Specialty Production
As we say goodbye to 2017 this December, Baildon Hutterite Colony in Saskatchewan will begin shipping out the first organic eggs produced in the province. It will be an achievement that is the culmination of much research, discussion and planning.

Baildon Colony was established in 1967 and is located just south of Moose Jaw, Sask. Colony members currently farm about 19,000 acres in a continuous rotation of wheat, barley, canola, lentils, chickpeas, peas and soybeans. “Our land is a little bit rolling, but some of it is very flat as we are near the Regina Plains,” notes layer manager Paul Wipf. “Some of our cereal crops are used for our livestock, as we have a large hog operation, dairy, layers and also some turkeys.” Feed-grade grain goes for that purpose, with additional feed grain purchased as needed, and higher quality grain is sold.

Free-run transition
When the colony started in 1967, members built a barn for 7,000 layers and maintained that number of hens until 1983, when another Hutterite colony was established in the province. At that point, colony members bought a 20,000-layer farm and split the quota in half so, in total, each colony had about 12,000 birds.

“All the hens were housed in conventional cages at the time as this was the going trend,” Wipf explains. “However, in 2009 we decided we needed to build a new pullet barn as our existing one was not big enough to produce all the pullets for our layer operation, and we decided to completely rebuild the layer barns too. The question was what kind of a layer barn do we build, as the growing concern was about whether conventional cages will be good enough in the future.”

To answer this question, Wipf approached Star Egg in Saskatoon to see if they were in need of free-run eggs to fill provincial demand. The company told him there was only one small free-run producer and that, yes, free-run eggs were sometimes in short supply. After a lengthy discussion, all the colony members agreed to pursue the challenge. They also decided that they would convert the old layer barn to a free-run pullet barn, and selected Hellman Poultry for the equipment needed for this and the new layer barn.

Then, in 2016, Star Egg approached Baildon to ask if the colony would be interested in turning half their free-run barn into organic production. There was no commercial organic egg producer in the province and demand was growing.

“Again, after a lengthy discussion, we decided rather than convert half our barn that we would build a completely different barn, as we had some layer quota that we were having to lease out anyway,” Wipf recalls. “This January we started talking with Pro-Cert, an organic certification company out of Saskatoon, to find out what was involved to produce organic eggs and built the organic barn accordingly.”

The colony again went with Hellman, and decided to situate the new organic barn close to the free-run barn. He notes that a lot of the construction of the new organic barn is made out of stainless steel, which he considers a must in free-run production.

The heating system is a hot water delta tube design from Europe, which Wipf believes should be both very efficient and also easy to clean. The ventilation system is Hotraco from Holland, chosen because the colony already has this in the layer barn and it is working very well.

The lighting, however, is different. Baildon went with LED lighting for the organic building because of the higher energy efficiency it provides and also because the LED fixtures are placed on the ceiling. What’s more, chickens sometimes break fixtures that hang down by flying against them.



Barn design and placement aside, the colony also had to answer the question of where the organic layer feed would be sourced. The answer was considered in light of the fact that this spring, Baildon had also decided to replace its existing centralized hammer mill used to grind feed for the hogs, dairy cattle, turkeys and layers.

“It had always served the colony well, but we felt it was time to change over to a disc grinder mill, as they are now more common,” Wipf explains. “The organic regulations would have allowed us to use the new mill for both organic and regular feed, but we would have had to flush the system every time we switched from one type to another, so we decided we will produce organic feed with our old hammer mill. It’s still in good-enough shape, and we’ll be making our organic layer feed with purchased organic grains.”

Baildon will achieve organic certification in January 2018. The colony members had gone into the January meeting with Pro-Cert with plans to have their first organic egg layer pullets arrive in early May. However, Pro-Cert informed them of a new organic regulation that had come into effect in December 2016. The new rule requires that the free-range pasture attached to the organic layer barn be monitored for a year before certification is granted. Wipf says it was a bit disappointing to learn about this new regulation, but there is nothing that can be done to speed things up.

