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

My association with Canadian poultry breeding began early in 1967, when I moved from an academic position at Wye College – then the agricultural school of England’s London University – to working at Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms Ltd., as research coordinator. At that time, the breeding industry was evolving rapidly from relatively humble beginnings into an international business. The forces underlying the evolution of the industry were several: firstly, there was the capacity of breeders to harness the science of genetics for the improvement of commercial poultry. Additionally, the rapid expansion of both the egg and poultry meat fields transformed from relatively unimportant, disorganized, segments of agriculture into financially viable and successful consumer-oriented industries.

During the period from 1912 until the late 1960s, breeding had undergone significant changes and developments. With the emergence of Mendel’s pioneering studies of plant genetics (first reported in the 1850s and rediscovered in 1905), scientists began to investigate whether the same principles applied to animals, especially chickens, since they were plentiful and easy to work with.

Commercial breeding can be said to have begun when some farmers decided to make choices among the birds available for reproducing. These choices were, in the early days, almost exclusively based on appearance; physical characteristics could be emphasized and to some extent, modified so that a degree of uniformity could be established, thus differentiating individual farmers’ stocks.  With the invention of the trap nest, it became possible to obtain individual performance records, although these were not widely used until the 1930s and ’40s. Geneticists had found that variation in physical traits such as comb type, plumage and skin colour, could be explained using Mendel’s work, but they had difficulty explaining traits such as body weight, egg production and mortality, which were not divided into discrete classes, but varied on a continuous basis. However, the serious breeders developed progeny testing to a fine art, and
were able to make significant improvements in egg production and other commercial traits.

By the outbreak of the Second World War, many breeders, including Donald Shaver (aged 19 at the time), had established themselves locally as sources of baby chicks, and most sold hatching eggs, breeding pairs or trios, to other breeders. Across Canada, every small town or village would have had one or two hatcheries, some just using internal sources of hatching eggs, and others purchasing improved stock from outside sources. The process was labour-intensive and most of the hatcheries were small, inefficient and only operated on a seasonal basis. Customers were small, too, with few owning more than 100 birds.

In the late 1940s, the breeding industry began to develop more rapidly. When Donald Shaver returned from war service, although his original stocks were lost in a fire, he quickly re-established himself in the breeding business in Galt (now part of Cambridge), Ont. There were many similar breeders across Canada, and in most of the developed countries of the world, but developments were delayed in Europe due to the war, but serious breeding companies emerged in the United States. Prof. Goodale developed the Mount Hope strain of White Leghorn, which was widely sold and probably still contributes to some of today’s hybrids. Kimber Farms in California employed its first professional geneticist, Dr. W.F. Lamoreux, in 1943.  

By the 1950s, geneticists were beginning to understand how genetics worked with commercial traits, but the resources necessary for the useful application of this knowledge to a professional breeding operation were not cheap. They were quite beyond the capability of the average small-town breeder, and those who developed the complex breeding infrastructure knew that they needed more than local markets to support such an investment. Thus, the system of franchise, or distributor, hatcheries was born, in which the local hatchery obtained male and female parent breeders from a primary breeder, grew and mated them, and used the resulting hatching eggs for the production of commercial chicks.

 In 1967, Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms Ltd. had at least seven hatchery distributors in Ontario alone, plus others in most Canadian provinces and large ranges of franchised distributors were also spread across the United States. Many had originally had their own breeding programs, but chose to become distributors instead – one of these, Demler Farms in Orange County, Calif., was one of Shaver’s larger franchise hatcheries. It eventually merged with an egg production company and changed its name to Dairy Fresh, which in turn became part of Cal-Maine Foods, currently one of the United States’ largest egg companies.

Of course, competing breeders had similar distribution systems to support their ever-growing research and development programs. By the early 1970s, commercial poultry meat and egg production breeding in North America was dominated by approximately 20 primary breeders that initially specialized in one or two products. Shaver gained commercial prominence with its Starcross 288 breed, a White Leghorn cross. The company quickly expanded to both brown-egg layers and broilers, since the same sales force could, it was believed, support these different products. Many primary breeders specialized only in broiler stocks, and some bred exclusively either male or female strains.

Although meat stocks were selected primarily based on growth, conformation and feed conversion, egg layer stocks had to be subject to highly complex selection programs involving full pedigree breeding, individual identification, trap nesting and so on. The exact selection criteria and breeding methods became closely guarded secrets. No longer were breeders willing to sell each other stocks, and in fact went to great lengths to prevent competitors from acquiring their pure lines. When commercial stocks consist of two-way crosses, risk of strain piracy is high. Thus, the use of three-way or four-way crosses became common.

The 1960s were also the time when long distance air travel became economical, so that not only passengers, but also day-old chicks, could be transported halfway around the world in 24 to 36 hours, thus opening international markets to those breeders willing to go after them. Shaver was the only Canadian breeder to thoroughly exploit international markets: at their height in the late 1970s they were selling in more than 90 countries, and had company-owned (or joint-venture) breeding farms in the United States, England, France, Germany, Pakistan and Barbados. Both domestic and international sales were still supported by technical and veterinary expertise from their headquarters in Cambridge. These were the days when most breeding companies produced detailed, printed management guides for all of their products.

Until the 1960s most breeding companies were privately owned, but as capital demands expanded, there was a greater need for external funding sources. Shaver sold a part-interest in his company to Cargill Inc. in the early 60s and the balance when he retired in 1985. Other breeders, particularly in the United States, tended to sell out to larger companies to help facilitate their expansion. In the 1970s, a number were sold to pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer, Merck, Upjohn and others), but whatever synergies were expected failed to materialize and most of these relationships were later abandoned.

In this process, the number of primary breeders continued to shrink, through erosion or mergers. And the slow shift back to poultry-oriented companies having control of the breeding process began. The franchise system also gradually broke down, as breeder-owned or joint-venture hatcheries replaced them, although this did not happen in Canada, largely due to the system of supply management, which keeps commercial flock sizes lower than, for example, the United States.

In terms of Canadian activity, the Institute de Selectionne Animale (ISA) has a strong presence in the former Shaver facilities in Cambridge, Ont., where research and development continues on white-egg stocks, and from where grandparents and parents are shipped to the United States and other overseas markets. Lohmann has a grandparent farm and hatchery in Brantford, Ont., also the source of parent stock for Canada, the United States and other markets. Hybrid Turkeys continues to operate primary breeding and distribution facilities in and around Kitchener, Ont.  

Multiplication and distribution of commercial stocks continue to evolve. Since the 1970s most integrated broiler businesses have established their own breeding farms and hatcheries. This is less so in the egg industry although several of the largest companies in the United States have their own hatcheries. More common is the establishment of breeder-owned or joint venture hatcheries, which have largely replaced the franchise hatcheries as the primary distribution method for egg-type chicks.  

Distribution systems for egg stocks in Canada have remained mostly as franchised hatcheries, as stated previously, due to relatively small commercial flock sizes resulting from supply management. Broiler hatcheries in Canada vary: some are independent; some, such as integrated production companies, own others.

Thus, in the past 100 years, poultry breeding in Canada has evolved from hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of small, independent farms that did very little in the way of selective breeding, to the point at which most breeding work is done by a handful of multinational companies whose products are distributed and multiplied on an international basis. Canada has both contributed to, and benefited from, this exciting evolution.

By the first decade of the 21st century, ownership of primary breeding poultry organizations had diminished to the point at which breeding work is controlled by very few companies, listed in the following table.


Published in Key Developments

Feb. 25, 2013, Urbana, IL - Developing strategies to increase the amount of saleable product while reducing dietary inputs is a priority for animal scientists. University of Illinois researchers have been looking at how dietary components affect gut health and disease resistance in chickens.

"An important nutritional outcome is how well an animal is able to digest and metabolize its diet," said Ryan Dilger.

