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Monday, July 17, 2017

USDA APHIS Premises Identification for Poultry Owners

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak of 2015 is the largest animal health emergency our nation has faced. Minnesota lost 9 million turkeys and chickens and accounted for 47% of confirmed cases nationwide, more than any other single state. Being prepared for a potential animal health disaster can minimize the impact, and lessen the fear of those involved in the event. One step that can be taken to prepare for a disease outbreak is obtain and/or verify your farm site(s) have a Premises Identification number (also known as PIN, or premises ID). During an outbreak, these identification numbers allow:

· tracing of diseased and at-risk animals

· tracking and identification of laboratory samples

· reporting of laboratory results

· filing requests for movement permits

· processing of indemnity claims

Having this information is indispensable to managers, owners and responding agencies during an animal health emergency.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Heat Stress in Poultry - Key Points

By Sally Noll, Extension Specialist

The forecast for the coming days look hot and humid!  Review these key points to keep your flock safe in the heat.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Research Update: A Partial Slotted Flooring System for Commercial Market Turkeys-Preliminary Results

Sally Noll, Extension Poultry Specialist and Kevin Janni, Extension Engineer

Wet litter has a negative impact on turkeys (footpad dermatitis, leg problems, air quality) and can allow avian influenza virus to survive for longer time periods. Strategies to remove moisture include adding heat, tilling litter and/or adding dry bedding with an associated cost. Sharing tilling equipment between barns and hauling and distributing new bedding increases the risk of influenza introduction. Another potential strategy for improving litter condition and reducing disease challenge is to use slotted flooring (SF). Previous research at Minnesota found that using SF to replace a portion of the bedded floor area resulted in drier litter where litter was used and reduced the amount of heat needed to remove moisture from the litter. Turkeys raised on partial SF were heavier but developed more breast blisters. 

Slotted flooring was located under the feeders and waterers to collect excreta and spilled water. In retrospect, different flooring or less floor space occupied by SF might minimize breast blister incidence. A pilot study was recently conducted at the UMore Park Turkey Research Unit (Rosemount, MN) to compare five different commercial flooring materials with a conventional bedded system. The five flooring materials were: Double L Classic Red Rooster; SW Ag Plastics Dura-Slat STO; SW Ag Plastics Dura-Slat ST; and Tenderfoot rectangular or square. Each flooring was allocated to two replicate pens with 50 toms each. Flooring occupied 25% of the pen floor. The remaining area contained fresh wood shavings as did the conventionally bedded pens.

Turkeys (male, Hybrid Converter) were moved to the study facility at 5 wks of age and performance followed to 18 wks of age. No differences among treatments were detected for 18 wk body weight, feed efficiency (5 to 18 wks of age), livability, or breast blister/button scores. For the flooring treatments, the proportion of turkeys with the more severe breast scores ranged from 2.3 to 8.6% while the turkeys reared on conventional litter floor averaged 6.6 % severe blisters. Processing plant data indicated similar performance among treatments for breast trim. The preliminary results of this pilot study indicate that a partially slotted flooring system may be a suitable alternative to conventional bedded system. A second trial is planned to confirm these findings.

Acknowledgements: Funding by State of Minnesota and USDA. Technical assistance (University of Minnesota - Jeanine Brannon, Gary Backes, John Fox, Gabriella Furo, Brian Hetchler, Fred Hrbek, Elizabeth Theis and Scott Welch), Jennie-O Turkey Store (Faribault Plant) – processing data collection.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 Minnesota FFA Poultry Contest

By Divek Nair, Research Assistant, Dept. of Animal Science

The University of Minnesota Gopher Poultry Science Club (assisted by their advisors, Anup Johny and Sally Noll) hosted the Minnesota FFA Poultry Career Development Event (CDE) on April 24th at the Poultry Teaching and Research Facility on the St. Paul campus of the U of M. 

FFA career development events provide a unique opportunity to high school students competitively express their skills in the production and processing of poultry and poultry products at local, state and national level contests. For instance, based on the pigment loss, handling quality, abdominal capacity, and molt in live laying hens, the students evaluate the past production efficiency of those layers. Additionally, students get the chance to score the shelled eggs for their interior quality using candling and the exterior quality considering parameters such as cleanliness, egg shape, shell texture, ridges, shell thickness and body checks. Following the USDA guidelines, then these eggs are graded.

At this particular event, the students also examined chicken and turkey carcasses with emphasis on identifying poultry parts and grading carcasses considering the presence of defects such as exposed flesh, missing parts and disjointed or broken joints. They evaluated several retail processed products including boneless breaded chicken. Students also completed a written exam and participated in various group activities.

Thanks to Jennie-O Foods and Sparboe Farms for suppling this year’s contest materials. Contest preparation introduced GPSC members who didn’t have FFA contest experience to specifics of setting up the various classes while those with experience were able to pass on their knowledge to other club members.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Good Neighbors

By Abby Neu

An unseen benefit to the devastation of the 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak can be the lessons learned from it. The industry – companies, farms and researchers - have been able to identify risk factors where their impact t can be reduced through emergency plans, permitting processes, operational procedures and over-all preparedness.

In 2015, a study was conducted by the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS). The study aim was to identify potential risk factors associated with the HPAI outbreak. Numerous risk factors were named in the CAHFS report published in January 2016. The report provided risk factors throughout the study time period as well as risk factors detected early on in the outbreak and later in the outbreak. The study found the most concerning risk factor was the proximity of a turkey farm to an infected turkey farm. Throughout the duration of the study time period, a non-infected farm was found to be 46% more likely to become infected if it was located within 1.5 miles of a confirmed infection. A second major factor was the movement of bird mortality by rendering trucks which increased odds of a farm becoming infected by 10%.