In terms of the biggest challenge facing egg producers today, Wipf names hen housing. “The egg producers here in Canada will have to spend a lot of money in the next 15 years to change from conventional cages to enriched housing,” he notes. “However, the system has been good to us in the last 30 years, so it makes it a lot easier to accept that change.”

Once organic egg production is rolling in 2018, the colony will look at its degree of success and consider expanding and growing organic feed grain in the future.
Published in Producers
August 15, 2017, Winnipeg, Man. - The controversy over Manitoba Chicken Producers’ (MCP) new annual specialty quota program has been resolved with both sides satisfied they were treated fairly by a ruling from the Manitoba Farm Producers Marketing Council (MFPMC).

In a ruling in early July the council told MPC to postpone charging administrative fees for 10 years among those participating in the program, recognizing the financial impact the additional fees would have on existing participants. At the same time its ruling stated support for MPC’s move to adopt new policy seeing a need to modernize and update the manner in which chicken is regulated. READ MORE 
Published in Business & Policy
July 31, 2017, Winnipeg, Man. - Direct Farm Manitoba is pleased with a ruling by the Manitoba Farm Products Marketing Council (MFPMC) earlier this month that orders Manitoba Chicken Producers (MCP) to not charge extra administrative fees for a decade among those participating in its new specialty chicken quota system.

DFM co-ordinated an appeal on behalf of three specialty chicken producers who would have been affected by the additional expense.

DFM voiced numerous concerns with MCP’s new program after it was rolled out last year, but ultimately launched an appeal on the specific grounds that the program’s new fees for participation would force those already raising specialty chicken to either pay more to keep producing, or produce less. READ MORE 
Published in Marketing Boards
July 20, 2017, Vittoria, Ont. - Norfolk’s hamlets soon may be known for their omelettes.

In a piece of after-the-fact fine-tuning this week, Norfolk council modified its position on urban chickens in the county.

Keeping chickens and other livestock within the boundaries of Norfolk’s urban centres continues to be forbidden. However – as of this week -- anyone who wants to keep a half-dozen chickens in their backyard can do so in any of the county’s 23 hamlet areas.

Norfolk council made the adjustment after learning many Mennonite families in hamlet areas of west Norfolk already have a coop in the backyard. There seems to be no problem with this arrangement and council wants to leave well-enough alone. READ MORE 
Published in Emerging Trends
July 13, 2017, Toronto, Ont. - Some Toronto residents with a hankering for their own fresh eggs could soon be in luck if city council approves a pilot project that would lift a ban on backyard hens.

Four Toronto wards would be part of the project and comes as part of a motion to review the city's list of prohibited animals, which currently includes chickens.

A survey included in a city staff report filed in May suggested that lifting the ban on chickens could be a popular move.

''There's a lot of benefits, for sure,'' said Coun. Justin Di Ciano, whose west-end ward will be part of the pilot project. Home-raised chickens are a healthier alternative to store-bought eggs, he said, and they keep away pests.

He also characterized them as a ''cruelty-free'' alternative to factory-farmed eggs.

Toronto resident Andrew Patel, who has raised hens in his backyard since 2011 despite the ban, said he's pleased at news.

''I think a pilot project is probably the best way to pass a safe and effective bylaw,'' Patel said, adding that such a bylaw wouldn't be difficult to implement.

''We're talking about a couple of people raising a few hens, for non-commercial purposes on private property,'' he said.

Meanwhile, several municipalities in Ontario, including Kingston, Brampton, Niagara Falls and Caledon, all allow residents to keep chickens in backyard coops.

In Brampton, for example, current bylaws surrounding chickens state that coops must be no less than eight metres from any dwelling, store or adjacent property, and at least two metres from the side boundary of the property where it's kept. Bramptonians also can't keep chickens inside their home, and must keep any chicken waste in airtight containers ''in a manner that will not create a public nuisance or health hazard.''

But chickens in Toronto could attract, and be at the mercy of, other critters known to haunt Toronto, a local expert said.

Dan Frankian, a bird and animal control specialist, said that leaving chickens to roam free in a backyard during the day could attract the attention of scavengers.