Poultry and swine nutritionists are concerned about dietary fiber in alternative dietary ingredients, particularly the by-products of biofuel production. Fiber concentrations are very high in these ingredients because the starch content is removed during processing.

Dilger and his master's student Emma Wils-Plotz looked at how purified fiber fed to young chicks affects their dietary threonine (Thr) requirements, intestinal morphology, and ability to resist a disease challenge. Threonine is an essential amino acid accounting for as much as 11 percent of mucin, an important component of the mucus layer covering the intestine's absorptive surface, which promotes gut health by protecting the body against bacteria and digestive enzymes.

Previous research has suggested that mucin dynamics may be sensitive to Thr availability. Dilger and Wils-Plotz hypothesized that dietary Thr requirements would increase in the presence of two purified fiber sources, cellulose and pectin, which are natural components of many feed ingredients.

They fed diets containing purified cellulose, pectin, or silica sand (control) to chicks and found that body weight gain and feed efficiency (the conversion of feed into body-weight gain) were reduced when 7 percent supplemental pectin was added to the diet. Pectin creates a viscous environment in the gut that interfered with the birds' ability to access dietary nutrients, thus reducing growth performance. Feeding 7 percent purified cellulose did not provide any nutritional benefit.

In a second experiment, Wils-Plotz and Dilger quantified the dietary threonine requirement in the presence and absence of purified fiber sources. Chicks were fed one of the three fiber-containing diets. Within each diet, they were subdivided into seven groups, each fed a different level of Thr supplementation ranging from 0 to 9.6 grams per kilogram (g/kg). Contrary to the researchers' expectations, birds fed the diet with pectin had the lowest Thr requirements at 5.6 g/kg; birds fed the control diet had the highest, estimated to be 6.8 g/kg. Cellulose-fed birds required 5.8 g/kg.

Ileal tissue, which is at the end of the small intestine, was collected from chicks and examined for physical changes in the villi (small folds in the intestine), crypts (pockets next to the villi), and goblet cells, which produce and secrete mucin. Chicks fed cellulose or pectin had deeper crypts than chicks fed the control diet; crypts were deepest for birds fed cellulose and adequate Thr levels, and their outer intestinal muscle layer (serosa) was thicker. Chicks fed diets containing fiber had higher goblet cell counts than the birds fed the control diet, with highest levels in birds fed the pectin diet with adequate or high Thr levels.

The findings suggest that dietary Thr concentration and fiber source affect growth performance, intestinal morphology, and mucin secretion in young chicks. It also established optimal dietary Thr levels.

Having determined these levels, the researchers wanted to see if fiber and Thr in the diet could affect how chicks responded to a coccidiosis challenge. Coccidiosis is a parasitical disease of the intestinal tract caused by protozoa of the genus Eimeria maxima, which is responsible for major economic losses in the poultry industry.

"Right now, there are few advancements in coccidiosis vaccine development, so we tried to develop dietary approaches to assist the bird through a coccidiosis challenge," Dilger said. "Our hypothesis was that by providing adequate threonine, the bird would have better immune defenses through improved gut function and immunity."

Chicks received either a diet supplemented with pectin or a Thr-deficient control diet and either 75 percent or 125 percent of the previously determined optimal Thr supplement of 6.8 g/kg. Within each dietary treatment, one group of chicks was inoculated with E. maxima; the other was not.

"The goal was to determine the interaction between dietary fiber and dietary threonine, knowing that pectin was going to negatively affect digestion and threonine was going to positively affect intestinal health," Dilger explained.

Growth and feed efficiency were monitored for 16 days; then ileal tissue, mucosal scrapings, and the ceca (the part of the digestive tract used for water absorption and fermentation) were collected. Researchers looked at growth performance, morphological changes in the intestine, changes in the cecal environment, and gene expression in the ceca and mucosa.

"The most important part of the story was the cytokine response to the acute coccidiosis infection," Dilger said.

Cytokines regulate how the immune system communicates with the rest of the body and adjust the immune response. Interleukin-12 (IL-12) expression in the ceca was increased in birds fed the control diet with high threonine. Interleukin-1 beta expression increased with infection but only in birds fed the low-Thr diet.

Expression of interferon gamma (IFNG), a protein made and released in response to the presence of pathogens, increased in the ileal mucosa of birds fed high Thr, and was highest in the uninfected chicks. It increased with infection but only in control-fed birds

The researchers concluded that while pectin had some protective effects against coccidiosis infection, Thr supplementation had an even greater influence on the intestinal immune response and helped to maintain growth of chicks infected with coccidiosis. This study and others being conducted in Dilger's lab highlight the potential for using nutritional strategies to manage poultry and swine diseases.

Published in Nutrition and Feed

Jan. 23, 2013, Calgary, AB - Pork and poultry producers have an innovative new option to enhance livestock feeding and capture the benefits of a natural way to profitability from Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.).

Maxi-Gen Plus from CBS Inc. is now available in both the U.S. and Canada and is a unique formulation that delivers a range of productivity and performance benefits, while offering a viable alternative to traditional growth promoting products. The product, which features a rich source of conditionally essential nutrients for young animals, is showcased this week at the Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines and around the upcoming International Poultry Exhibition in Atlanta.

“Maxi-Gen Plus is a powerful tool to support livestock performance and improve the profitability of producers,” says Owen Jones, CBS Inc. president. “It represents a new option in the marketplace that is designed to fit well with the changing demands on today’s pork and poultry industries.”

Research conducted with Maxi-Gen Plus shows multiple benefits for the animals: it stimulates intestinal development and improves immune system response and improves average daily gain and feed intake, while enhancing nutrient absorption and gut health.

“One of the key benefits of Maxi-Gen Plus is that it helps to stimulate tissue growth and recovery during periods of stress,” says Rob Patterson, technical services manager for CBS Inc. “It mimics health-enhancing components that both pigs and poultry produce on their own. However, our research shows that during times of stress such as weaning and transport, the supply produced by the animal is often not enough to meet the demand for optimal health and performance. Maxi-Gen Plus fills that need to maximize these benefits for the producer.”

The results with Maxi-Gen Plus are dramatic and reflect its unique position in the marketplace, says Patterson. “The product is highly concentrated in its beneficial components, which allows for lower inclusion levels, which improves cost efficiency for producers.”

Research conducted by CBS Inc. in partnership with the University of Manitoba showcase the potential. One recent trial conducted with young pigs compared a diet with Maxi-Gen Plus to a traditional medicated diet. The classic designed study with 210 pigs over 28 days showed pigs on the Maxi-Gen Plus diet performed at virtually the same rate as those on the medicated diet. “This reinforces the potential to use Maxi-Gen Plus as an alternative to medicated feed or to reduce the level of medicated feed used.”

A separate young pigs trial comparing these two diets showed the Maxi-Gen Plus diet helped the animals fight off disease — cutting mortality rate in half and dramatically reducing post-challenge incidence of scouring. “The mode of action is that the nucleotides are absorbed in the gut, which is resulting in better gut health and development, so the animal has a better chance of fighting off the infection.”

Feed conversion under the Maxi-Gen Plus diet was also improved post-challenge in this second trial. “This indicates multiple actions,” says Patterson. “We saw less scouring, less mortality and pigs catch up quicker and better in terms of feed intake and feed conversion.”

Poultry results are equally promising, says Patterson. In one key example, a 35 day feeding trial with broiler chickens over showed birds supplemented with Maxi-Gen Plus were significantly heavier than control birds, with body weight and average daily gain results statistically equivalent to birds fed a medicated diet. Maxi-Gen Plus components have also been shown to alleviate stress and improve immune status in poultry.

