Egg Industry Articles


Summit Livestock’s Wrap-the-EquipmentTM Construction Speeds Erection
and Reduces Cost of Aviary Housing

Aug 18, 2017


The Lone Cactus Complex located near Bouse, AZ., was conceived by Marcus Rust in 2015 to produce cage-free eggs to be marketed in California and Western states. Rose Acre Farms initially elected to convert to cage-free production by erecting new buildings on existing complexes in Indiana.

The Lone Cactus project represents refinement of design features based on the experience gained with an initial group of five houses. Expansion to Arizona by the Nation’s second largest egg producer provided an opportunity for their design-build general contractor, Summit Livestock Facilities to apply a unique approach to construction by integrating the house with equipment in the “wrap-the-equipment” concept.

The origin of Summit Livestock Facilities is steeped in 60 years of designing and building facilities for agricultural and commercial purposes from the parent company, FBi Buildings. This specialized company was formed to address the needs of protein producers from a commercial aspect as well as addressing the growing concerns with animal health and wellbeing.  This includes facilities in all livestock segments.


Marcus Rust

Lone Cactus Egg Farm represents a collaboration between Summit Livestock as the architect, coordinating engineer, and general contractor, FACCO the supplier of modified aviaries and installations, Rose Acre Farms as an involved and participating client and a number of subcontractors.

The Bouse site in Arizona was selected on the basis of proximity to western markets and isolation from concentrations of commercial poultry. Distance from flyways used by migratory waterfowl represents a direct application of the principles of Conceptual Biosecurity. 

As planned, the completed project will ultimately comprise two complexes each of six houses with a total of 4.4 million hens.  An additional ingredient-receiving facility to handle grain and bulk feedstuffs delivered by rail has yet to be erected. A distribution cold store and warehouse facility to be located equidistant between the Lone Cactus Complex and the second facility will be required.

Based on the stated commitments by members of the Food Marketing Institute, the National Restaurant Association and food service distributors to source only cage-free eggs by 2025, Rust opted for a novel design which would incorporate speed of erection and minimize capital cost compared to conventional aviary housing. It is estimated that each house with aviaries, electrical, water, alarm and ventilation systems including evaporative cooling will cost less than conventional housing estimated to range from $30 to $35 per hen. 

Additional expenditures are obviously required for site development, structural biosecurity, feed mixing, egg packing, roads and reticulation of power and water. It is estimated that it requires four months to erect and equip a house although on a complex it is possible to stage consecutive phases of construction or to increase manpower and resources to expedite completion.

Each of the Lone Cactus houses will be approximately 180 feet by 540 feet.  Each house comprising two levels is subdivided into two compartments by a longitudinal wall.  Each of the four compartments will house approximately 95,000 white-feathered hens.  Each of the seven rows of aviaries in each compartment comprises three tiers with the center tier modified to brood day-old pullet chicks to 12 weeks. At this time they are individually vaccinated and then distributed among the available modules which have movable cage fronts. 

The aviaries serve as rearing cages but after training, cage fronts are folded back to allow the mature flock complete access to the volume of the house. Each house is designed to hold approximately 380,000 white-feathered hens at a stocking density approved by U.S. welfare certification agencies. Actual floor area provides a density of 0.5 ft2 per hen but since these are aviary systems, the effective bio-density is 6.0 ft3 per hen.

The aviary modules were manufactured by FACCO of Italy with extensive modifications as requested by Rose Acre Farms under the directions of CEO Marcus Rust.

The houses incorporate a patented “Wrap-the-Equipment” design conceived by Summit Livestock to satisfy the requirements of speed of market and optimal cost.

Perspective view of Lone Cactus Complex under construction

Gable wall showing evaporative cooling pad

Side wall during construction showing vertical supports,
white panels incorporating air passages.
Wall cladding yet to be installed but aviaries are visible within the interior


Cage Free Housing Systems

Mar 24, 2017


In reviewing equipment offered by both U.S. and EU manufacturers at the 2017 IPPE and at the Midwest Poultry Federation Convention it is evident that our ‘cage-free’ market is now characterized by five distinctly different systems each with its own advantages and features relating to density, acceptability by flocks, and contribution to performance. 


The most important considerations weighed by potential purchasers relates to acceptability by customers. It is indeed unfortunate that decision makers among the major supermarkets, wholesale-club and QSR chains have little experience in production. They are frequently misguided by self-appointed welfare experts or they misinterpret published or posted data. 

This may have profound implications for a producer intending to supply a chain based on a short-term arrangement but with a financial commitment to a system of upwards of 15 years.