''Once the chickens are running around, the food is, too,'' Frankian said, which could attract raccoons and coyotes.

Raccoons in particular love eggs, he said, and can break into locked boxes or cages with ease.

''Standard chicken wire is not strong enough to hold those guys,'' Frankian said.

But Patel said he has never had a problem with urban wildlife.

''Raccoons aren't brain surgeons, they can't pick a lock or open a hackproof door,'' he said. ''So I don't think it's an issue that can't be navigated.''

He said his six hens are stored in a coop protected by hardwire, which has smaller holes than a chicken-wire coop.

A survey from a recent city staff report says chickens are among the most complained-about animals on Toronto's prohibited list, alongside sheep, snakes and birds. Objections range from noise to smell.

But Patel said when hens are cared for properly and their bedding is changed, there is not smell. And he added that roosters, not hens, crow.

The pilot project was originally supposed to have been proposed at City Hall on Friday, but was deferred after news came of deputy mayor Pam McConnell's death.

It will be re-introduced at council's next meeting in October.
Published in Business & Policy
June 5, 2017, Onondaga, Ont. - When they Josh and Melissa Groves learned about a new artisanal chicken program, Josh and Melissa Groves of Vangro Farms Country Market immediately signed up.

It suited to a tee the main theme of their buy local, buy fresh meat production and retail operation.

"We applied as soon as it started last year and we have done well by it," Josh Groves said in an interview at Vangro farm on Highway 54.

He showed freestanding stalls of chicks that are the latest addition to VanGro's lines of fresh lamb cutlets and prepared beef and pork products.

"We're moving into the second year having learned how to make it work for us."

The artisanal chicken program launched by the Chicken Farmers of Ontario in 2016 provides opportunities for small independent farmers to meet local demands for high-quality chicken.

"The Chicken Farmers of Ontario is continually looking to meet the changing needs of Ontario chicken consumers and markets," the organization says on its website.

"The program will help farms fill local food and seasonal markets and will give Ontario consumers more choice and options in how and where they buy locally grown chicken."

The CFO mainly deals with larger operations which must produce to a set quota of tens of thousands of chickens. Its artisanal program is meant to address the more modest needs of local farmers.

Under the program, non-quota holding farmers who wish to grow between 600 and 3,000 chickens each year can partner with independent producers to provide artisanal chicken for select markets. READ MORE
Published in Meat - Broilers
April 11, 2017, Louisville, KY - Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) U.S., the country's largest chicken quick service resturant, has announced its plans to extend its food promise to customers, announcing that, by the end of 2018, all chicken purchased by KFC U.S. will be raised without antibiotics important to human medicine.

This move marks the first time a major national quick service restaurant chain in the U.S. has extended an antibiotics commitment beyond boneless chicken to its chicken-on-the-bone menu items. 

In addition to its antibiotics pledge, the brand has also made commitments that by the end of 2018, all core products will be free of artificial colors and flavors. Today, all KFC chicken is free of food dyes, and 100 per cent of the menu will be free of food dyes by the end of 2017, excluding beverages and third-party products. READ MORE
Published in Company News
April 4, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – The popular University of Alberta (U of A) Heritage Chicken program is here once again, offering small flock enthusiasts the chance to order heritage chicks until April 19.

“Heritage chicks are vaccinated and hatched at the U of A’s Poultry Research Centre,” says Jesse Hunter, program coordinator. “This year, we’re offering Plymouth barred rock, brown leghorn, random bred broiler 1978, light Sussex and Rhode Island red chicks. We hatch a certain number of each breed every year, so check the website to order your favorite breed before they're gone.”

Heritage chicks must be pre-ordered on the Heritage Chicken website, and will be available for pick-up at local Peavey Marts across Alberta. Up to 20 day-old chicks cost $8 each, 21-100 are $6, and 101-500 are $4.

As part of the program, two small flock workshops are being held, April 12 in Spruce Grove and April 13 in Red Deer, and run from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Food and refreshments will be provided.

“The workshops are an opportunity to learn about biosecurity, housing, nutrition, disease identification, behaviour, anatomy, and more,” says Hunter. “To register for one of the workshops, go to Eventbrite.”

