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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Cameras Document Poultry-Wildlife Interactions

The role of wildlife in disease transmission within and between poultry farms is a sure-fire conversation starter wherever poultry industry professionals gather. A University of Minnesota research project led by Sally Noll, an Extension specialist in poultry and professor in the Department of Animal Science, and Gary Wyatt, an agroforestry educator with University of Minnesota Extension, is shedding light on wildlife activity around poultry facilities. Especially what happens after dark. 

The team selected turkey farms with varying landscapes around the farm and installed game cameras—five per farm—to monitor activity near barns, compost/litter piles, and farm borders. The most common types of animals identified by the camera traps were deer, rabbits, possums, various birds, feral cats, coyotes, raccoons, and foxes.

Preliminary information indicates that mortality composters are attractive to possums and raccoons. Crows were observed occasionally at these locations. On one site, when mortality composters were active, images taken (possums and/or raccoons) averaged 42 images over a 24-hour period. After the composter was cleaned out and a trapping program was implemented, the average dropped to 1.4 images per 24 hours.

The presence of carnivores (mammals and birds) that could feed on domestic poultry and also various wild birds are seen as high-risk wildlife for possible avian influenza transmission and potentially other avian diseases such as fowl cholera. While it is too early to answer carnivore-related questions, the team will continue to process images from the camera traps. There is potential that this project will yield actionable strategies for producers to use to minimize interactions between wildlife and poultry.

Understanding Footpad Dermatitis

(Top) Normal footpad compared with a footpad affected by dermatitis (bottom).

The welfare status of animals used for food production remains a concern for consumers and producers alike. Footpad dermatitis is a frequently observed condition in poultry production that can affect profitability, bird performance and well-being. The problem is that existing scoring methods to determine when the condition becomes a problem for the bird’s well-being could stand improvement. 

Footpad dermatitis is a necrotic condition that occurs on the bottom surface of the foot of poultry. It starts as an erosion of the skin of the foot and can lead to lesions and broken, painful ulcers if the skin is damaged. The condition can influence leg weakness development, which is another welfare indicator.

University of Minnesota researchers collaborated with colleagues at Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University and Purdue University to evaluate existing scoring methods that attempt to assess the severity and impact of footpad dermatitis. Unfortunately, the methods are not well connected to actual physical changes. More research is needed to better understand how lesions develop and progress to ulcers.

Researchers are currently focused on establishing the relationships between footpad dermatitis and lameness, litter characteristics and productivity under different management models, and determining immune system components that prompt changes in the footpad.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

RESCHEDULED Backyard and Small Flock Poultry Workshop

SAINT PETER, Minn-- Minnesota's April blizzard forced the postponement of the poultry workshop scheduled in St. Peter, Minnesota last Saturday.  The event has been rescheduled for Saturday, April 28. 

Have you ever considered owning your own backyard chickens? Or do you already have a small flock and want to learn more about how to care for your feathered friends? Then join University of Minnesota Educators and Specialist for a day of poultry education on April 28th in St Peter, Minnesota.

Raising poultry on a small scale is gaining in popularity throughout all parts of Minnesota, but without access to education, many home producers are left scrambling to find answers to their questions. The Backyard and Small Flocks Workshop is designed to help start answering some of those questions.

The workshop will cover a range of poultry related topics including chicken breeds, poultry regulatory issues, poultry husbandry and nutrition, biosecurity, issues with raising poultry, and baby chicks. Whether you consider yourself a novice or an expert chicken raiser, this workshop will have something for you.

The workshop will be held on April 28th at the Governor’s Room in the St Peter Community Center, 600 South 5th Street, Saint Peter, MN 56082. The program runs from 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM with registration starting at 9:30 AM.

If you are interested in attending the event please pre-register at least one week in advance. You may register by contacting Jason Ertl, Local Extension Educator at (507) 934-7828 or via email at

Friday, April 6, 2018

Pens with partial slotted floors appear to offer advantages

We know that wet litter has a negative impact on turkeys. It can lead to footpad dermatitis, leg problems, diminished air quality, and it can allow avian influenza virus to survive for longer time periods.

Traditional strategies to remove moisture have some shortcomings. For instance, adding heat, tilling litter and/or adding dry bedding carry associated costs. Sharing tilling equipment between barns and hauling and distributing new bedding increases the risk of influenza introduction and spread.

Another potential strategy for improving litter condition and reducing disease challenge is to use slotted flooring (SF). Sally Noll, an Extension poultry specialist and professor in the Department of Animal Science, and Kevin Janni, an Extension agricultural engineer and professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, collaborated to evaluate alternative flooring systems. The Jennie-O Turkey Store processing plant in Faribault helped collect data for the study.

Research in Minnesota 20 years ago determined 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. 

Noll and Janni conducted a pilot study at the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center 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 material was placed in two identical pens with 50 toms each. Flooring occupied 25 percent 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 weeks of age and their performance was followed to 18 weeks of age. No differences among treatments were detected for body weight (at 18 week of age), feed efficiency (from 5 to 18 weeks of age), liveability, 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 percent while the turkeys reared on conventional litter floor averaged 6.6 percent 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.

