus have lacked effectiveness. But a new vaccine has proven highly effective against the virus when tested in both mice and ferrets. It is also effective against the H9 subtype of avian influenza.

The research is published online ahead of print in the Journal of Virology. The strength of the new vaccine is that it uses attenuated, rather than "killed" virus. (Killed viruses are broken apart with chemicals or heat, and they are used because they are safer than attenuated viruses.) Killed virus vaccines against avian influenza are injected into the bloodstream, whereas this vaccine is given via nasal spray, thus mimicking the natural infection process, stimulating a stronger immune response.

The danger of current attenuated virus vaccines is that they might exchange dangerous genetic material with garden variety influenza viruses of the sort that strike annually, potentially rendering a lethal but very hard to transmit influenza virus, such as H5, easily transmissible among humans. To mitigate those dangers, the study authors, led by Daniel Perez of the University of Maryland, came up with an ingenious design. Influenza viruses carry their genetic material in eight "segments," explains coauthor and University of Maryland colleague Troy Sutton. When viruses reassort, they exchange segments. But each segment is unique, all eight are needed, and the viruses are unfit if they contain more than eight segments.

The vaccine is based on an attenuated version of the H9 virus, with an H5 gene added into one of the H9 virus' segments, to confer immunity to the H5 virus. Segment 8, which is composed of the so-called NS1 and NS2 genes, was split apart, and the NS2 gene was moved into segment 2, adjacent to the polymerase gene, which copies the virus' genetic material during replication. Placing NS2 next to the polymerase gene slowed its function, interfering with the virus' replication. That makes the vaccine safer.

The next step was to engineer the H5 gene into the vaccine. It was inserted into segment 8, where the NS2 gene had been.

Another aspect of the new vaccine's design makes it safer still, by rendering successful reassortment less likely. Both NS1 and NS2 are needed for viral replication. Since the two genes are now separated into different segments, any reassortment will have to include both segments, instead of just segment 8, in order for a reassortant virus to be viable. This greatly reduced the probability of successful reassortment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes avian influenza subtypes H5, H7, and H9 as potential pandemic viruses, because they all have in rare instances infected humans, and because they circulate in wild birds. Single reassortants could be sufficient to breach the species barrier, and since they do not circulate among us, we lack any immunity. Moreover, H5 is unusually lethal, having killed roughly half of those few it is confirmed to have infected.

A copy of manuscript can be found online at The paper is scheduled for formal publication in the second May 2013 issue of the Journal of Virology.

Published in Turkeys

Forecasting how many broiler breeders we need to supply customer orders is a critical part of an efficient, profitable business.  So is being able to take full advantage of the genetic potential of today’s breeds.

One critical part of the process, converting hatching eggs to chicks, is vitally important and some practical steps to help accomplish this can be quite helpful.  There are three things to focus on: egg quality, effective hatchery management and chick quality.

Egg quality

The first stage is monitoring the quality of the egg pack coming into the hatchery and maintaining this quality before incubation. But what is allowed into the hatchery?  

Be sure to evaluate the egg pack for size, dirt, cracks, deformities, double yolks, inverted placement and uniformity.

Standards within hatcheries should be made to ensure consistent quality and all departments must follow it.  All these criteria, if not measured against standards, can negatively impact results.  

In addition, egg quality can also be influenced by:  

  • Size – a chick’s weight is usually 67- 68 per cent of its original egg weight (multistage incubation), so a small egg results in a small chick.  Chicks below the minimum size will dehydrate very rapidly after hatch.  
  • Dirty eggs – can result in severe bacterial contamination, which could result in eggs exploding at transfer or omphalitis in baby chicks.
  • Cracked eggs – do not hatch, but eggs with micro-cracks will hatch around 50 per cent of the expected rate and all chicks that hatch will be culls.  
  • Deformed eggs – can cause the chicks to mal-position, which in turn reduces hatch and chick quality.  
  • Double yolks – should be culled.  
  • Inverted eggs – will hatch approximately 40 per cent of the expected rate and the chicks produced will be culls.
  • Uniformity of air flow – if present throughout the incubators, the hatch window decreases and will allow for a much more efficient pull time.  