For information on Canadian Bio-Sysems and its products, please visit

Published in Nutrition and Feed

Last fall, the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) hosted a series of six workshops across Canada in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Workshop objectives were to:

  1. Present and discuss the National Research Strategy for Canada’s Poultry Sector issued in August 2012 and available on CPRC’s website
  2. Review progress to date of the current Poultry Science Cluster co-funded by industry, provincial governments and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Growing Forward program
  3. Explore potential elements and partners for a new Cluster under AAFC’s AgriInnovation program scheduled to begin April 1, 2013

The workshop series was part of CPRC’s industry outreach activities to foster ongoing discussion among those involved in Canadian poultry research as well as those who benefit from research discoveries including producers, input suppliers, processors and consumers.

Input on Cluster Development

The main thrust of the agenda was to draw on the broad pool of expertise and representation among workshop participants to receive input on ways that industry can leverage the research completed in the present Poultry Science Cluster and other industry research activities to maintain Canada’s poultry research initiatives. These initiatives will include both the AgriInnovation Science Cluster and ongoing project research supported through a variety of funding sources.

Participants were asked what they liked about CPRC’s approach to development of a potential Cluster application; several themes emerged from responses:

  • A broadly based, balanced approach: Many participants liked that the potential Cluster includes a range of scientific disciplines and that CPRC intends to balance forthcoming funds between Cluster research and individual projects.
  • Based on industry needs: Participants recognized that the potential Cluster construct aligns with industry-identified research priority areas and target outcomes as described in the National Research Strategy.
  • Collaboration: The participants appreciated efforts to solicit input from research groups across the country and encourage them to work together to address research issues.
  • Long-term vision: The relatively long (five-year) time frame of the Cluster program was appreciated by most. Even more so was CPRC’s vision beyond the Cluster to promote sustained funding for poultry research in general.
  • Theme categorization: The participants generally agreed with dividing the cluster application into three broad themes, under each of which specific research activities could be listed.

Participant suggestions to improve the potential Cluster application also fell into themes:

  • Consider using international collaboration.
  • Promote multidisciplinary research and collaboration.
  • Take strategic approaches.
  • Improve communication.
  • Maintain flexibility.
  • Consider the needs of all industry commodities.
  • Secure stable sources of funding.

Next steps

While preparing the Cluster application, CPRC considered all of the valuable feedback received during, and subsequent to, the workshops. A CPRC subcommittee, representing each of the national poultry organizations, identified proposals of particular interest to industry. Proposals were reviewed by CPRC’s Scientific Advisory Committee to ensure scientific merit and several of these research ideas are being incorporated into a Cluster application, to be submitted to AAFC by the end of March.

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, e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us online at

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

Published in New Technology

A recent Canadian on-farm feeding trial demonstrated significant feed cost savings while maintaining live animal performance through the inclusion of Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS) in properly balanced turkey rations. The trial, conducted by Gowans Feed Consulting in conjunction with Great Lakes Poultry Farms Ltd., Fischer Feeds, and the U.S. Grains Council, tested DDGS inclusion rates of nine per cent and 15 per cent.

Turkey producers can therefore proceed with confidence with DDGS inclusion rates of up to 15 per cent, provided that rations are correctly balanced. The exact feed cost savings achieved by producers will depend on the price of DDGS versus the price of other grains and proteins, but may be significant.

Feed Cost Savings

DDGS from corn are a co-product of the U.S. and Canadian ethanol and distillery industries and are widely available across Canada. During most times of the year, they represent a significant opportunity to reduce feed costs.

DDGS are a moderate energy and amino acid ingredient, a good source of available phosphorus and highly palatable. Feeding trials in the United States have demonstrated inclusion rates of up to 20 per cent in tom turkeys without any detrimental impact.

In Canada, turkey producers and nutritionists have been cautious in increasing inclusion rates past 10 per cent for fear of reducing growth performance and increasing wet litter challenges. However, our recent trial demonstrates that DDGS inclusion rates can be safely increased.

Over the last several years, customers of Gowans Feed Consulting have been successfully feeding DDGS at inclusion rates of 10 per cent in the grower and finisher stages of tom turkey rations but were aware of the notion of realizing significant feed cost savings opportunities by increasing the inclusion rates. Table 1 and Figure 1 present the theoretical monthly feed cost savings of feeding DDGS in tom turkey grower finisher rations at 10 per cent and 15 per cent in southwestern Ontario over diets made without DDGS and the cost of DDGS relative to corn and soybean meal. Over the past year, savings at 10 per cent inclusion have ranged from $4.72 to $12.64 per tonne of feed while savings at 15 per cent have ranged from $7.43 to $25.12 per tonne of feed. Feed cost savings are at their highest when DDGS are at a discount to corn and soybean meal prices are over $550 per tonne.


The Feeding Trial

In order to gain confidence and demonstrate these potential savings, a commercial scale feeding evaluation was required. Great Lakes Poultry Farms Ltd., a large modern turkey production complex near Wingham, Ont., had four commercial grow-out barns available and is in close proximity to the Fischer Feeds feed mill, a large-scale fully automated modern facility in Listowel, Ont., with the process control necessary for the trial. The U.S. Grains Council provided funding support for the demonstration. The trial was conducted at Great Lakes Poultry Farms’ Wingham West facility from January through May 2012.

On Jan. 3, 2012, a first allocation of 16,356 commercial tom turkeys (200 Nicholas, 16,156 Hybrid Converter) was placed randomly in one barn.  On Feb. 9 and 10, 2012, a second allocation of 16,175 toms (475 Nicholas and 15,700 Hybrid Converter) was placed randomly in another barn.  All birds on each placement date were grown together and the same feeding program was used.

At six weeks of age, the Jan. 3, 2012, placement was weighed and split evenly between Barns 6 and 7 at the Wingham West grower-finisher commercial turkey barns. At six weeks of age, the Feb. 9 and 10 toms were weighed and split evenly between barns 8 and 9 at Wingham West. Barns 6 and 8 were fed diets containing nine per cent corn DDGS. Barns 7 and 9 were fed diets containing 15 per cent corn DDGS. All diets were formulated to the same nutrient specifications and fed ad libitum. Fifty birds from each barn were weighed weekly to monitor the average daily gain. Feed rations (pelleted) were manufactured at Fischer Feeds. Turkeys were marketed as per the standard protocol to Cold Springs Farm Processing Plant in Thamesford, Ont.

All four barns performed well on their respective treatments, with market weights, growth rate, feed conversion, mortality and feed cost per kilogram of gain achieving their respective targets.

Both treatments performed similarly with the 15 per cent DDGS treatment coming out slightly better in weight gain and with a lower feed cost at 115.5 days. Overall, the feeding trial demonstrated that there were no negative effects of increasing the DDGS inclusion rate. This should give turkey producers and nutritionists the confidence to increase inclusion rates to 15 per cent.

Neil Campbell is a partner with Gowans Feed Consulting, a leading independent poultry and swine nutrition consulting company working for producers across Canada and in select international markets. Neil is responsible for business development and consulting on feed cost reduction and ingredient price risk management for clients. More information on this feeding demonstration can be requested through Neil by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by telephone at 519-866-5927.

Published in Nutrition and Feed

Jan. 9, 2013, Saint Paul, MN - The 42nd annual Midwest Poultry Federation (MPF) Convention has released information regarding its 2013 conference, which will run March 12-14 at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.