Improving biosecurity farm by farm

After the 2015 outbreak of avian influenza and 2013 outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus led to animal losses in the millions, University of Minnesota Extension educators hit the road to teach farmers and farm workers about the proper protocol involved in keeping diseases from spreading. Part of Extension’s mobile effort is the University of Minnesota Biosecure Entry Education Trailer (BEET), which was made possible by the state’s Rapid Agricultural Response Fund.

The trailer had one of its busiest years in 2017, reaching an estimated 179,000 people at large and small events. Extension poultry educator Abby Neu reports the trailer is a powerful demonstration tool for common sense, easy-to-implement procedures that can help safeguard a farm from future disease outbreaks. The fact that it can travel just about anywhere is a reason for its success.

The trailer is used by Extension’s poultry and swine teams, including Neu and Sarah Schieck, Extension swine educator. They work with producers, state officials, feed haulers and 4-H members to better understand how diseases spread. “It’s everyone’s job in the industry to think about biosecurity,” says Schieck.

Abby Neu, Extension poultry educator, demonstrated biosecurity using
GLO germ inside the Biosecure Entry Education Trailer (BEET)
Neu says the trailer helps the team explain the principles of Danish Entry, an entry protocol for farms that emphasizes separation between the outside and the inside of the barn housing animals.

Rob Orsten raises turkeys near Willmar. “Biosecurity is probably everything—it’s vital,” he says. “Biosecurity education has to be ongoing and constant.”

A key feature of the trailer is a bench—a line of separation—that focuses attention on the importance of changing out of possibly contaminated clothing and footwear, removing personal items, and proper hand washing before stepping into areas where birds live. “Having the bench, this physical barrier, makes people slow down and think about their mental checklist,” says Neu.

“Birds are very susceptible to every little thing that enters the barn,” says Orsten. “The greatest biosecurity program is as weak as a barn worker’s next step.”

Visit Biosecurity for poultry for more information.

Secure Poultry Supply website provides valuable information

During a disease outbreak, USDA-ordered stopped movements can have consequences for uninfected farms near the outbreak. The Secure Poultry Supply (SPS) plan helps to avoid interruptions in the movement of animals or animal products during an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The SPS focuses on premises with no evidence of infection and helps to assure there will be a continuous supply of safe and wholesome food to consumers. It also maintains business continuity for producers, transporters, and food processors through response planning.

Recently, the University of Minnesota launched the SPS website ( The SPS is a translation of the science in the Secure Egg (SES), Turkey (STS) and Broiler (SBS) Supply plans into a harmonized permitting approach. On the SPS website are permit guidances that contain strategies to limit the risk of poultry product movement, like biosecurity and testing, from farms without infection inside a Control Area. The permit guidances are specific to a product. When a poultry product is moved using the SPS, the permit guidance for that product spells out the criteria that must be met to meet the movement’s risk rating.

If that sounds complex, it is. But the new website helps everyone navigate the process. It is a valuable resource for producers, industry and agencies that focuses on how to move product during an HPAI outbreak. Individuals can find the permit guidance relevant to the poultry product movement of their company/farm by searching by product or species in a user-friendly way. The website can be viewed on computers, tablets, and cell phones with internet access.

Permitted movement occurs by a process and an overview of this process is summarized on the site. The SPS site also provides links to the individual Secure Supply websites, which contain the science behind Continuity of Business (COB) in risk assessments. Development of content is continual. Future plans for the SPS website include providing an overview of outreach available from the UMN team. Individuals are invited to contact the team to schedule an exercise to practice permitting and response plans.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Backyard Poultry and Small Flocks Workshops remain for 2 MN locations

Join University of Minnesota for a day of Poultry Education!  Small-scale and backyard poultry is emerging throughout all parts of Minnesota. A variety of topics related to poultry production and marketing will be covered. The agenda offers something for both novice and more experienced chicken keepers.

April 7, 2018 - Rochester * NEW LOCATION*
Heintz Center, 863 30th Ave. SE, Rochester, MN 55904
Contact: Michael Cruse
(507)765-3896 or

April 14, 2018 - St. Peter
St. Peter Senior Center, @ St Peter Community Center, 600 South 5th Street, Saint Peter, MN 56082 Contact: Jason Ertl
(507) 237-4100 (phone) or


9:30-10:00 Registration
10:00-10:30 Chicken Breeds
10:30-11:00 Poultry Regulatory Issues
11:00-11:30 Poultry Husbandry
11:30-12:00 Poultry Nutrition

12:30-12:45 Lunch

12:45-1:45 Biosecurity
1:45-2:30 Issues in Raising Poultry
2:30-3:00 Raising Baby Chicks
3:00-3:30 Round table Discussion
3:30 Adjourn

$10.00/person or $20.00/household (max 3), lunch is provided. Please pre-register a week in advance.

Please PRE-REGISTER for the site nearest you with the county Extension Educator listed.

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