Register for Spruce Grove

Register for Red Deer

The Heritage Chicken program was established in 2013 to conserve multiple heritage chicken breeds housed at the University of Alberta Poultry Research Centre. The program gives people the opportunity to adopt a chicken and receive a dozen farm fresh heritage eggs every two weeks.

All proceeds from the sales are donated back to the Poultry Research Centre to maintain the heritage chickens.
Published in Genetics
March 24, 2017, Kitchener, Ont – Hybrid Turkeys recently announced plans for ongoing and future investments in the U.S. turkey industry.

In order to deliver quality products throughout the supply chain, Hybrid will invest in two new hatcheries, new egg production farms together with new contract partners, state-of-the-art transportation, and the skilled workforce needed to support these areas of operations.

“Our business is focused on creating value for customers and built on strong partnerships in the industry,” said Dave Libertini, managing director of Hybrid Turkeys. “As the demands of the modern consumer evolve, the stresses on a collaborative supply chain for the turkey industry have never been greater. A more transparent food system, with ever reducing use of antibiotics, means that the responsible production of high quality day old turkey poults is critical.”

The decision for Hendrix Genetics, parent of Hybrid Turkeys, does not come lightly. This move represents a significant investment of financial capital and human resources in a market long overdue for this type of upgrade.

“We are committed to delivering the quality poults that Hybrid customers are looking for,” said Peter Gruhl, general manager of Hybrid USA. “We explored many options and have decided that making an investment in new, state-of-the-art facilities is the only way we can satisfy our client’s demands.”

The move comes after an announcement in January 2015 in which Hybrid and Ag Forte entered into a commercial egg and poult supply agreement. In November 2016, Hybrid served notice that it would not seek to renew this arrangement beginning in January 2019. Hybrid will continue to supply breeding and commercial stock to the U.S. market and, with access to a global supply chain, expects no interruption in supply for their clients.
Published in Company News
Canadian egg farmers have a new opportunity to offer healthy eggs high in omega-3 to nutrition-focused consumers thanks to a recent decision by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Published in Layers
What to do with the males of a species when the females are all that are needed is an issue various agricultural sectors grapple with.

In poultry, the question of what happens to male chicks when only females lay eggs continues to beg a satisfactory answer. Although cull is the current widespread solution, research is underway into alternatives, such as work by Dr. Michael Ngadi at McGill University (see page 24 this issue)   Egg sexing research is also underway in Germany, supported by a national animal welfare initiative that aims to ultimately phase out culling of male chicks altogether. In the German state of Lower Saxony, a trailblazer in animal welfare regulation in that country, the practice is slated to be banned by the end of 2017.

Some farmers in Germany have built an alternative market for their male chicks, under the banner of the “Bruderhahn Initiative” – which literally translates into English as “the brother rooster initiative”.

The concept, explained Christine Bremer of Bauck-Hof Klein Suestedt, located in the Lunenburg Heath about 100 kilometres south of the city of Hamburg, involves raising the male chicks 18 to 22 weeks of age and selling them for meat the way broilers are.

Because their genetics are focused on egg and not meat production, raising the males for consumption is an expensive venture. “The males are very active and we need 5.5 kilograms of feed for one kilogram of gain, which is not a good conversion,” Bremer told international agricultural journalists touring her farm this past summer, adding this means her farm needs a subsidy of 7.50 to 10 Euros per “brother” to make the economics work.

Unlike most farms, though, Bauck-Hof Klein Suestedt was able to get that money from the market place – but through egg sales instead of a premium on the meat, which is dark and has a taste similar to pheasant.

Every egg sold from Bremer’s hens sells for four cents more than other eggs, and those funds, collected through the “Bruderhahn Initiative”, go back to the participating farmers to pay for the costs of raising and marketing the males for meat.

“If a hen lays 250 eggs and we get four cents more per egg, we can pay for the “brother”,” she said. “Our trader who buys our eggs communicated this to the organic shops where our eggs are sold. In 2013, all eggs were increased by four cents and a label was added to explain why – and we had no loss of customers.”