  • The Pre-Show Nutrition Symposium and Welcome Reception will be held March 12.
  • Exhibit Hall and education sessions with over 40 speakers are scheduled for March 13-14.
  • The 64th Annual North Central Avian Disease Conference will precede the MPF Convention on March 11-12. (Separate registration fee applies.)
  • The Organic Egg Farmers of America will hold its 3rd annual symposium at the Saint Paul RiverCentre on March 12. (Separate registration fee may apply.)
  • Over the last five years MPF has increased the number of booths in the Exhibit Hall by more than 20%, opening the door for more companies to participate. In 2013, exhibit space continues to expand into a second hall, conveniently adjacent to the main Exhibit Hall.
  • Details on all events are available at

  • Registration for the MPF Convention is available for the following cateogries:
    o Farmer/Processor Attendees - $25 (prior to February 15) and $35 onsite. Farmer/Processor attendees include owners, managers or employees of a turkey, egg, broiler or gamebird company or farm.
    o Allied Individuals (non-exhibitors) – $150/person (prior to February 15) and $160 onsite. Allied Individuals are those companies who will do business at the show but do not lease booth.
    o Government personnel, university personnel and poultry nonprofit/association personnel - $25 (prior to February 15) and $35 onsite.
    o Complimentary for university students, spouses and children under 18 attending with a paid registrant. (All complimentary registrants must show proper I.D.)

  • All registration fees include the Pre-Show Nutrition Symposium, Welcome Reception, and two days of exhibits and workshops. Fees are separate to attend the North Central Avian Disease Conference and the Organic Egg Farmers of America Symposium.
  • Online preregistration is available at until February 15, 2013.
  • For the latest hotel availability, visit

For more information or to receive registration and hotel reservation information, please visit

Published in Company News

Dec. 19, 2012 - After a worldwide debate about the risks and rewards of pursuing research on H5N1 and a moratorium lasting almost a year on such research, it appears that some researchers may resume their experiments.

According to Nature News, experts from all over the world in research and public health met at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland to discuss the future of the work. The discussions will continue on the pros and cons of such research, but attendees are saying that the moratorium may be lifted at the discretion of the funders and the countries in which they are located.

In addition to that, the review will "put in place, for select experiments, an extra layer of review — in addition to peer review, and other standard safety and ethical reviews — by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)."

For more information on the potential revival of H5N1 research, please see the complete article on Nature News.

Published in Health

Poultry farmers and abattoirs could have a humane alternative for euthanizing spent or market-ready birds.

Animal science researchers at the Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture (formerly the Nova Scotia Agricultural College) have assessed a tool called the Zephyr – a non-penetrating pneumatic stun gun – for use on broilers and layers.

They say that the Zephyr gun could be a humane method for poultry euthanasia.

“This tool is a win-win,” says Jane Morrigan, co-researcher and animal welfare training and auditing specialist for Integrity Livestock Services. “It’s humane for the animal, quiet and easy to use for the farm worker or research technician.”

The University of Guelph and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs developed the tool, based on a model imported from the United Kingdom, to stun rabbits in processing plants. The Zephyr is a non-penetrating captive bolt stunner driven by compressed air that has been shown to work for all weights and sizes of rabbits.  

After learning about the Zephyr, Morrigan first supervised Nichelle Peck for her fourth-year student research project to study its effectiveness for fish euthanasia at the college’s Aquaculture Research Centre, with very positive results. She then turned her attention to its use in poultry, teaming with fourth-year animal science student Samantha Canning and Dr. Bruce Rathgeber of the Atlantic Poultry Research Institute to assess its effectiveness.

Their primary goal was to determine whether the Zephyr could deliver enough force to the skull to render the animal instantly insensible and free of pain – a necessity in ensuring humane euthanasia. Morrigan says they also compared the operator’s experience level, and tried to determine if the positioning of the Zephyr on the bird’s head had an effect.

To complete the research, Morrigan says they used 67 birds, a mix of broilers and laying hens. The Animal Care Committee at the university would not allow the initial research to be conducted on live birds, so the team worked with post-mortem birds just after they were stunned in a conventional electric stun bath.

Morrigan says that while it is unfortunate not to have studied the effects on live birds, their post-mortem work did enable them to assess the severity of trauma to the skull. She reasoned that a fractured skull is a good predictor of instantaneous loss of consciousness – and therefore absence of pain. Immediately after the birds were stunned in the electric stun bath, they were weighed and the Zephyr was applied to the top of the head, twice in quick succession, using air compressed at 120 pounds per square inch.  

Six different factors were compared: the strain of bird, their weight, comb size, operator experience, position on head, amount of skull fracture and damage to the brain (after dissection).

Their results show that the Zephyr could provide enough trauma to the skull to render the bird instantly unconscious, says Morrigan, and the optimal spot for positioning the Zephyr was determined to be behind the comb. Laying hens averaged the largest fracture, though their skulls tend to be smaller, she adds. Also, the experience level of the person operating the Zephyr had no significant effect on skull fracture and brain damage.

“The tool really proved to be effective, quick and easy to use,” says Morrigan, adding that the predetermined force takes the guesswork out for the farm worker, which in turn helps to reduce any anxiety that is experienced when faced with having to perform euthanasia.

Morrigan says they’ve learned that the Zephyr works smoothly when two people are working together, one to hold the bird upright with wings held close to the bird’s body and the other to move the head on a solid table or bench and position the Zephyr. It’s important to ensure that the head is positioned against something firm and solid to prevent head movement, she says. “We lay the head gently so the chin is resting on a solid table or bench.”

Morrigan says they found that applying one percussive force correctly behind the comb was enough, but applying two in quick succession can provide extra assurance. It is also important to also keep the Zephyr clean after the day’s use to prevent it from gumming up, she adds.

Following the Zephyr’s trial, Morrigan says their research technicians were so satisfied with its performance that they purchased the stun gun to continue using it in their facility. The tool has also been distributed through a number of programs to rabbit processing plants throughout Canada.

“It’s an impressive tool,” she says. “I would love to someday see this tool in every laying house and broiler barn. In addition to the gun itself, all that is needed is a small compressor and five minutes of training.”

Researchers at the Prairie Swine Centre have also recently tested the Zephyr and found it to be an effective tool for euthanizing piglets ranging in size from three to nine kilograms. They have also retained the tool for any ongoing euthanasia needs, post-research project.

The University of Guelph developers are currently seeking a company that can oversee commercial-scale development of the Zephyr gun, so that fish farms, poultry and swine operations can purchase their own at an affordable cost. Current models have been provided for research projects with support from the Canadian Farm Animal Care Trust.

Published in Housing

Nov. 20, 2012, Champaign, IL - Femur fractures in turkeys bred for faster growth to market weight and significantly enhanced breast muscle yield are an ongoing concern for turkey growers, because affected birds must be culled, negatively impacting profit margins.  While the average percentage of turkeys lost each year due to the problem is unknown, estimates can range from 2% to as high as 10% – rates which, even on the lower end, are significant.
The precise underlying cause of the fractures remains unknown.  However, a new study on various critical properties of turkey femurs – involving what is likely the most comprehensive collection of skeletal data ever collected for a poultry species – has shed new light on the problem.
In an article[1] in the November issue of Poultry Science, a journal published by the Poultry Science Association (PSA), scientists and biomedical engineers at Case Western Reserve University, Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, and Purdue University, present the results of their investigation of the morphological, material-level mechanical, and bone ash properties of turkey femurs.  Their objective was to analyze the relationships between body weight (BW) and the various properties of femurs in growing turkeys with widely divergent growth rates.
Co-author Dr. Darrin Karcher, an extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University, noted:
“When we began our study, there were two schools of thought on what was most important to maintaining the integrity of the femur.  One hypothesis was that bone-geometric or morphological properties, such as the femur’s cross-sectional area, bearing axial loads, and moments of inertia, bearing bending/torsional loads, were the key. A second hypothesis was that mineralization of the bone matrix was the key to femur strength because mineralization is essential to the mechanical competence of the bone as measured by properties such as the bone’s tensile strength and elastic modulus. What we discovered was that the answer is in fact both: bone geometry and mineralization are equally important.”
Specifically, the group observed that across the various lines of turkeys examined, the femur’s morphological properties are largely governed by body weight rather than age, while, conversely, the femur’s mechanical properties, as well as related ash content, are determined, at least in part, by time.
“Unfortunately, at the present time, there is no means of addressing the femur fracture problem other than slowing the growth rate and reducing the final weight of the bird, neither of which is practical. But we are hopeful that further research will lead to concrete steps that growers can take that address this issue while still recognizing the realities of the marketplace,” said Dr. Karcher.
Experimental Materials and Methods
The data were collected in 2010 from three divergent turkey genetic lines reared at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).  The research was conducted with the approval of OARDC’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
The three genetic lines studied were: current commercial turkeys; a random-bred control line that is representative of commercial turkeys in the late 1960s (RBC2), and a sub-line of RBC2 that has been continuously selected since 1969 for a single trait, BW at 16 weeks (F-line).  All of the turkeys were fed OARDC standard turkey diets.
When the time came to take samples (at 4-week intervals, beginning at 8-weeks of age), both femurs were collected from each sampled turkey and the surrounding muscle and connective tissue were removed.  Mechanical and geometric analyses were conducted on the left femur, while bone ash content analysis was carried out on the right femur.
The article, which contains complete details on the experimental setup and a thorough analysis and discussion of the findings across the different lines, is available for download at
For more information, please visit:

Published in Turkeys

Nov. 15, 2012, Champaign, IL - A new finding by government and academic researchers at Mississippi State University should help put turkey producers’ minds at ease about the possibility of the airborne transmission of a common bacterial agent for infectious sinusitis to their flocks from nearby poultry operations.  The researchers found that, even within a single tunnel-ventilated poultry house, the agent, Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG), was unable to be transmitted even a short distance down-airstream to spread infection.
The new research findings of Dr. Joseph Purswell et al., appear in the December issue of Poultry Science, a journal published by the Poultry Science Association.  (The complete article is available for download at:
“Because turkeys are more susceptible to MG infection than chickens, this has led to some concern among turkey growers that their birds could become infected by strains of the disease that might be carried from broiler and layer farms in their vicinity,” said Dr. Purswell, the article’s lead author and a researcher at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service at Mississippi State.  “Our work strongly suggests that this is a highly unlikely possibility.”
In the 1960s, the poultry industry suffered 30 per cent mortality rates in broilers due to Mycoplasmosis, and even today, concerns about the possibility of transmission of live MG from layer chickens to broilers, turkeys, and breeders continue to serve as an impediment to the permitted use of live MG vaccines in some multi-poultry-sector-dense states.
Experimental Design and Findings
The researchers’ objective was to compare transmission of uncharacterized layer complex-derived MG (LCD-MG) strains with commercially available, live F-strain MG (FMG) vaccine among poultry species in tunnel-ventilated housing.
In each of the two trials conducted, four commercial turkeys were housed in each of two adjoining pens that were immediately adjacent to air inlets.  The turkeys were inoculated with a dose of FMG in one trial, and with LCD-MG in the other.  In each trial, one pen was maintained with only four inoculated turkeys while a second pen contained the other four inoculated turkeys along with 16 MG-free broilers and 4 MG-free layers.  In addition, either four MG-free layers or four MG-free turkeys were placed down-airstream from the inoculated pens at a variety of distances, the nearest being only one empty pen between the inoculated and MG-free birds.
At the end of the 106-day trial period, the researchers found that neither the commercial FMG vaccine strain nor the LCD-MG strains were transmitted beyond the pens containing the inoculated turkeys.
According to Dr. Purswell, the results of the study “support the notion that the F strain of MG is no more transmissible than other endemic field strains of MG.”

Published in Housing

Salvador, in Bahia State, Brazil, was the venue for the XXIV World’s Poultry Congress in August 2012. Congresses have been held regularly since the first one in 1921, held in The Hague, the Netherlands. Canada has hosted the event twice, in 1927 and 2000. This year’s was the second Congress held in Brazil, the first being in 1978 in Rio de Janeiro.

The World’s Poultry Congresses are sponsored by the World’s Poultry Science Association (WPSA), but are organized locally. The president of this Congress was Edir Nepomucino da Silva, who has become president of the WPSA.

The Congress was held in the Bahia Convention Center in downtown Salvador, with the associated exhibition held in the same complex. There were approximately 2,000 delegates in attendance at the Congress and over 120 companies at the exhibition. About 25 of those delegates were Canadians and the annual meeting of the Canada Branch of the World’s Poultry Science Association was held during the Congress.

The Association has developed outreach programs to assist developing countries and has, in addition, become closely involved with initiatives to work with village or family poultry in such countries.

Poultry Welare and Environment

As might be expected in today’s environment, welfare occupied an important position among the scientific presentations, which was highlighted by Harry Blokhuis from the Humboldt University in Berlin. Blokhuis has been a major contributor to welfare research over the past several decades, and in his paper at the Congress, he reviewed much of the previous work on the topic. Notably, he introduced the concept of “welfare quality,” one outcome of a major co-operative research project in Europe and Latin America that  began in 2004 and ended in 2010. He raised questions regarding the “prescriptive regulations,” which have been the main way in which countries have addressed the challenges of poultry (and indeed other animals’) welfare. An example (not quoted in the paper, but nevertheless valid) would be the EU furnished cage, which has become mandatory for EU producers since January 2012. Regulations look good to consumers clamouring for them, but are far from perfect for the primary producer. Variations from farm to farm, and country to country, make prescriptive regulations difficult, if not impossible, to implement and to monitor. In addition, regulations hamper farmers in their efforts towards innovation.

Blokhuis, in reviewing the main conclusions of the Welfare Quality report, suggests that the use of “animal based output indicators” may be more effective in the long run, in achieving improved welfare quality. Here auditors making farm assessments consider the following categories and score the farm on a scale of acceptability.

More than 20 other papers, from 10 countries, mostly in Europe, also dealt with various aspects of poultry welfare.
Clearly, training auditors to monitor these criteria, few of which lend themselves to objective measurement, is a major challenge. To help train auditors using these criteria, the EC has published several books, which are available on the Welfare Quality website at

Poultry Health and Biosecurity

A wide variety of papers were presented dealing with disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. One of considerable interest was by Dr. David Swayne of the US Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga., dealing with the current worldwide status of avian influenza and the methods used in various countries to deal with outbreaks over the past several decades. Of interest to Canadians, who last encountered highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in 2004, are the methods of control and eradication practised. Canada’s policy is to depopulate affected and surrounding flocks and thereby eradicate the disease while providing government compensation to affected producers. This has been successful in Canada in the few cases of infection that have occurred. 

However, where infections become more widespread, and where the process of depopulation is either difficult or impossible, other strategies are required, including vaccination. Examples were quoted from Hong Kong, Egypt, Indonesia and Vietnam. In all of these countries (with the possible exception of Hong Kong), there are large numbers of birds kept as family or village poultry that cannot be easily vaccinated. In addition, if no compensation is available, it is difficult to persuade poultry keepers to depopulate apparently healthy birds.  

Although vaccination alone cannot eradicate HPAI, it can be extremely helpful in lowering the level of infection to the point where other methods can be used to accomplish eradication. For vaccination to be effective, a minimum of 60 per cent, and preferably 80 per cent, of at-risk birds must be vaccinated.

Other Sections

Many presentations took place in the other sections of the Congress: Nutrition and Feed Technologies, Economics and Marketing, Chicken Breeder and Broiler Production, Slaughter and Processing, Genetics and Breeding, Food Safety, Commercial Egg Production and Processing, Family Poultry Production and Other Species.

Canadian scientists gave 15 of the approximately 200 oral presentations, plus contributed a variety of posters.

International poultry Hall of Fame

Members of the International Poultry Hall of Fame are individuals who contributed to the world’s poultry industry above and beyond the call of duty. They are named and inducted at World’s Poultry Congresses. The Hall of Fame was started at the 1988 Congress when 25 members were named, but at subsequent Congresses, only five new members have been inducted.  