Next, a good egg holding program should be implemented from the farm to the incubator.  The temperature of an egg at lay is approximately 40oC  (104oF).   From there, egg temperatures should decrease and increase following a perfect ‘V’ pattern, with the lowest temperatures occurring at the hatchery. 

Starting on the farm at 40oC (104oF), the egg temperatures may fall to typically 20oC (68oF) in the hatchery, and then rise again to incubation at 37.6oC (99.7oF).  It is extremely important that egg temperatures do not fluctuate away from the V-shaped pattern.  

Temperature fluctuations will cause embryonic mortality and loss of hatch.  The temperature is all the egg holding areas must be monitored – the breeder house, breeder house egg room, transportation to the hatchery, hatchery egg storage and pre-warming.

Effective hatchery management

There are four important programs to use in a hatchery: quality assurance, set-transfer-to-pull, sanitation and preventive maintenance.

A quality assurance program consists of egg assessment as already described, embryo diagnosis and chick quality assessment.  Monitoring these three components correctly is a hatchery manager’s most valuable tool.

Egg assessment can tell what is going into our incubators, embryo diagnosis will troubleshoot hatch problems and chick quality assessment will determine how well incubation and hatchery programs are working via examinations of percentages of hatch, fertility and hatch of fertile.  This will enable us to diagnose problems and effect solutions.  

Additionally, when performing an embryo diagnosis, it is important to be accurate and consistent so the results can be used as an information tool.  This can identify certain problem incubators or rooms, and certain days when issues occur.


Our target is 504 hours of incubation — exactly 21 days. As an example, if the eggs are set at 5:00 am, then they should be ready to pull 21 days later at 5:00 am.  If we are under or over this target, then we have problems during incubation.  

The hatch window should be targeted at 33 hours or less (multistage) from first to last chick.  The shorter the hatch window, the better the chick quality will be.

Transfer should take place between set and pull, where eggs are taken out of the setter and the egg flat and put into the hatcher and hatcher trays, and be smooth and efficient. Eggs should not be left out for a prolonged length of time. 

Additionally, extreme care should be taken to prevent cracked eggs, which are especially important when moving eggs into the hatcher.

Changing set time, transfer time or pull time will affect the baby chick.  Be careful before altering this plan — know the cause and effect before making a change, since eggs cannot be set on a random schedule.  Rather, strict programs must be implemented and followed to maintain quality and control.


Hatcheries should be cleaned and disinfected continuously.  The most important task is removing all organic material before disinfecting, which can hide in corners, under racks, on wheels and in any crack or crevice in a setter or hatcher. 

All material has to be removed; otherwise the presence of organic material will reduce the efficacy of disinfectant products to sanitize the surface area.

Be sure to use disinfection products effective against the challenge specific to the hatchery.  A sensitivity test can be performed at your own or a local laboratory to identify the products, which are most effective against your specific bacteria or mold challenge.

Good air quality is also one of the best disinfectants available.  It is important to ventilate and pressurize the hatchery correctly, which not only satisfies the oxygen requirements of embryos and chicks, but also prevents cross contamination.

Remember, too, that transport vehicles, which handle eggs or chicks, need to be part of the hatchery sanitation program.

Preventive maintenance

There are three kinds of maintenance: predictive, preventive and reactive. Reactive maintenance costs more than preventive maintenance, which costs more than predictive.  

Since incubators run continuously, an incubator simply cannot be allowed to fail.  If it does, it can be repaired, but all embryos in the incubator will have been affected. Therefore, programs should be in place to ensure incubator failures do not happen.

Predictive maintenance can be, and often is, overlooked, but it can be very useful, as it can tell from the lifespan of a piece of equipment or component when it should be replaced. Preventive maintenance  — a great tool for budgeting — depends on checklists for the incubator and hatchery equipment and, if followed correctly, costly breakdowns can be minimized.  

In all hatchery areas, temperature, humidity and pressure should also be monitored and calibrated for consistency at all times so incubators and ventilators can cycle properly.

