The U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. (USPOULTRY) announced that the USPOULTRY Foundation approved approximately $120,000 in funding for a new research grant addressing blackhead disease in poultry through the Board Research Initiative program, in addition to approximately $110,000 in funding for a new research grant addressing animal welfare in commercial broiler farms. The topics and requests for proposal were selected by the USPOULTRY Foundation board of directors. The Foundation Research Advisory Committee evaluated several research proposals and then recommended which project to fund to the board, USPOULTRY said.
The research on "Methods for Preventing Blackhead Disease in Poultry" will be led by Dr. Robert Beckstead, Prestage family distinguished scholar in turkey physiology, nutrition and immunology with the North Carolina State University Prestage department of poultry science.
A better understanding of blackhead disease and its bird to bird transmission is needed to both improve the testing of alternative products to prevent the disease and identify best management practices to prevent large-scale outbreaks, the announcement said. This project will develop and test a new type of vaccine using molecular techniques as well as identify Heterakis vectors.
"The identification of preventative strategies and treatment options for blackhead disease in poultry is not only an economic need but an animal welfare imperative,” Beckstead said.
“Blackhead is such an important disease in the commercial turkey and chicken industries. With no effective vaccines to prevent blackhead and no approved treatments on the market, we must rely on novel research to provide innovative strategies to tackle this issue,” USPOULTRY director of research Dr. Denise Heard said.
“For several years, the USPOULTRY Foundation has supported a number of projects related to blackhead disease because of its continuing adverse impact on the turkey industry and the lack of approved proactive measures,” USPOULTRY Foundation president John Starkey added.
The "Effect of Variable Light Intensity Program on Broiler Gait Score, Stress & Central Positive Welfare in Commercial Broiler Farm" research grant was made possible, in part, by an endowing foundation gift from Simmons Foods. The University of Arkansas research was made possible, in part, by donations to the USPOULTRY Foundation from a wide range of poultry and egg companies, individuals and families to support the foundation's mission of funding industry research and recruiting students into poultry careers.
Light intensity has been shown to affect the activity of birds, but most studies have focused on constant light intensities to determine their effect on welfare. This project will provide objective measures to evaluate the impact on broiler welfare (e.g., lameness, stress and behavior) by light sources and intensity.
“This research will help measure bird behavioral and physiological outcomes, allowing this information to guide the industry's efforts to continuously improve welfare for the birds entrusted to our care,” said Dr. Karen Christensen, senior director of animal welfare for Tyson Foods and primary investigator for the animal welfare research.
Heard added, “This comprehensive animal welfare study will provide sound data to assist the industry with determining the optimum lighting program to improve overall broiler welfare.”
“USPOULTRY has consistently funded research projects to further advance animal care and husbandry across all sectors of our industry. This is another step in that process,” Starkey said.
The USPOULTRY Board Research Initiative was created by the boards of USPOULTRY and the USPOULTRY Foundation to address current issues facing the poultry industry. The research initiative operates alongside the USPOULTRY comprehensive research program and augments the great success of the existing program by focusing additional resources toward defined areas of research.
USPOULTRY and its foundation operate an extensive research program incorporating all phases of poultry and egg production and processing. Since the inception of the research program, USPOULTRY has reinvested more than $32 million into the industry in the form of research grants. More than 50 universities and federal and state facilities have received grants over the years.