Early in the outbreak, turkey farms that had tilling, discing, fertilizing or planting activity going on nearby had a 14% increase of becoming infected. This was also the time period of wild bird spring migration (April).Influenza virus has been proven to survive cold temperatures in soil through previous research. Migrating birds who were carriers of the virus could have shed the virus through their feces onto the fields that surround poultry facilities. The disruption of the soil surface during early spring fieldwork could cause soil particles to become airborne, possibly carrying the virus to poultry production facilities.

The study showed the potential for a risk factor (soil related) in HPAI transmission to exist among different types of agricultural operations. Connecting two dissimilar operations can be difficult. In late February and early March, I had the opportunity to travel the state to speak to corn growers about avian influenza. Sixty eight percent of the meeting attendees stated the reason they came was to learn more about the turkey/poultry industry. They were curious about aspects of agriculture they are unfamiliar with and especially avian influenza as it also affected them indirectly with less corn being fed to Minnesota poultry. By the conclusion of the meetings, they were open to working with nearby turkey farms to lessen this risk factor.

So, how well do you know your neighbors? Now is as good of a time as any to get to know them. If you already know them, you are one step ahead in the game. Pick a morning to bring them coffee and a couple donuts and ask a favor of them. You can start by explaining basics of AI and how it affected you and the industry in 2015. Then, kindly ask them to give you forewarning when they will be working in the fields near your barns. This will allow you the opportunity to “batten down the hatches” as they say. Weather permitting, you can raise the curtains for those few days or minimize ventilation to extent possible (without harming the flock), and ensure your personal and farm biosecurity is maximized. You will be pleasantly surprised how receptive your crop-growing neighbor will be when you take the time to get to know them, and share some information about avian influenza.

Call me (320-235-0726 x 2019 or e-mail if you want to practice before you visit your neighbor. MTGA staff or I can provide facts and numbers about the outbreak to you. Working together to minimize the risk of avian influenza is beneficial for you,
your farm neighbor(s) and all of Minnesota’s agriculture industry.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

UMN Poultry Team part of education programming at 2017 MPF Convention

Midwest Poultry Federation hosts the largest regional poultry convention in the nation.  It is just around the corner,  March 14 - 16, 2017 at the St. Paul RiverCentre.  University of Minnesota faculty and Extension specialists are included in the slate of 40 speakers that will cover topics for turkey, egg layer, broiler, and organic/specialty poultry industries.  Also, stop by the Biosecure Entry Education Trailer (BEET) on the exhibits floor on the 14th and 15th. See below for a complete listing of presentations from the University of Minnesota.

This event is a destination for everyone involved in poultry, regardless of the size of their operation.  There are three exhibit halls full of vendors and education workshops run throughout the two days. Details on all MPF Convention events, the full education program, list of exhibitors and online registration can be found at  Early bird pricing is no longer available, though registration is still available!

Dr. Tim Johnson is one of the featured speakers from the University of Minnesota to present at this year's Midwest Poultry Federation Convention, March 14 - 16 at the St. Paul RiverCentre.

Tuesday, March 14 - 1:30 PM
Pre-conference: Nutrition and Health Symposium
  • Feed-Related Issue in Poultry: Diagnosis at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory; presented by Rob Porter, DVM
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - Morning session
  • Partially Slotting Flooring Systems for Market Toms - What are the Possibilities?; presented by Dr. Sally Noll and Dr. Kevin Janni
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - Learn and Go Labs
  • 11:00 AM - 11:30 AM; learn more about the secure too producers can use to keep their farm information up-to-date in case of a disease outbreak
  • 4:00 PM - 4:30 PM; learn more about the secure too producers can use to keep their farm information up-to-date in case of a disease outbreak
Thursday, March 16, 2017 - Afternoon sessions
  • TBD; presented by Carol Cardona, DVM, PhD
  • What is the poultry microbiome and why should I care about it?; presented by Tim Johnson, PhD

Monday, February 27, 2017

Research Update: effect of different types of slotted flooring on turkey performance

By: Gabriella Furo
Research Assistant, Department of Animal Science, University of Minnesota

Slotted flooring (SF) systems in poultry houses have a great potential to reduce energy costs and more importantly improve the bird performance. These flooring systems separate excreta from the birds which has several potential benefits. However previous studies indicated if the entire floor in the turkey house is covered by a slotted system, the breast blisters may increase. Therefore there is a need for investigating the effects of a partially slotted floor (PSF) system for rearing turkeys. The objective of this initiated project is to determine if PSF affects breast blisters/buttons, foot pad dermatitis and feather cleanliness. The PSF consists of 25% of the floor with SF and wood shavings for remaining floor area. Comparison is made to an all bedded control. Five different SF are being examined: Double L Classic Red Rooster (0.75”x2.5” rectangular); SW Ag Plastics Dura-slat (1.1”x1.1” square), SW Ag Plastics; Tenderfoot Calf Mesh (0.875”x2.18” rectangular); and, Tenderfoot 1” squares.

Data to be collected includes incidence and severity of footpad dermatitis (0-healthy, 2- deep and/or severe lesions), gait score (0- no impairment, 5- complete lameness), feather cleanliness score (0-clean, 3- very dirty), breast blisters/buttons (0- none, 3- excessively large). Performance measures include weight, feed intake, feed conversion, litter characteristics, and processing plant trim. After this first trial raising tom turkeys from 5 to 18 wks of age, additional studies will be conducted to confirm appropriate type of flooring or to explore other types of flooring.

*Funding for this project is provided from the State of Minnesota and with support by USDA-NIFA. The project team consists of Dr. Kevin Janni (, Dr. Sally Noll (, Dr. Carol Cardona, and Gabi Furo. Staff support provided by Brian Hetchler, Jeanine Brannon, Fred Hrbek, Gary Backes, and Scott Welch.
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