Chick quality

While seven-day mortality is generally a good measure of chick quality, it is a lagging indicator.  Often, when we hear of high seven-day mortality, the first action is to go back into the hatchery and retrace programs and procedures, but that is too late. A chick quality assessment in the hatchery needs to be in place beforehand to ensure good chick quality going to the farm.  

It is also important to score chicks before they leave the hatchery.  Evaluate red hocks, navels (open unhealed navels), heat buttons (navel has closed before the yolk was fully absorbed) and dehydration.  There are different scoring systems that can provide a great tool for assessing different incubators if done correctly, and will show when a trend line starts to go negative.  Besides, it also provides another indicator for how well your preventive maintenance program is working.  

Chick temperatures

Rectal temperatures of baby chicks need to be taken at several time points: before pull, during chick processing, chick holding and at delivery.  Temperatures need to be monitored to make sure they stay around the ideal range of 40oC (104oF).  

Variance from the target temperature will affect broiler performance – chicks will not start properly.

Using a step-down temperature program and increasing airflow through the hatcher will help keep chicks from overheating, provided all your best management practices are in place and temperatures are monitored in the hatcher, separator room, chick room and transportation.

Pre-pull assessment

The pre-pull assessment can be done at different times to make sure programs are in place and working properly.  Twelve hours before pull, 70-80 per cent of chicks should be completely hatched (out of the shell, but can still be wet).  

Another time for pre-pull assessment is 24 hours before pull, where there should be less than 30 per cent hatched. And while performing a 12-hour pre-pull, it is a good time to monitor rectal temperatures.  The target percentage of chicks hatched is according to the expected hatch percentage, not eggs in the tray.  For example, if the tray contains 162 eggs and the flock expected hatch is 87 per cent, then there will be 141 chicks out when the hatch is complete.  At 12 hours pre pull, 99 chicks (70 per cent of 141) will be in the tray.

Critical to meeting goals is having the correct standards in place and achieving them – from the incoming egg pack to the chick delivered to the broiler house.   Remember to confirm that what you think you have is actually what you have. 

Good management practices, and proper implementation of programs and standards, will help ensure maximum hatch efficiency and deliver consistently good chick quality.

Published in Breeders

Hen management is one of the most difficult areas that has been discussed or looked at in the 30-plus years that I have been involved in the poultry industry. And it does not appear to be getting any easier.

The most difficult part to achieve is to be sure that the reduction in feed to the female takes place at the correct time, so as not to affect the egg mass and therefore production. It is important that farmers maintain control of egg size in the later stages of life, since studies have shown that it can affect production, shell quality and fertility – which can ultimately reduce the number of chicks per hen housed.

Therefore, the goal of the producer should be to keep eggs from becoming too large, but keep track and control the flock’s production.

In this article, we will touch on areas that can possibly help control hen egg size by doing quick daily checks, as well as tabulating weekly egg size averages for your flock.

Nutritional effects

Nutritional specification can partially control egg size, but it should be balanced with making sure that the birds receive the correct nutrition needed to maximize peak egg production during its peak egg mass.

“The most important nutrients for control of egg size are linoleic acid, protein and specific amino acids,” according to Emma Fleming, the Technical Transfer Manager for Aviagen Inc. “Reducing the level of one, or a combination of these nutrients, in the diet will or can reduce egg size. However, this type of reduction is not recommended much before 40 weeks of age as this can reduce egg production (egg mass). Therefore an introduction of a second stage breeder diet at approximately 45 weeks of lay has been beneficial in some flocks in helping to control late egg size but in some cases it may be already too late.”

Reducing the linoleic acid content of the hen’s diet could be beneficial, but it is worth noting that this is more difficult to achieve in maize-based diets than in wheat-based diets. Lowering the total protein in the diet may also help, but a reduction in dietary protein can also reduce egg numbers as well as egg size (see Figure 1).

But, the most significant amino acid affecting egg weight is methionine, and reducing it can help in controlling late egg size. However, it must be repeated again that there is a fine balance between supporting persistent egg production and controlling late egg size when altering nutrient concentrations in the feed.

