The Extension Poultry Science faculty are very involved in problem solving/service related activities that have high impact results for the poultry industry in Georgia. In addition to the traditional problem solving/service activities related to poultry production management, Extension faculty are providing assistance with many of the issue oriented challenges facing the poultry industry.
Food Safety and Quality Control
In 1994, the United States Department of Agriculture instituted new food safety regulations. As a result of these new regulations, poultry processors are responsible for monitoring USDA food safety standards and evaluation of poultry carcasses for E. coli and Salmonella. Failure of processors to meet or exceed strict USDA standards can result in withdrawal of inspection for a minimum of three months and may result in shut downs for even longer periods of time. The economic impact of shutting down a processing plant for any period of time could be devastating to both integrators and growers. Many poultry processors have had difficulty in meeting the new food safety regulations. Dr. Bruce Webster has been active in developing and conducting workshops related to on- farm HAACP programs comparable to those mandated for processing plants. These programs have been developed for both poultry meat and table egg producers and are intended to help poultry companies reduce food contamination by reducing these problems at the production level.
Environmental and County Zoning Issues
The ability of the poultry industry to effectively respond to public concerns related to nutrient management, dead bird disposal and protection of surface and ground water on poultry farms has been paramount to the continued growth and economic success of this industry. Several faculty in Extension Poultry Science are making significant contributions in this arena. Drs. Dunkley, Ritz, Webster and Worley are actively involved in providing programing and support for County Agents developing nutrient management plans for poultry operators. These efforts have helped the state's poultry producers respond quickly and effectively to environmental critics and have been beneficial to this point in preventing stricter and costly state mandated programs. Should the Georgia EPD mandate a certification program for dry manure operators, this "voluntary" nutrient management program could serve as a basis for compliance. The University of Georgia Agricultural& Environmental Services Laboratory have processed thousands of soil, water, and feed samples annually in support of the poultry industry. Drs. Ritz and Webster continue their studies related to in-house composting procedures for egg producers. In-house composting appears very promising in helping egg producers reduce the volume of manure in high rise operations as well as being beneficial in odor and fly control. Drs. Fairchild and Ritz continue to work with the Georgia Poultry Federation, County Agents, county developmental councils and zoning commissions as the need arises. The efforts in this area have helped county regulators understand the nature of the poultry industry and to develop reasonable zoning regulations regarding poultry expansion and operations in these communities.
Animal Welfare and Auditing Programs
Animal welfare has become a significant issue for the poultry industry as a result of activist organizations pressuring restaurants and food suppliers to provide assurance of humane practices in production of animal products. Dr. Webster has worked with the National Chicken Council in its development of animal welfare guidelines.
Dr. Webster has worked with Wendy's International and YUM! Brands (parent company of KFC and other major restaurant brands)in development of their animal welfare programs and auditing requirements for poultry.
Energy Efficiency and Ventilation of Poultry Houses
Maintaining optimum environments in poultry houses is critical to achieving maximum performances of commercial flocks of poultry. Drs. Czarick, Fairchild and Worley are involved through a team effort in an ongoing research and demonstrational program to reduce energy requirements and to improve ventilation for poultry production facilities. Current projects are investigating the use of computerized environmental control systems for maximizing the efficient use of ventilation, feeding and drinking equipment. Data and information related to energy, feed, and water usage are being collected under field conditions and should result in improved management programs for poultry producers. It is conservatively estimated that previous work in this area has produced an economic impact of more than $4 million annually as a result of improved broiler performance, as well as reduced fuel and electrical usage.
Breeder Flock Management
Dr. Jeanna Wilson continues to provide programming for breeder flock managers and operators. Field studies and research projects are underway aimed at improving productivity, fertility and hatchability of hatching egg flocks. Dr. Wilson's current research projects relate to ultra-sound measurement of male testicular size for evaluation of male performance, early feed intake effects on male body weights and mating activity, and the use of electrostatic devices to reduce dust and pathogens in breeder houses.
Hatchery Sanitation and Operation
The purpose of this program is to improve hatchability of fertile eggs in poultry hatcheries through the employment of improved sanitation, ventilation, and management procedures. Dr. Wilson also provides problem solving services to hatchery managers and breeder service personnel related to hatchability and fertility problems.
Feed Ingredient Quality
This program conducted by Dr. Nick Dale evaluates energy and protein content of various feed ingredients for poultry feed formulation. Dr. Dale's lab annually analyzes hundreds of feed ingredient samples for poultry producers in Georgia and the United States. His analyses allow poultry company nutritionists to more accurately formulate poultry diets resulting in more efficient feeding programs. Dr. Dale is also collaborating closely with Dr. Adam Davis in our department in the evaluation of alternative feed ingredients (i.e. Pearl millet and cottonseed mill) produced in Georgia which could be beneficial to the Georgia poultry industry. Dr. Dale's laboratory analyses and his applied research programs result in millions of dollars of savings to the poultry industry each year as a result of improved nutrition and feeding programs.
Youth Program Activities
The Extension Poultry Science faculty annually conduct area and state poultry judging contests and serve as judges for District 4-H and FFA projects. Over 700 youth participated in poultry activities in 2001-2002 with state winners participating in national contests. Last year's state 4-H poultry judging team took second place at the national contest with the previous year's winner recording a first place. These youth programs are very beneficial to the poultry industry and our department. These programs acquaint youngsters with poultry management and poultry science and help them become responsible, productive citizens regardless of whether they become employees of the poultry industry or poultry scientists. This fall, we will initiate a new Southern Invitational Poultry Judging Contest to be held in Athens on the UGA campus. This contest will replace the Virginia Eastern Regional poultry judging contest that was terminated last year. This new contest will provide The University of Georgia the opportunity to host 4-H and FFA poultry teams from across the United States and introduce these youngsters to our department and the poultry industry in Georgia. If your company would like to be a sponsor for this program, please contact Dr. Bruce Webster.
These programs are examples of some of the primary areas of emphasis of the Extension Poultry Science faculty. All of these programs represent high quality, high impact activities and are examples of this faculty's ability to provide relevant and important support for the poultry producers of Georgia.