From FCC Express, by Owen Roberts
The ongoing drive for new livestock housing approaches on Canadian poultry farms has prompted a major research gift to the University of Guelph.
Last week, Burnbrae Farms announced it was giving $500,000 to the University of Guelph to establish the Burnbrae Farms Professorship in Poultry Welfare.
This position, which will be attached to the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, will focus on housing studies, especially alternative non-cage systems the public is demanding. The company says the research will support the adoption of new practices, the design of systems that are best suited for the hens’ welfare and the implementation of new technology to improve the quality of life of laying hens on the farm.
The position will be filled by Prof. Alexandra Harlander, a faculty member in the university’s Department of Animal and Poultry Science. Her research combines bird health with birds’ preferences — as determined by studies such as demand analysis — to apply to current poultry husbandry practices that enhance bird well-being and health.
The University of Guelph has played a significant role in animal welfare and behaviour studies, says Margaret Hudson, president of Burnbrae Farms. She believes its research, through studies conducted in particular by scientists with the world renowned Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare, is unmatched.
“This professorship will help increase (the university’s) capacity, and will be unique in its outreach efforts to farmers, the general public and retailers,” Hudson says. “Consumers’ preferences continue to drive the demands of retailers and the specialty egg market in Canada.”
Agriculture needs leaders such as Harlander to communicate with farmers, retailers and consumers, adds Rob Gordon, Dean of the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph.
“This position will focus on working with the entire value chain to enhance production systems and approaches, and educate on the issue of poultry welfare and behaviour,” he says.
The professorship is also funded by the Poultry Industry Council and the Canadian Poultry Research Council.