Biomin Reports on Mycotoxin Content of 2016 Corn Crop

Feb 24, 2017


US feed and livestock producers should carefully monitor mycotoxin contamination in ingredients and feed, based on results in the latest BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey.

For 2016 in the United States, a total of 387 corn samples sourced from over 26 different states and 79 DDGS samples sourced from 14 different states were analyzed in three different laboratories (Romer Labs Inc., USA; Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Iowa State University, USA; Activation Laboratories, Canada) in order to identify the presence and potential risk posed to livestock animal production by six major mycotoxin groups.


The survey results provide an insight to the prevalence of aflatoxins (Afla), zearalenone (ZEN), deoxynivalenol (DON), fumonisins (FUM), T-2 toxin (T-2), and ochratoxin A (OTA).In total, 387 corn samples and 79 distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) samples were sourced from across the US in 2016. Approximately 90% of corn samples and all DDGS samples tested positive for at least one mycotoxin.

“The mycotoxin threat was higher in 2016 than in 2015,” stated Dr Raj Murugesan, Technical and Marketing Director of BIOMIN America.

“Deoxynivalenol (DON), fumonisins (FUM) and zearalenone (ZEN) in particular present a potential risk to livestock animal production. This gives greater importance to regular monitoring of feed, crops, and silages,” he added.

2016 US corn highlights:

  • Deoxynivalenol was present in 75% (72% in 2015) of samples at an average contamination levels of 1670 ppb (691 ppb in 2015).
  • Fumonisins prevalence reached 72% (52% in 2015) with an average contamination level of 4424 ppb.
  • Zearalenone increased compared to 2015 to 42% (17% in 2015) while the average contamination almost doubled to 412 ppb from 247 ppb in 2015.

“All three major toxins (DON, FUM, and ZEN) have an increased prevalence in US corn harvested in 2016 in comparison to 2015,” said Dr Erika Hendel, Swine Technical Manager at BIOMIN.

2016 US DDGS highlights:

  • All 79 DDGS samples tested positive for deoxynivalenol, averaging 2681 ppb.
  • Fumonisins and zearalenone were present in 88% and 71% of samples, respectively.

“Rainfall during the silking period for the 2016 crop along with warmer average temperatures are likely to have contributed to greater Fusarium fungi growth,” explained Dr Murugesan. Fusarium fungi can produce several mycotoxins including deoxynivalenol (DON), fumonisins (FUM) and zearalenone (ZEN).
Impacts on livestock

The presence of mycotoxins is associated with poorer feed quality, impaired animal performance and health challenges. “Certain combinations of mycotoxins are known to have synergistic effects,” warned Dr Murugesan. He added “that means an intensified negative impact on animals, even at reasonably low levels.”

The annual BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey constitutes the longest running and most comprehensive survey of its kind, using advanced analytic tools on more than 16,000 samples taken from 81 countries worldwide. Over 60,000 analyses were conducted to identify the presence and potential risk posed to livestock animal production.


Managing Aviary Systems to Achieve Optimal Results

Nov 18, 2016


Bill Snow, an acknowledged expert on management of aviary systems for rearing pullets and for egg production has authored a guide incorporating his experience with Big Dutchman installations.

Topics considered include lighting, feeding, ventilation, egg collection and maintaining litter quality among other considerations.

EGG-CITE has reproduced the article which contains valuable principles and recommendations for the benefit of subscribers.


View the article at as a presentation at

Or download as a PDF file at



Sep 9, 2016


In a recent presentation at the Institute for Food Technologists 2016 Annual Meeting, the Clean Label Revolution was reviewed based on a study conducted by C+R Research.  The project funded by the IFT included a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers of whom 7 in 10 claimed to read labels on a regular basis.

To understand the influence of age demographics on response to labels, the following age definitions are generally accepted:-

  • Generation Z                           15 to 20 years old
  • Generation Y or Millennials   20 to 40 years old
  • Generation X                           40 to 55 years old
  • Boomers                                  55 to 70 years old

The C+R study classified consumers into four group according to their approach to labels:

  • The Vigilante comprising 20 percent of the sample payed close attention to product labels.  Most of this category are represented by boomers. 
  • The Balancers comprising 15 percent of the survey pay attention to labels but they are not as concerned over specifics.  This group also includes boomers some of whom follows the philosophy of  “eating everything in moderation”
  • The Keep-it- Simple category comprising 47 percent vaguely want to eat healthier but do not want to invest time in either study or reading labels.  This group was represented by Generation Y or Millennials.
  • The Unconcerned representing 17 percent of the sample are more interested in value and convenience then health.  This group comprise Generation Y consumers who are interested in value especially when raising children.