Therefore, while it is possible to control late egg size by manipulating nutrition, such an approach should be exercised with caution to minimize adversely affecting egg production.

An effective tool to help stay on a consistently balanced diet but control egg size is to calculate the energy available from your feed, as well as your weekly production rate of decline after peak production, which is based on the grams of feed being fed to the bird weekly.

When the flock has reached its peak and starts to show a decline in egg mass, the hen is very close to the optimal time for feed reduction. With constant monitoring, you can help control egg size and keep production more stable during her weekly declines in production (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 – A bird showing the various stages of egg production.

One of the largest issues in egg production for the female is stress – namely water, nutrition, light and disease. The effects can be dramatic or very slight, but it will be noticeable if you are recording weights.

To troubleshoot flocks that are showing issues with their production and egg sizes, the FLAW (Feed, Lights, Air and Water) system can be incredibly useful.

Feed = Change every four days as a nutritional response.
Light = Alter every 10 days as a response to egg size, but it may result in short-term weight loss as well as long-term egg size gain. This has not been seen in all flocks, but has been noted in the past.
Air = Change every 24 – 48 hrs. For every two degrees below 65 degrees, you can lose approximately 8 k/cal of energy solely in the feed.
Water = Be sure to change every 24 hrs.

Start of production

But how do we maximize the accuracy of weighing eggs?

  • Always weigh eggs same time every day.
  • Only weigh gathered eggs, excluding double yolk eggs.
  • Always weigh the eggs in the same place, and never on another table or belt.

Be sure to weigh eggs a full tray at a time if possible, and be sure to use a light tray – I always used the fiber tray, as they are light and most scales can handle that weight and still be accurate.

If you weigh the eggs in a different place every time, there will be no consistency to your egg weights, you will lose accuracy and confuse the egg weight data on how your flock is doing.

It is also important to weigh at least 90 eggs per day (or approximately three trays) to give an accurate egg weight measurement. Remember to also average out the weight to an individual egg average at the end of the week. If sending eggs to a hatchery, only weigh those eggs in order to receive an accurate starting measurement.

Once your eggs have been weighed and averaged, how do you make adjustments to your feed based on egg size? 

As long as you have been collecting the data on a weekly basis, when the birds arrive at 23 weeks of age, a simple calculation can be done: Egg weight X Production % = Egg mass.

Calculation examples

For example, at age 30 weeks, a flock has an observed average egg weight of 59 grams with a production percentage of 88 per cent. Therefore, using the formula above, the egg mass peak equals 51.92 grams.

Once the flock has hit its peak egg mass and you observe a drop in production and an egg weight increase the following week, it may be time to reduce the feed on the flock.

Continuing with the above example, if the production drops to 87 per cent and the egg weight goes to 59.5 grams during the second week, the peak egg mass will drop to 51.76. 

Looking at the reduction, a decision must be made based on the energy of your breeder feed and the amount the
production dropped that week. To do this, you first must know the energy of your feed, and for this example, we will use 2850 k/cal. 

To calculate the energy per bird you must take your feed rate per bird and multiply it to the energy of your feed per bird.
Example: 159 grams per bird X 2.850 energy of feed per bird = 453 k/cal of energy per bird being fed at week 31.

Feed Reduction examples

If your production drops one per cent at the end of week: Take the drop in production from that week (1 per cent) and multiply by 1.8 k/cal, which gives 1.8 k/cal to be reduced for that week.

453 k/cal – 1.8 k/cal = 451.2 k/cal per bird. 

When 451.2 is divided by 2.850 energy of feed (based on the energy in the feed being supplied to the flock), you get 158.32 grams per bird. Therefore, you were feeding 159 grams initially, so the next week you should only be feeding only 158.32 grams (a drop in feed rate of .68 grams of feed per bird for that week based on the drop in production and energy required).

What if your production drops two percent at the end of a week? 

Take the production drop percentage and multiple by 1.8 k/cal to get 3.6 k/cal of energy to be reduced per bird.

