AIRDRIE, ALBERTA — An air of excitement and optimism is setting the tone for poultry production in 2018, as the new year brings fresh thinking and updated, more integrated strategies to help operations stay at the top of their game.
Major trends such as reduced antimicrobial use, the rise of branded retailer programs, enhanced sustainable production standards and a raft of welfare-friendly innovations continue to take hold. New rules as part of the now fully implemented Veterinary Feed Directive in the U.S. are having widespread impact. In Canada, the major phase of new antibiotic rules including increased veterinary oversight come into effect Dec. 1, 2018, running parallel to the next phase of the landmark Chicken Farmers of Canada Antimicrobial Use Strategy targeting the discontinuation of any preventative antimicrobial use in poultry production by the end of 2020.
At the same time, the wealth of knowledge and toolbox of options is expanding to help poultry farms transition to the future, to not only survive but thrive in this new environment. “Change is a constant every year,” says Shawn Fairbairn, lead nutritionist with Poultry Partners. “But entering 2018 I think it’s fair to say the pace of change is at a high level compared to previous years. Poultry operations are facing an expanding number of demands and requirements. But we are also seeing the emergence of a new level of improved knowledge, tools and related strategies to help them meet these challenges.”
Integration, precision customization
A leading trend for boosting the overall management and success of poultry operations is the shift toward more integrated strategies – including the adoption of models that more closely integrate strategies for management, health and nutrition. Poultry Partners itself is a top example of a company serving poultry operations that is embracing this trend toward greater integration. The company is a combined effort between Poultry Health Services, which provides veterinary and health management services, and Nutrition Partners, a nutrition company offering nutrition options and formulations. Additional related key trends include greater emphasis on precision and customization.
“There is increasing recognition that everything on a poultry operation is inter-related,” says Theunis Wessels, Sales & Marketing Manager with Poultry Partners. “If you make a change in one area it affects the other areas. As a result, it only makes sense to have more integrated strategies.” Particularly with the shift away from medicated feed or preventative antimicrobial use, more advanced integrated strategies across health and nutrition, along with more hands-on management approaches, are needed, he says. “The more integrated and detailed you are in your strategies, the better your opportunity for success. That holds true whether you are antibiotic-free or conventional, but with reduced antimicrobial use the importance is greater.”
Reduced antimicrobial use combined with enhanced management, health, nutrition
Along with rising adoption of integrated strategies and continued reductions in antimicrobial use, among its broad base of customers the Poultry Partners team is seeing a continuation of major trends such as increased emphasis on bio-security, rising focus on environmental and housing factors, enhanced animal welfare approaches and a stronger more detailed adherence to tailored feed and nutrition approaches. There is also increasing emphasis on targeting the requirements of specific branded retailer programs and industry initiatives, many of which focus on sustainability and other perceived favorable or premium consumer-demanded attributes.
“It seems that almost every few months a new branded retailer program is announced with implications for poultry production, with requirements ranging from reduced antibiotics use to housing requirements or other new sustainability-related best practices,” says Wessels. “At the same time, industry and producer organizations are continually updating their guidelines and recommended practices with new programs. All of this is taking place amid the backdrop of the regulation changes, making for a pivotal time of transition in the industry.”
Proactive mindset critical to capture emerging opportunities
Operations with a proactive stance have a strong opportunity for success in today’s fast-evolving, progressive minded environment, says Darryl Lewis, president of Nutrition Partners. “The opportunities in feed and nutrition are a great example. Today we have learned so much more, even in just the past few years, to further our understanding of how opportunities for enhanced approaches can make a huge difference to everything an operation wants to achieve. A more in-depth analysis of raw feed materials is now possible, helping to improve feed formulations. We can now tailor feed and nutrition at a very precise micro level, optimized for the specifics of each operation and stage of bird development.”
Perhaps most important, today’s top poultry production advisors have a much better understanding of how feed and nutrition approaches can integrate with health and management strategies to boost results across all areas. “If you’re involved with managing a poultry operation, it’s a good time to refresh,” says Lewis. “Operations that take the time to thoroughly evaluate and update their approaches have the opportunity to make strong improvements.”
The benefits of integration and synergy across health, nutrition and management extend beyond the farm level, says veterinarian Dr. Tom Inglis of Poultry Health Services. “Concepts such as ‘one health’ are taking hold. As we make improvements to more efficiently and sustainably produce safe, healthy food for the marketplace, we are delivering more value to society as a whole and strengthening our positive relationship with consumers. Poultry production like many areas of animal agriculture faces higher expectations, but with the right approaches to meet these demands ultimately this can be a positive challenge that is driving positive change, benefitting everyone from farmers to the animals to consumers. The year ahead will be a very interesting one to watch as the fast pace of progress continues.”
Poultry Partners is a collaborative effort between veterinarians, nutritionists and industry experts, designed to support the success of poultry operations through custom programs and services tailored to individual needs.