The study showed that specific nutrients are of concern to different age demographics.  Sugar is a factor however common to all generations. Sodium is important to boomers, trans fat to Generation X’ers and boomers and the descriptor “all natural” to millennials and Generation X’ers

Boomers who have more health concerns based on their age and in many cases have more time to shop indicated that they are concentrating on specific foods based on labels. 

Of interest from the study is the surprising finding that over a third of those surveyed did not consider GM status as affecting their purchased decisions.  This finding was common across all four generations. 

The most important label indications influencing the purchase decision included sugar, sodium, fat, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and trans fat. Attributes or nutrients of less concern included probiotics, prebiotics and organic status.


Egg Production in Spain

Jun 17, 2016


During a recent vacation visit Spain the opportunity arose to review eggs in supermarkets and urban produce markets which cater to a high proportion of city residents.

Spain is the 4th largest producer of eggs in the EU, currently with approximately 45 million hens based on egg production as documented in the GAIN Report (SP1538) released on October 28, 2015.


The hen population has fluctuated over the past six years.  In 2010, Germany banned conventional cages approximately two years before the EU deadline.  This necessitated importation of eggs from Holland and Spain with a resulting rise in the number of hens to 52 million.  Following installation of new housing in Germany, demand for imports fell negatively impacting producers in Spain. At the present time there are approximately 1,150 egg farms with an average of 40,000 hens in each facility with 90 percent held in enriched colony modules.

Spain did receive a benefit from the 2015 U.S. outbreak of avian influenza which impacted the breaking industry disproportionately to shell eggs.  Between late June and early October, USDA Agricultural Marketing Services issued import licenses for approximately 12 million dozen eggs for breaking, representing approximately one-third of U.S. imports of breaking stock.  Given the restoration of flock numbers in 2016 and the consequential collapse in the price of breaking stock, exports to the U.S. have ceased.  In 2014, the USDA-FAS estimated a net export of 147,000 metric ton of eggs from Spain representing 204 million dozen.

The downturn in the EU economy has apparently reduced consumption from 239 eggs per capita to 206 in 2013 constituting a 14 percent decline.  The net result of decreased exports to the U.S. and European nations together with competition from the Ukraine has produced a crisis with extreme competition among producers and cooperatives for the available market.  The combined effect of reduced exports to Germany together with a shortage of capital to replace conventional cages resulted in a reduction in flock size from 51 million in 2010 to 39 million in 2013.  Some relief has been gained through developing export markets outside the EU including North Africa.  There has been an increase in the production and shipment of egg products to alleviate the over- production of shell eggs.

The following images illustrate packaging at the supermarket level with prices converted to U.S. $ per dozen.

Eggs displayed at the St Joseph Market Barcelona. Price range $1.70 dozen on 30-egg tray upwards


Eggs displayed at the Barcelona El Corte Ingles supermarket. Not refrigerated


Roig Brand 6-pack in plastic with cardboard sleeve incorporating a handle $5.50 dozen


Pazo de Vilane free-range brand in cardboard 6-pack $6.60 dozen


El Corte Ingles private-brand generics in PET carton with sleeve. $3.56 dozen


Coren Free Range 6=pack in fibrer with outer sleeve $4.20 dozen


Finca  Arcadia Organic with printed paper overwrap $6.60 dozen


In compliance with EU regulations all eggs packed commercially in Spain are stamped with an inkjet code.


Focus on AI at 2016 Midwest Meeting

Mar 30, 2016


The 67th North Central Avian Disease Conference together with the 2016 Midwest Poultry Federation Convention held in Saint Paul, MN in mid-March provided an opportunity for veterinarians representing the egg industry and academia to review lesson learned from the 2015 epornitic.

Characterization and Epidemiology of the H5N2 AI Virus

Dr. David L. Suarez of the USDA-ARS Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory reviewed aspects of the H5N2 virus responsible for the 2015 outbreak.  This virus was classified as a Eurasian clade  Initially the virus was introduced by migratory waterfowl and occurred predominantly in wild birds in early 2015.  The strains which were isolated in January 2015 required a high mean infectious dose for chickens and seroconversion in survivors was not pronounced suggesting that the infective viruses were poorly adapted to chickens.  Subsequently as viruses adapted to chickens in massive populations during outbreaks, the mean death time was reduced and infectivity was enhanced.


Dr. Suarez commented on vaccination as a last-resort control strategy. Commercial vaccines in April and May were not homologous with the field strain of H5N2.  By the time that two additional vaccines which were matched antigenically to the field virus were available, the outbreak had ceased.