For 2012, they were Prof. Peter Horn from Hungary, Dr. Nuhad Daghir from Lebanon, Dr. Ganda Lal Jain from India, Prof. Egladison João Campos from Brazil and Dr. Kyoshi Shimada from Japan. Dr. Daghir has a strong connection with Canada, having been technical director at Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms for a period in the 1990s.

Canadians previously named to the Hall of Fame include Don R. Clandinin, Robb Gowe, Donald McQueen Shaver, Ian R. Sibbald, Stan J. Slinger, John D. Summers, Roy D. Crawford and Peter Hunton.

WPSA History and Awards

The XXIV Congress coincided with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the WPSA and one of the plenary sessions consisted of a review of the first 100 years presented by this author. Few international organizations have functioned for 100 years, but the WPSA has grown from an initial 19 founding members to over 7,000 today, in more than 80 national branches. The WPSA not only sponsors Congresses, but also publishes the World’s Poultry Science Journal, a quarterly publication consisting of scientific review papers.

Following the financially successful 1992 Congress in the Netherlands, the Dutch Branch of WPSA established awards to individuals or institutions judged to excel in one of the three pillars of the organization: Education, Organization and Research. The awards consist of 11,000 euros (approximately $13,400) to be spent on a project connected with the recipient’s field of expertise. Recipients must attend the subsequent Congress to report on the project.  

The 2012 winner for Research was Dr. Jae Yong Han, a geneticist from the Seoul National University in South Korea. The Poultry Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in Australia was awarded in the Education category, its second win.

Representative Dr. Mingan Choct reported on the development of the PoultryHub website pages dealing with family poultry (


The XXIV World’s Poultry Congress provided a valuable scientific review of current knowledge in many fields, and pointed to a viable future for poultry science and the poultry industry, in spite of a variety of challenges. The Congress represents a unique meeting place where old and new contacts are made, and information exchanged in a comfortable environment.  
The next Congress will take place in Beijing, China, in 2016.

Published in Biosecurity

"I will never forgive her. Forgiving her would be letting her win.” This is how Julie justifies harbouring rage and bitterness for her sister‑in‑law for several years.

We are all after the same thing: happiness. Yet several studies have shown that harbouring hatred toward someone conflicts with happiness. Happy people do not entertain hatred or vengeance and are people who have learned to forgive.

There may be many reasons to hate, yet equally as many reasons to forgive. Some experts affirm that people who hold on to resentments and hatred could decrease their life expectancy by 14 years. In addition, persistent hatred is a contributing factor to depression and chronic stress. It is also associated with the risk of coronary artery disease. Resenting your sister‑in‑law day in and day out could increase your chance of a heart attack. Do you hate her that much?

“I go out to a restaurant for dinner with my husband and she’s all we talk about,” Julie told me. “I even wake up at night thinking about it. I am so tense that I have to see a massage therapist. Now, here I am seeing a psychologist.” Isn’t it paradoxical? We often invest more energy in people we hate or dislike than in those we like. And the result is a loss of so much time, energy and money. Think, for example, of people who pursue court action against someone for years in order to be proven right, or on principle. But how much do these principles and pride cost?

You can ask yourself the following:

  • Is it useful to continue to entertain this hatred?
  • Is it good for my physical and psychological health?
  • Is it good for the people who are important and close to me to be subjected to my hatred?
  • Is it useful for my life projects?
  • Will this help me attain my life goals?

If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, then continue. If not, why not stop poisoning your existence and that of others around you?

Only you can decide to forgive. You don’t need the other person to agree in order to do this. The responsibility and the power to choose are entirely yours.

In addition to all the benefits for your health and happiness, you could gain a great deal of time. As Julie said to me, “When you wake up at night hating someone because there is not enough time during the day to hate him or her, then it’s time to do something.”

Finally, remember that, unless you are calling the person in the middle of the night to tell them you hate them, you will be the only sleepless one.

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

Published in Farmer Health/Safety

CPRC has committed more than $2.7 million to poultry research funding over the last decade and the total value of research that CPRC has helped support is in excess of $13 million. While the CPRC does not contribute to all poultry research conducted in Canada, it is interesting to look at other research funding sources that have supported CPRC-funded projects. The table below summarizes per cent of funds provided by type of funding source.

Federal government funds are provided by a variety of departments and agencies, including Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and other agencies that provide research in specific areas such as animal and public health.

Provincial governments funds are generally provided through research-related programs by departments of agriculture or agencies established by provinces to further research and innovation. They frequently work with provincial poultry industry organizations to fund research, a series of collaborations not reflected in the table.

The value of funding from universities is not fully reflected in the table because in-kind contributions of staff researchers and technicians and the use of research facilities, including such things as poultry housing and laboratories, is not included in the research totals.

Corporations represent important partners in the Canadian poultry research system because they help conduct and support substantial research each year that benefits the Canadian poultry value chain. In addition to funds, they provide expertise through in-house research activities and knowledge of issues important to producers. Some of the corporations aiding in CPRC co-funded projects are suppliers covering a range of inputs that includes genetics, chicks, animal health products, feed and feed additives. Others process poultry products.

Industry organizations, which include national and provincial organizations that represent poultry producers and other poultry industry stakeholders, are becoming an increasingly important part of the poultry research system. Many industry organizations support significant poultry research activities, including projects and research chairs, as a supplement to CPRC funding.

Governments increasingly look to industry representatives to establish research priorities and work with researchers to ensure that projects reflect the issues that are important to industry. The National Research Strategy for Canada’s Poultry Sector (available at provides a comprehensive discussion of industry research priorities and was developed in consultation with industry representative organizations and researchers through conferences and discussion. Industry organizations will review and update the Research Strategy on a regular basis to ensure it continues to reflect Canadian poultry industry priorities.

Governments are also looking to industry to play a larger role in research funding. The increasing demand for research related to the Canadian and global food system creates challenges for industry to invest more funds if research goals are to be met. A common practice of government funding organizations is to make their approval conditional upon industry also committing funds to support the project. This approach helps to ensure that proposed research is important to industry and reflects industry goals.

Canadian poultry research depends on a wide variety of stakeholders to ensure that research goals are achieved. The CPRC has been fortunate to co-operate on funding with a wide range of funders including several federal government departments, six provincial governments, eight poultry industry corporations and six provincial poultry organizations. These funding partners are in addition to CPRC’s five Member Organizations representing poultry stakeholders at the national level, which provide significant resources and expertise to CPRC’s support of Canadian poultry research.

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, 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.

Published in Emerging Trends

Although proper farming and biosecurity practices are extremely important, one factor that plays a significant role throughout the turkey’s development cycle often gets overlooked – its genetics.

Dr. Ben Wood, a geneticist with Hybrid Turkeys who spoke about turkey genetics at the Poultry Industry Council’s Spring Symposium on May 8, 2012, says that one of the most important aspects of turkey production is carefully selecting genetic traits to get the most out of each individual bird for the producer. But, it is more complicated than simply breeding two good-looking turkeys together.

Although selecting for increasing resistance to deadly pathogens, such as Salmonella or Campylobacter, may sound like an easy choice, Wood says that which traits are selected is ultimately decided by economics, and traits such as breast meat yield, finishing weight and overall meat yield are more economically important in comparison to overall mortality.

“We have to balance what we are selecting for,” he says. “It is quite easy and possible to select for health traits, but the economic return isn’t there. You could select for a lot of resistance, but you will have to give up selecting some other traits.”

By selecting for health traits, Wood explained that other commercial traits (such as meat yield) would not be able to respond as strongly to selection pressure, which would make them less desirable for farmers to grow.
“Producers will need to make a decision on what they are willing to sacrifice for specific traits.”