Therefore: 453 k/cal – 3.6 k/cal = 449.4 k/cal per bird.

Finally, if you divide 2.850 energy of feed from 449.4 kcal/bird, you end up with a total of 157.68 grams per bird, a total drop in feed rate of 1.31 grams per bird.


It needs to be pointed out that while 1.8 k/cal is a constant base energy value number, all the other values can change based on egg weight, production of the flock and the energy in your feed ration.

This calculation should be done on a weekly basis to tell when it is time to start reducing or increasing feed and by how much. In essence, you are letting the production of the flock and the energy of your feed dictate how much should be reduced on any given week. 

It should be noted that it is possible to notice egg weight improvements by simply weighing the eggs, watching the trends and keeping an eye out for flaws in production. 

There are no silver bullets in this industry that are a given, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Published in Eggs - Breeders

Poultry producers understand that the success of their industry depends on the health and wellbeing of their flocks – and they have always been committed to giving their poultry what they need to thrive. Historically, those needs have been defined under parameters such as production performance and freedom from disease. Significant strides continue to be made in both of those areas, but there is also growing interest in understanding how the welfare of poultry is impacted by the production systems in which they are placed and what birds need to further enhance their welfare. A thorough understanding of this impact becomes increasingly important as concern for the welfare of food animals continues to rise in Canada and around the world.

Welfare in the poultry industry is consistently identified as a major research area and has been included in the “National Research Strategy for Canada’s Poultry Sector” (for a copy of this document, search for “strategy” in the CPRC website). In response to a need for a more coordinated poultry welfare research program, the Poultry Welfare Centre was established in 2009 as part of a four-way agreement between the CPRC, Poultry Industry Council, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the University of Guelph. A lot has been going on at the Centre ever since, both in terms of capacity building and research activities.

Dr. Stephanie Torrey, an AAFC Research Scientist co-located at the Centre is leading a team of researchers from Guelph, Saskatchewan and the Scottish Agricultural College in investigating the welfare and production implications of alternative broiler breeder feeding strategies. Successful implementation of this research could allow the industry to preserve the reproductive potential of its breeder stock, while mitigating the welfare impacts of restricted feeding.

Dr. Tina Widowski, a professor in the Department of Animal & Poultry Science at Guelph, was named the Egg Farmers of Canada Research Chair in Poultry Welfare in 2011. She is involved in a number of research programs, one of which is looking at the effects of the rearing experience and housing system of parent laying hens. The program examines the behaviour and stress susceptibility of their offspring to determine if these epigenetic effects differ among commercial strains.

A recent addition to the Centre is Dr. Alexandra Harlander-Matauschek, who moved in January to Guelph from the University of Bern, Switzerland, and is interested in continuing her past work on feather pecking in laying hens. She is embarking on a study to determine if common commercial strains of layers differ in locomotory skill development and their ability to adapt to complex production environments, such as aviaries. Results from this research, coupled with those from Dr. Widowski’s work, will help the layer industry select birds that are appropriate for the production system in which they are placed and adjust management practices to help prepare young birds for those environments. Drs. Harlander-Matauschek, Torrey and Widowski are also collaborating on a study looking at the impact of ammonia on the welfare of layers, broilers and turkeys.

These are just a few examples of the research led by members of the Poultry Welfare Centre, who also help teach and train the welfare scientists of the future. The Welfare Centre is part of a larger group at Guelph known as the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare (CCSAW; Dr. Widowski is the Director) including 40 associated faculty members with expertise ranging from biological sciences to humanities and economics. The CCSAW is the largest group of its type in North America and is an extremely valuable resource that fosters collaboration and information exchange among researchers from all across Canada and beyond.

Behaviour and welfare science is an essential part of Canada’s poultry research strategy and researchers at the Poultry Welfare Centre are working with scientists across the country in all aspects of animal research to help us understand what our poultry need and how best to provide it.