Dr. Henry Wan of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University discussed the epidemiology of avian influenza in China.  In 1992 an H9N2 low pathogenicity avian influenza virus emerged in Southern China and became endemic in the region.  Subsequently in 1996, H5 viruses with diverse neuraminidase (N) antigens emerged followed by H7N9 in 2013 and H6 viruses in 2010.  Backyard poultry was infected by wild birds but rapid antigenic and genetic evolution occurred among all viruses including H9N2 and H5N1.  China introduced nationwide vaccination in 2004 which has suppressed clinical outbreaks in commercial flocks.  Failure to eradicate avian influenza viruses has led to infection of human contacts especially associated with live-bird markets.  There is little prospect for eradication of avian influenza in subsistence and large-scale commercial flocks in China.  Suppression of clinical infection applying vaccines coupled with the live-bird marketing system and suboptimal biosecurity will perpetuate infection and result in the evolution of new recombinant serotypes.



Feb 23, 2016


A number of papers were presented at the 2016 International Poultry Science Forum held concurrently with the International Poultry and Processing Expo considered aspects of egg production.  Summaries of the abstracts are provided for the benefit subscribers:

Salmonella RESEARCH


A collaborative study was undertaken at Auburn University, North Carolina State University and the USDA, ARS. The objective was to determine if condensation on the surface of an egg following transfer from a cold room to ambient temperature (“sweating”) contributed to penetration of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) from the shell surface into the egg contents.  After inoculation with a 108 SE suspension, eggs were transferred from storage at 4C to 32C for 80 minutes.

Shell rinse, shell emulsion and egg contents were enumerated.  The recovery of SE was related to duration of storage with higher levels in shell rinses from the inoculated eggs during weeks 1 through 3 days post contamination.  No SE was detected in shell emulsion or egg contents.  SE on the shell surface declined sharply due to refrigeration over the duration of the trial.

It is possible that SE is deposited on the shell of eggs during passage through the coprodeum and cloaca in hens with colonized intestinal tracts.  If the shell is intact, penetration will not occur.  Thorough washing of eggs using a chlorine-based sanitizer should destroy any SE present on the surface under commercial conditions.  Maintaining a cold chain at 42F should inhibit proliferation of any Salmonella present on the surface after washing.  It is however necessary to detect and remove eggs with cracked shells since these represent a risk of egg penetration and if subsequently subjected to thermal abuse, could be a source of egg-borne infection.


This trial was conducted on broiler chicks but the findings are applicable to replacement egg-laying pullets.  Routes of inoculation comprised exposure to SE through feed, or day-old intra- tracheal, oral, cloacal and subcutaneous infection.  On days 32 through 36, subjects were euthanized and attempts were made to re-isolate SE from various organs and muscle tissue.  Irrespective of inoculation route, SE was recovered from all tissue samples.  Feed inoculation resulted in the highest levels of recovery in the crop, cecum, cloaca and bursal tissue at levels of up to 80 percent.  This study showed that feed is an important source of SE and presumably other Salmonella. Contaminated feed increases the probability of colonization of organs with Salmonella.  Appropriate suppression of Salmonella in feed is therefore indicated using available approved organic acid additives. 


Rapid detection using the 3M Molecular Detection Assay and the ANSR Salmonella methods to detect Salmonella in egg products was as effective as the FDA Bacteriological Analytical Manual Procedure.  It was concluded that with appropriate enrichment, loop-mediated isothermal amplification which selectively increases the level of bacterial DNA in a sample is effective to detect a range of Salmonella stereotypes including Heidelburg and Typhimurium.


Coccidiosis Challenge During Colder Months

Feb 23, 2016

Dr. John McCarty


Dr. John McCarty, Senior Veterinarian, Merial, Inc.

Dr. John McCarty has prepared a practical article dealing with control of coccidiosis in broiler growing with reference to winter conditions. Successful application of vaccines requires appropriate administration and structured monitoring as described.

Coccidiosis can have an enormous impact on broiler performance which is most often reflected in reduced weight gain and decreased feed efficiency. It is considered to be the most costly pathogen challenge in modern broiler production in the U.S. While coccidiosis is a year-round problem, cold weather conditions can result in changes in the ecology in a broiler house that lead to increased cocci challenge.

When the weather cools and the houses tighten up, disease challenge tends to increase in the chicken house. As ventilation is decreased to help conserve heat, more moisture remains in the house. The increased moisture, especially in the litter, favors increased bacterial, viral, and cocci load.

Coccidia need moisture and heat for the oocysts to sporulate. Once these are sporulated, oocysts become infective to the chicken. The increase in moisture can lead to greater sporulation of the oocyst population. And, as more of the oocysts sporulate, birds are faced with a heavier cocci challenge.