Genetics is key

Every trait has a specific heritability (or ability to be managed by artificial selection), which is determined by evaluating the interaction between the genetics of the individual and those of the environment. Although some traits, such as varus/valgus deformity and leg strength, have a very high heritability (between 30 and 40 per cent), overall survival is much lower, at about 10 per cent. That means that survival is much more influenced by environment factors than by leg strength.

“Survival is difficult to manage because of the low heritability, but it is fairly easy to measure, as what you are measuring is ‘did a bird live to or die at a certain age’ – so the cost of measuring that trait is pretty cheap,” Wood says. “But, if you are talking about a trait like varus/valgus of the legs, it is pretty easy to see, manage and measure. It is also highly heritable, so you can get a change in it pretty quickly.”

The procedure gets more complicated with a metabolic disorder such as TD (tibial chondrodysplasia), which requires X-rays and much more invasive methods than noting a turkey’s gait. So, although its heritability is high, it is more difficult to change because of increased manpower and monetary demands.

It comes down to a cost-benefit debate on how much demand there is to change a specific trait and how much money is available to fund such a change.

A perfect example of this is the research to help birds resist pathogens, which Wood says is extremely difficult because of biosecurity concerns once birds are infected. Because those birds would need to be quarantined as a control group, multiple farms with blood relatives of the control flock would need to be utilized and the resulting experiment would be extremely expensive.

Wood adds that university research (not under commercial conditions) has shown that specific resistance can be heritable, but it would be extremely difficult to scale up commercially.

Therefore, it would be better to select for innate immunity, he says, which is the first line of defence against all pathogens.

Data has shown that there is a genetic difference between pure line flocks, but further research is needed before changes in breeds are made.

Another research area that is showing promise is layer behaviour, which has a significant genetic component. By using a social interaction model, each bird’s reproductive potential is based on its own laying performance and those of its group, or cage mates. The “performance” of the groups was measured by looking at their laying ability and mortality due to pecking (the behaviour researchers were trying to reduce).

“If a single bird’s performance wasn’t that great, but its group mates did well, that meant that it was probably treating its group mates well by not pecking,” Wood explained. In effect, if one bird’s overall laying performance was sub-par, but the overall mortality from pecking in that group was decreased compared to the control, then the breeding value of all the individuals in that group/cage was higher.

However, the reverse can also be true, where one bird does well but the overall group does poorly, with the result being that the overall breeding value for that group would decrease. Therefore, if both groups were compared over successive generations, a change should appear in their genetics for a decrease in pecking that breeders would then be able to select for or against.

Taking a closer look

The next step of this research, according to Wood, will be a focus on Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS), which can provide cheaper case-control studies on everything from survivability to pathogen resistance by taking a closer look at precise DNA changes.

This is done by taking blood samples from a selection of birds, both control and experimental, and comparing observations with areas of their DNA known as single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs (pronounced “snips”). This results when a single DNA nucleotide changes between related individuals, representing, hopefully, a genetic change in a specific trait; thus, this information could have profound effects on breeding programs.

“You’re relying on initial observations to find out the differences at the DNA level, but then you can go back and look into any population at all and either select for or against it,” says Wood.

“The next thing is looking at genomic selection and selecting against certain syndromes, as well as behaviours.”

Published in Genetics

November 12, 2012 - Two of the world’s largest animal breeding companies aim to achieve further breakthroughs in the field of genomics during the next three years through an extension of a joint development agreement (JDA).

Cobb-Vantress Inc. and Hendrix Genetics B.V. initially set up the JDA in 2008 to share and promote expertise, particularly in the fast-growing field of genomics. Already new genomic selection tools have been discovered and developed, such as the cutting-edge SNP Chip for chickens. This is a glass slide that can analyze between 60,000 and one million variations in DNA sequences, - or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) -  which act as biological markers and help scientists locate a range of genes associated with disease.

The extended agreement will intensify efforts to develop new tools and discover fresh insights into animal genomics in order to improve breeding programs and help increase world food production.

The collaboration is the biggest within the animal breeding industry and the companies say it will produce animals that are more productive, less susceptible to disease and at reduced cost, therefore helping to tackle global food shortages.

The JDA will also strengthen Cobb’s leading position in broiler breeding and Hendrix Genetics’ renowned role in layer hen, turkey, pig and aquaculture genetics, while enabling the two companies to further explore joint venture business opportunities.

Cobb-Vantress supplies broiler breeding stock and technical expertise for the chicken meat industry in more than 90 countries.
Hendrix Genetics has nearly 2,500 employees worldwide and operations in 24 countries and provides expertise and resources to producers in more than 100 countries.


Published in Company News

Roosters in a laboratory on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, GA.

Nov. 9, 2012, Athens, GA - Oil and water may not mix, but a University of Georgia study has found feeding chickens a blend of plant-based oils in their drinking water can help prevent salmonella contamination before the meat reaches the dinner table, or even the grocery store.

Salmonella is a bacterium that causes an estimated 1 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States each year, said Walid Alali, a food safety scientist with the UGA Center for Food Safety in Griffin, Ga.

“Each year some 20,000 people will go to the hospital and close to 400 will die due to salmonellosis,” Alali said.

Linked to poultry, peanut butter and produce

Usually, symptoms last four to seven days and most people get better without treatment. But salmonella can cause more serious illness to older adults, infants and those with chronic diseases. Poultry is a common source of salmonellosis, as are eggs, raw sprouts and unpasteurized juices, but proper cooking and pasteurization kill salmonella. A major outbreak in 2011 was linked to ground turkey that infected close to 136 people in 34 states. In 2009, almost 400 people in 42 states were sickened after eating contaminated peanut butter.

Alali’s work focuses on controlling harmful bacteria in an effort to reduce human illness.

In this study, published in the October issue of Food Control, he tested the effectiveness of adding a blend of oils to poultrys’ water source. The product, Mix-Oil, is a highly concentrated blend of essential oils from thyme, eucalyptol and oregano developed by the Italian company Animal Wellness Products. Mix-Oil has been on the market since 2004 and is used for all animal species, including commercially raised fish.

Better meat and better profit

“Our field results show that Mix-Oil helps get better performance and better meat quality and always gives profitability,” said AWP President Paolo Cristofori.

On a farm in Athens, Ga., Alali compared Mix-Oil to two organic acids traditionally used in the poultry industry to reduce the amount of salmonella the chickens carry. Currently farmers control salmonella in their flocks by administering vaccinations, “probiotics — a cocktail of good bacteria that compete with bad bacteria — and by adding acids to their drinking water,” Alali said.

Finding the right combination

“These extracts come from plant material, and they have antibacterial qualities. They have the ability to kill pathogens – we just have to come up with the right blend,” Cristofori said.

The UGA study found the chickens that were fed Mix-Oil in their water had higher weight gains, a lower feed conversion rate and lower mortality rate. They also drank as much water as they did before the Mix-Oil regimen and more water than chickens that were given lactic acid to prevent salmonella.

“Chickens consume less water when one of the organic acids, lactic acid, is used because they don’t like the taste of it,” Alali said. “It can also inflame the chicken’s intestines and, over time, it can damage the farm’s water pipes.”

Mix-oil reduced salmonella contamination in the chickens just “as well as lactic acid, and it improved the performance of the chickens,” he said.

Salmonella typically collects in two chicken organs; the crop and the ceca. The crop is located at the base of the esophagus and the ceca is part of the large intestine.

The UGA study also looked at the salmonella frequency in these organs. There was less salmonella in the crop of the chicken flock that consumed Mix-Oil, but the levels remained unchanged in the ceca.

Helping from the farm to the fork

In a second study, Alali searched for the best concentration level of Mix-Oil. “The concentration means money, and how much you add results in a cost to the farmer,” he said. “Poultry producers are always concerned over how a treatment is going to affect their birds and how much it’s going to cost them.”