For more details on these or any other CPRC activities, please contact The Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, Ont., K1R 7S8, phone: 613- 566-5916, fax: 613-241-5999, e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at

The membership of the CPRC consists of 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

Hens are going to become more feminine. Science applied to feeding of poultry is going to make them that way. Main reason why every chicken farmer will love these hens with the extra feminine touch is that they will produce 20 percent more eggs without added feed cost. But this isn't all – pullets will attain peak egg production three weeks ahead of what is now considered normal.

The period of maximum laying is lengthened from 30 to 90 days, according to indications at the end of a full year's experiments. And by stimulation of feminine characteristics in the old hen that has almost ceased to lay at all, she can be restored to within 10 percent of egg production during her pullet year.

The poultryman with this magic control of what goes on in his henhouse will be enabled to hold early-hatched birds over periods of better egg prices as profitable laying members of this flock. He can increase the paying productive period of each of his birds from six to eight months – how much longer is not definitely known. The period of moult in his chickens can be shortened to an average of 31 days per bird, instead of 60 to 90-day moult normally experienced, maintaining 60 percent production from the birds even during moulting.

Key to the almost unbelievably advantageous state of affairs is a hormone. Scientists have known, of course, that hormones account for manifestations of dominant sex traits. They had proved this, even in chickens, by various laboratory methods, including injections, and to varying degrees of success – or its lack. It was conceded generally to be so costly that use of hormone materials in commercial poultry production would be impossible.

Topping more than 35 years' research by other scientists with 12 years' intensive work of his own, an Italian biologist developed feed materials rich in hormones derived from natural sources through special compounding and methods of processing. The discoveries of Professor Antonia Morosoni, formerly assistant to the chief at the Legal Medicinal Institute, University of Palermo, Sicily, were acclaimed widely by various European universities, ministries of agriculture, and numerous scientific organizations.

Satisfying preliminary requirements of the United States Department of Agriculture with European tests of his research, Professor Morosini arranged for limited production of his hormone feeds by a feed company at Lakeland, Fla.

Since a revolutionary type of feed is basis for such astounding claims for improvements in poultry production, it might be said appropriately that "proof of the pudding is in the eating." That's exactly what commercial flocks at Benton's Poultry Farm, on Route 8, near Tampa, have been doing since June 20, 1949.

In tests, under actual commercial poultry farming conditions, that are rounding out a full year this month, practical poultry husbandry has been under the management of Howard C. Benton, Scientific collaborator in tests of the hormone poultry feeds is Dr. C. D. Gordon, former USDA poultry co-ordinator, Washington, D.C., conductor of research in poultry genetics at Auburn University, and recently director for four years at Chinsegut Hill federal experiment station near Brooksville.

First test at Benton's farm involved a pen of 100 pullets three weeks old. To establish a control, the pen was replicated by another with an equal number of birds selected on a family basis. Management involving vaccination, housing, sanitation, etc., was identical for each pen. Feed for both pens was of comparable quality, and feeding was in strict accordance with manufacturers' directions. Only difference is that feed for birds in the test pen contained hormones.

At five months of age, each individual bird in both pens was checked for weight. Birds on hormone feed test averaged more than eight ounces heavier than birds of the check or control pen. The test birds showed more apparent female characteristics in their development and laid their first egg three weeks ahead of the controls. Eggs produced by hormone-fed birds were consistently heavier than those produced by the other birds even six months after laying started – which was one year after the experiment began.

A pen of 100 pedigreed New Hampshires between five and six months old was replicated to establish control for the second test. Six months after the test began; chickens on hormone feed were continuing to lay 20 percent more eggs than the control birds on standard feed. Eggs produced by hormone-fed chickens were larger by 1 to 1 ½ oz. per dozen than eggs laid by the control birds on standard feed. This test is being continued indefinitely to determine how long hormones feed will prove effective and what its ultimate effect will be both on the birds and their productivity.