Unsure of whether consumers would be interested in the darker, more flavourful meat, Bremer’s first customer was actually a baby food processor.  “We weren’t sure people would buy this meat but gradually people start asking for it,” she said, adding that due to her farm’s rural location and resulting unreliable internet infrastructure, their marketing is done at point of sale as opposed to through social media.

“As farmers, we need the help of traders and retailers to sell our products, and if our trader had said no, we couldn’t have done this,” Bremer said. “What customers are paying for is to not kill the bird at birth and that this animal is worth keeping alive longer.”

The male layer for meat program is part of Bauck-Hof Klein Suestedt’s overall approach to agriculture. The operation is the second oldest organic farm in Germany, having farmed in this manner since 1932. More specifically, it’s one of Germany’s 2,000 certified Demeter farms.

Demeter is the brand for products stemming from biodynamic agriculture and is well recognized by German consumers, which Bremer says has been helpful in supporting the marketing efforts around meat from the male layers.

Bremer installed her first mobile poultry housing 13 years ago, and now has six mobile layer barns and four mobile broiler barns on her farm that are regularly moved to new locations on the fields and permit birds to roam and express natural behaviours.

“We use genetics that grow slower and the birds can choose whether they want to be inside or out,” she says, adding that farmers who build mobile poultry housing can have 40 per cent of their costs covered by the European Union.

Under the leadership of state Minister of Agriculture Christian Meyer, Lower Saxony has doubled state support for organic production from 137 Euros per hectare in 2013 to 273 Euros by the end of 2016. Subsidies for converting conventional farms into organic production have also increased, from 262 Euros to 403 Euros per hectare during that same time.

Meyer, who represents the Green Party, is a proponent of organic agriculture and has also introduced some of the strictest animal welfare regulations in the country since he took office in 2013, including banning beak trimming of laying hens by the end of 2016, and phasing out caged egg production completely by 2025.

“The supermarkets dictate and they are very strong. For example, although Lower Saxony is ending beak trimming, we can’t stop imports unless the retailers are supportive,” Meyer said, adding that retailers are supporting cage-free egg production by not selling eggs from hens in cages in countries like Poland and the Ukraine.

The state has also committed to reducing antibiotic use in agriculture by 50 per cent in five years, resulting in farmers having to notify the government each time they purchase antibiotics for livestock use.

Lower Saxony is one of Germany’s livestock powerhouses, home to 18 million laying hens that produce about half of the country’s eggs.
Published in Health
Sasso and Hendrix Genetics have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to strategically connect the colored breeding activities of Sasso with the worldwide network and R&D center of Hendrix Genetics.

To accommodate the transaction Sasso will strengthen is equity structure via emission of new shares to Hendrix Genetics. It is anticipated that the final transaction will be completed in the autumn of this year, after regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

With access to the latest breeding technology and specialized breeding IT of Hendrix Genetics, Sasso’s breeding program will be intensified to accelerate overall product development. Hendrix Genetics will support Sasso with its international asset base to establish a back-up for the core breeding program and all international GPS activities. This will ensure continuity of international Parent Stock sales, necessary to respond to any disease challenge and to set up efficient worldwide distribution. The strategic alliance will provide Sasso with a stronger financial base for its asset renewal program and international expansion plans. Sasso will continue to be managed independently to maintain its focus and dedication to breeding for the colored broiler sector, both in France and globally.

Yves de la Fourchardière, President of Sasso, comments: “Management and shareholders of Sasso understand the ongoing consolidation process within the animal breeding sector, driven by exponentially increasing R&D cost and demand for global supply security. We are pleased that Hendrix Genetics offers Sasso the opportunity to maintain our focus on breeding traditional poultry, our company culture and French ownership and at the same time link with a strong international breeding company.” Antoon van den Berg, Chief Executive Officer of Hendrix Genetics, added: “We have been looking for this partnership for several years. With this alliance Sasso can maintain and further develop itself as a sustainable co-leader in alternative broiler breeding which is particularly beneficial to the broiler sector at large.”
Published in Company News

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