The UGA research project shows Mix-Oil costs around $500 per 20,000-bird chicken flock to control salmonella in chickens and improve performance. Next the researchers will test Mix-Oil on a commercial poultry farm.

“We have proven the concept, now we have to take this to the commercial level and see how it performs on an actual farm,” Alali said. “We are trying to control salmonella in the poultry industry both at the preharvest level, on the farm and at the processing plants. This is what we call farm to fork control. The industry does its job and grocers and consumers control what happens after that.

For more information on this study, visit:, or contact the researchers: Walid Alali This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Mike Doyle This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Published in Nutrition and Feed

Nov. 9, 2012, Tucker, GA - The 2013 International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) has surpassed 1,100 exhibitors, covering more than 420,000 net square feet (21+ acres) of exhibit space. Comprised of the three integrated tradeshows: International Poultry Expo, International Feed Expo, and AMI’s International Meat Expo.
“The response and excitement for the show has been overwhelming. We thought integrating the shows made sense, and the response has been even better than imagined. IPPE has instantaneously established itself as the premiere feed and protein event of the western hemisphere,” remarked John Starkey, president of USPOULTRY.
“The 2013 IPPE will offer an outstanding venue for businesses to collaborate, network, learn about new products and services and solve common challenges facing the feed, poultry and meat industries. With the response so far, we expect attendees will agree that it is worth their time to come to Atlanta,” said Joel G. Newman, AFIA President & CEO.
“We are gratified by the positive show of support from our supplier community. It tells us that our consolidation of shows is a winning formula for the entire industry, farm to fork,” commented AMI President, J. Patrick Boyle.
The global poultry, feed and meat industry tradeshow will be held Tuesday through Thursday, January 29-31, 2013, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA. The Expo will highlight the latest technology, equipment, and services used in the production and processing of poultry, meat and feed products.
The Expo will also feature dynamic education programs that will be held from January 28 through February 1, 2013 and will include the annual line-up of the International Poultry Scientific Forum, Pet Food Conference, Animal Agricultural Sustainability Summit, and International Feed Education Program. 

The 2013 IPPE will also feature eleven new educational programs: Recalls and Public Health Investigations; Improving Food Safety, Sanitation and Maintenance; Animal Care and Handling: Focus on Poultry Processing; Meat and Poultry Processing: A Global Perspective; Consumer Trends; Plant Operations and Management; Antibiotics Conference – Current Issues for the Poultry & Egg Industry; The Future of the U.S. Egg Industry; Meat & Poultry Research Conference; Media Training for the Meat & Poultry Industry; and Poultry Handling and Transportation Quality “Train the Trainer” Workshop. Also returning for this year is the Poultry Market Intelligence Forum and the International Rendering Symposium.
For more information about the 2013 IPPE, go to

Published in Processing

November 2, 2012 - Vitala Foods celebrated Vitamin D Day today with the launch of the new Vita D Sunshine Eggs, the world's first eggs to provide 100 per cent daily value of vitamin D in a single egg.

Hundreds of Vancouverites received their daily dose of "sunshine" from the Vita D Sunshine crew who were giving away complimentary Vita D Sunshine breakfast burritos from the Vita D Sunshine food truck in downtown Vancouver.

The new specialty eggs are produced by giving the hens an all natural, plant based feed, rich in vitamin D. The eggs contain 200 IUs, the current daily value set by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which is the equivalent of 7 regular eggs.

In Canada, vitamin D deficiency is common and can be attributed to a lack of year-round sunshine, especially from November to April when there is insufficient UVB to initiate natural vitamin D production in the skin. Inspire Health first launched Vitamin D Day in Vancouver in 2009 and the event has since grown to include cities all over the world.

"We're so pleased to be able to make getting your daily dose of vitamin D more convenient and more accessible than ever," said Bill Vanderkooi, President of Vitala Foods. "The Vita D Sunshine Eggs are not only a healthy option, they're also the most affordable speciality eggs on the market."

The Vitamin D Day event included presentations by Bill Vanderkooi, President of Vitala Foods; Dr. Cletus D'Souza, Director of Research at Inspire Health and Kelly Spec, Registered Dietitian and founder of Spectrum Nutrition.

“Several research studies have indicated that vitamin D not only prevents cancer but can also impact cancer treatment, said Dr. Cletus D'Souza, Director of Research at Inspire Health, an integrated cancer care clinic with locations throughout BC. "It does so in the role of an anti-inflammatory compound with a variety of anti-cancer effects.”

In addition to cancer, the research has shown that vitamin D offers widespread health benefits including reducing the risk of osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis while benefiting those with high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.

The new Vita D Sunshine Eggs are available at Urban Fare, Save on Foods, Cooper's Foods, PriceSmart Foods and Choices Markets throughout BC at the suggested retail price of $3.49 a dozen.


Published in Companies

It’s not mother’s milk, but egg yolk may be the closest remedy for boosting the immune system of newly hatched chickens against infectious diseases such as coccidiosis.

A major disease of chickens, coccidiosis is caused by intestinal parasites – single-celled protozoans in the genus Eimeria. Disease-affected birds are unable to absorb feed or gain weight, costing the poultry industry more than $600 million annually in the United States and $3 billion worldwide.

Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Henry A. Wallace Beltsville [Maryland] Agricultural Research Center (BARC) and collaborators from different universities and the Mexican company IASA (Investigacíon Aplicada, S.A.) have developed a novel, antibiotic-free method that uses hyperimmune egg yolk antibodies to control intestinal poultry diseases.

“Coccidiosis is associated with other pathogens, such as the one that causes necrotic enteritis – a prevalent gut disease of poultry,” says avian immunologist Hyun Lillehoj, who works in BARC’s Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory. “By controlling one, you’re also reducing the impact of the other.”

Alternative Strategies

Good management practices and live vaccinations reduce the spread of coccidiosis, but alternative strategies are needed to help control drug-resistant strains and to enhance organic farming for the poultry industry.

Generally, a host can develop two types of immunity – active and passive – to resist infection. Passive immunity allows immune molecules that are already formed to be transferred from the hen, via the yolk, to the chick. Active immunity relies on vaccines to build immunity in the birds.

“When chicks hatch, they have no immunity to this pathogen. But if we give preformed immune proteins to one-day-old progeny, they are ready to fight infection,” she says. “It’s similar to how immunity is passed to newborns through milk.”

The method involves extracting antibodies from yolks of eggs from pathogen-free birds that have been hyperimmunized, meaning they possess greater-than-normal immunity due to an abundance of antibodies against the disease. Egg yolk is spray dried, mixed with feed, and given to chicks that have no immune protection right after hatching.

Lillehoj teamed up with ARS visiting scientist Sung Hyen Lee from the Rural Development Administration in South Korea, IASA scientist Eduardo Lucio and other researchers to conduct different experiments to demonstrate the efficacy of inducing passive immunity against coccidiosis.

Simple Technology

One-day-old broiler chickens were continuously fed a standard diet containing a commercially available egg yolk powder prepared from hens hyperimmunized with multiple species of Eimeria. They were then given a challenge infection with live coccidia. Body weight gain between days zero and 10 and fecal shedding between days five and 10 post-infection were analyzed. Chickens given 0.5 per cent or less of the hyperimmune egg yolk antibodies had a significant increase in body weight gain, reduced fecal Eimeria shedding and fewer gut lesions compared to control birds fed a non-supplemented diet.

“It’s very simple technology, and it works,” Lillehoj says.

Based on these results, one company has developed a commercial product that can be fed to chickens to control coccidiosis. Similar technology may be used in the future to guard against other devastating poultry diseases.

This article was originally published in the July 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Published in Nutrition and Feed

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