Chickens in a third test were from a group of 26 pedigreed New Hampshires that had been entered in the Florida National Egg Laying Contest at Chipley, Fla. During 50 weeks of the contest, these hens laid 5,721 eggs. But during the last month of the contest they laid only 179 eggs; and by the time they were returned to the farm, egg production was negligible. The hens were put n hormone feed for 30 days. In the next month, November, these hens laid 292 eggs. This is a sharp contrast to normal conditions under which contest hens, commercially worn out and in forced moult due to shock from change and travel, were practically out of production. During January, after being on the hormone feed 90 days, this group of hens laid 357 eggs.

Summarising the records involving hens in this test, 26 birds laid an average of 219.2 eggs per bird during 350 days. Following this performance, 21 of the same birds averaged 97.5 eggs each in 180 days. What this means is that hens normally useless and out of production have been able to maintain a 53.9 percent production on hormone feed, although they were seven months older than at the end of the egg-laying contest at Chipley and a year older than at their peak of production reached during the contest.

As of May 1, these hens had been laying 18 months. This apparently proves that hormone feeding enables the poultryman to keep old hens – even when they are 27 months old – as profitable producers in the laying flock. Lifetime production of the birds reported in this test is 339.7 eggs per bird average. This is 52.5 percent production – and the poultryman whose flock does that well makes money. This test also is being continued indefinitely.

Although Florida investigators wish to make no specific claims at this time, it seems as though knowing how to develop feminine hens places them nearer to solution of the age-old mystery of sex predetermination. European research indicates that chickens fed hormone feeds and selected for families showing high feminine reaction to hormone stimuli can be bred to produce fertile eggs that will hatch up to 80 percent pullets – instead of the normal 48 percent.

The theory applied to limited experiments in Florida so far has shown maximum of 60 percent pullets in one hatch, with an average of better than 52 percent. Practical interpretation of this is that some day poultrymen may have a new strain of baby chicks that are feminine to the last feather, because mamma and grandma ate hormone feed; and they'll grow into super egg producers. – "Poultry Digest."

Published in Research

Mar. 7, 2013, Guelph, ON - Corn could offer a solution to vision problems that many people face as they age, according to a new study from the University of Guelph.

Researchers at Guelph bred a new strain of corn to contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect eyes. The corn was fed to chickens that laid eggs rich in these helpful carotenoids, and the researchers speculated that the carotenoids in the egg yolk would be more concentrated and absorbed better than those ingested directly from corn.

In age-related macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness in older adults, the eyes are low in lutein and zeaxanthin. Doctors routinely recommend eating leafy greens, the only other vegetables rich in these antioxidants.

In the paper published in the journal Crop Science, plant agriculture professor Elizabeth Lee reported that the high-carotenoid diet produced eggs containing the antioxidants. Eggs from hens fed this corn contained less lutein than those of hens fed marigold petal extract, the current way of producing high-lutein eggs. But the researchers believe that it is possible to make a new breed of corn that contains more lutein and zeaxanthin, leading to eggs with more of these beneficial compounds, and providing benefits to both egg consumers and corn producers.

Prof. Barry Shelp, Plant Agriculture, also worked on the study. “Elizabeth had theorized that it was possible to breed corn with increased lutein and zeaxanthin, and we wondered whether it was possible to get these antioxidants to people?” he said. “Since most hens are fed corn, the best solution seems to be egg yolks where the carotenoids would be accompanied by oils, which may facilitate absorption by the human body. We found that lutein and zeaxanthin contents of the eggs were increased in hens ingesting this novel corn, so this gives us something to work with.”

The researchers crossed Argentine Orange Flint maize with standard North American corn. The new breed contains more lutein and zeaxanthin than any other corn known.

“This was something that we felt had potential for not just egg producers but also Ontario corn farmers,” said post-doctoral researcher Andrew Burt. “The goal for our team was to take our concept and create products that would be beneficial to farmers and which consumers will want. We still have some work to do, but we proved the concept is a valid one.”

Lee and her team are encouraged by the findings, which show that researchers can breed plants to produce functional foods.

“This is a way in which crop scientists can produce items that have improved nutritional benefits for human health,” she said. “It seems likely that we can achieve greater results in the future, and provide lasting benefits for farmers and consumers.”

Published in Nutrition and Feed

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