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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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Stay connected with the latest U of M poultry research

As a land-grant university, one of the missions of the University of Minnesota is to “focus on teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering.” Though the scale of the University of Minnesota is large, we are committed to keeping you, no matter where in MN you live, connected to research and innovations happening that will help you succeed in your poultry business.

Here are some of the many ways you can stay connected to the University right from your farm! 

  • Here! Visit the blog often to read up on the latest local poultry news and events. Go ahead and bookmark
  • Gobbles: This is the monthly newsletter of MTGA, you will get a quick glimpse into research projects and educational programs that will benefit you and your operation.
  • Our website: Visit, where the University of Minnesota Extension Poultry team brings university research to you to improve management techniques, develop new products and find new markets.
  • YouTube: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Of course you did, because you have watched the September 2016 Area Meeting sessions available for viewing there! Other educational videos are also posted, and the library of information will continue to grow as projects are completed. You can find a link to the channel on our webpage (see above), or simply search “UMN Poultry” on the YouTube homepage.
  • Facebook: The brand new page published the end of December is a quick way to access information from the University about Poultry Health and Production. You may find random funny cartoons too. We can all use a laugh sometimes! Find it at
  • Contact us! Abby Neu, Extension Educator is available by phone or e-mail to answer your questions, or connect you with the person who can. (320) 235 – 0726 ext 2019 or

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Warm winter and open water lead to important biosecurity reminders

Carol J. Cardona DVM, PhD, DACPV
February 2017

Swans have been important birds in the transmission of H5 HPAI in Europe. With our warm temperatures and lack of snow cover, the open fields and open water seems to be inviting them to move this year and they have been spotted here in poultry dense areas recently. We don’t know if they are positive for HPAI but you can assume they have something you don’t want in your poultry flocks.

A single swan can excrete billions of influenza virus particles per day just like ducks. Influenza virus survives in cold, moist conditions and is preserved by freezing. These characteristics result in heavy contamination of pond and slough water, especially when the water is cold. Hunting, trapping, hiking and fishing activities bring people into contact with virus in mud and water that can then be moved to poultry flocks on things like contaminated boots, vehicles and dogs.


Clothing, especially boots, can carry virus in mud or water into poultry barns where it can infect the flock. Anything that is worn in a wild bird environment must be removed and not brought into the poultry barn at all.

Clothes and shoes worn for any hunting, fishing, trapping, training dogs, or hiking activities need to be different than the ones used for work related activities.

Avoid cross contamination at home.

  1. When you return home from any hunting, fishing, trapping, training dogs, or hiking activities, enter your home through the door you don’t use when going to work (if possible). Consider the door and entry area contaminated and when you are clean and heading for the barns, leave by a different door.
  2. Leave your footwear in an area separate from your farm boots (back door, different closet, garage, etc.)
  3. Put clothes from outdoor activities into the washer immediately. Undress from hunting, trapping, etc. in the laundry room as to avoid dragging anything with you into the “clean” areas of your home. Make sure these clothes and shoes/booths do not come in contact with the clothes, shoes/boots you will wear to work. 
  4. Clean and vacuum the laundry room to minimize the risk contaminating other parts of your home.
  5. Shower and put on clean clothes. 
After any hunting, fishing, trapping, training dogs, or hiking activities, the next morning, shower and put on clean clothes and shoes. Drive to work. Park your vehicle in the designated area.


Vehicles that are used for any hunting, fishing, trapping, training dogs, or hiking activities are contaminated both on the inside and the outside. They must never come onto a poultry farm until fully cleaned and disinfected.

Outside of the vehicle: 

Vehicles that have been used any hunting, fishing, trapping, training dogs, or hiking activities must be washed off site. Running vehicles through a superwash before getting home will work. Make sure to get the undercarriage washed, which is usually only included with more expensive packages when using automated car wash.

Inside the vehicle: 

When you get home after hiking or other outdoor activities, clean and disinfect the interior of your truck.
  1. Remove floor mats and shake off all organic material.
  2. Spray floor mats with a lot of Lysol or a 10% solution of chlorine bleach. You want rubber to be dripping or carpet to be thoroughly saturated.
  3. Spray and wipe down the steering wheel and stick shift with Lysol or the bleach solution. Place a paper floor mat on the floor on the driver’s side or both sides if the other seat was used by another hunter. 
  4. Do not go back into the truck unless you are showered and wearing clean clothes. 

After any hunting, fishing, trapping, training dogs, or hiking activities, the next morning, shower and put on clean clothes and shoes. Drive to work. Park your vehicle in the designated area.

Hunting dogs

Hunting dogs are in waterfowl environments where there is lots of virus when they are working or being trained. Because of that, they should be considered to be contaminated at all times. 

  1. Keep hunting dogs away from poultry barns at all times. 
  2. The area where hunting dogs are kept should be considered contaminated and you should stay away from it when you are wearing farm clothes or going to the barns. 
  3. Keep dogs (and cats) out of areas at home where you keep your boots and clothes that you use for work in the poultry barn. 


You can carry influenza virus on your body without being infected. For that reason, it’s important to shower thoroughly before returning to work after outdoor activities.

  1. Shower and wash your hair after any hunting, fishing, trapping, training dogs, or hiking activities.
  2. Keep your fingernails short and wash hands well before coming back to work.
  3. Blow your nose and discard the tissue during your clean up process.
  4. Wait 12 hours (overnight) before you come to work. 

Suggested guidelines 

For people engaged in outdoor activities and others that come onto poultry farms

  1. Wear clean clothes and shoes that have never been in contact with clothing and boots used for hiking or hunting when you come to the farm. 
  2. Keep vehicles that have been used for hunting or driving in wildlife areas away from the farm until they have been cleaned and disinfected on the inside and on the outside.
  3. Keep hunting dogs and dogs that roam freely in wildlife areas away from poultry flocks. They should never enter poultry barns.
  4. Stay away from dogs on the way to the barns because they should be considered contaminated. 
  5. After hiking or being outdoors, shower, clean your fingernails, blow your nose and wash your hair. Wait at least 12 hours before you return to work. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Poultry biosecurity for urban and backyard bird owners

Poultry diseases are not exclusive to large poultry farms. Urban and backyard flocks owners can reduce the spread of diseases like avian influenza, salmonella or e. coli by implementing a simple biosecurity plan. Watch this video to learn more!
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