The use of coccidiosis vaccines can help influence the nature of the load. Continued use of vaccines helps dilute the wild cocci population with a vaccine strain. In particular, vaccines with precocious strains place minimal stress on the bird while at the same time providing adequate stimulation for immunity development, and the bird can be protected with less stress.

The nature of the precocious strain vaccines allows for the increase of sporulation to be less detrimental, since the number of oocysts shed are less when compared to non-precocious strains of cocci. Even though there are fewer numbers of oocyst with the precocious strains of vaccine, the number present is still more than adequate to stimulate proper and complete immunity.

Coccidiosis control also helps minimize disease challenge from other organisms. A critical one when it comes to gut health is clostridia. Disruption of the intestinal lining, such 

as that caused by coccidiosis, provides opportunity for clostridial organisms to infect the gut and to cause disease such as necrotic enteritis. By reducing the level of coccidiosis, less disruption in the gut provides less opportunity for clostridial infection. This would also help the bird regarding nonspecific enteritis, both clinical and subclinical.


Sporulating Oocysts require heat
and moisture to develop in litter

There are many ways to prepare for the cooler months, but assuring proper cocci control prior to the onset of cold weather will keep a low cocci load in the house. Then, the use of a precocious vaccine strain during these months of the year allows for minimal stress on the bird’s digestive system while still providing optimum immunity against cocci.

It will also be important to continually monitor the cocci challenge. Doing routine postings of broilers to assure there is proper cycling helps confirm that the vaccine is doing its job of developing proper immunity.




Anitox Presents Research on AI in Feed to Threatened Turkey and Layer Sectors

Dec 23, 2015


Anitox will present independent research at the IPPE in January, supporting feed treatment as a potential control point in preventing contamination with avian influenza virus (AIV) and offering producers a possible additional modality against AI. Dr. Rick Phillips and Dr. Gino Lorenzoni of Anitox and Dr. Haroldo Toro of Auburn University will share details of the latest research at the Anitox Breakfast Symposium at the IPPE in Atlanta, on Tuesday January 26th.

Tickets for the event are available by E-mailing <>.


Financial Evaluation of Investment in Biosecurity

Dec 16, 2015

The recent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza which affected large in-line egg production units has resulted in upgrading Structural Biosecurity although at face value greater emphasis is currently placed on Operational Biosecurity.  It is axiomatic that capital investment in improvements including impervious roads, fences, vehicle wash stations and biosecurity modules for personnel is required before effective Operational Biosecurity can be implemented. Following the 1983/4 outbreak of H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza in Pennsylvania, there was a transitory interest in upgrading biosecurity although the cosmetic and superficial changes effected over the past thirty years obviously were inadequate to prevent the spread of the reassortant H5N2 infection after introduction into areas with a high density of poultry during the spring of 2015. 

Many of the decisions made concerning investment are influenced by practices in other countries, subjective evaluation and knowledge from the epidemiology of catastrophic infections with an emphasis on the modes of transmission. Evaluating the economic impact of investment in biosecurity was outlined in a publication in Avian Diseases in 1987*   In this article, investment in three levels of biosecurity was evaluated for broiler breeder flocks against four categories of disease ranging from mild to catastrophic with a range of probabilities of infection.  Realistic costs and assumed values relating to infection were used to determine the justification for investment of capital in Structural Biosecurity and enhanced Operational Biosecurity. Essentially it was demonstrated that with severe and catastrophic diseases, investment in effective levels of biosecurity generated a positive benefit to cost ratio even at low probabilities of infection such as one outbreak in twenty years.

The question of the degree to which producers should invest to limit the probability of introduction of HPAI into a complex is the subject of a boiler-plate, hypothetical complex of one-million hens.  It is estimated that the losses attributed to an outbreak of HPAI involving complete depopulation of a unit might exceed $10 million.  This figure is based on the difference between the value of flocks and the quantum of Federal compensation; expenditure on disposal of dead birds; decontamination of the facility; loss of income during the long pre-repopulation period and loss of goodwill.  It is noted that following outbreaks of HPAI, the wholesale price for eggs increases sharply, providing enhanced margins for unaffected farms and magnifying the potential loss borne by producers who are affected.

For the purposes of calculation, it is assumed that a one-million hen complex would suffer losses amounting to $10 million following exposure to HPAI.  Two levels of capital expenditure for Structural Biosecurity were considered. Respectively, these would cost either $50,000, which would provide a 50 percent level of protection in the event of exposure or $200,000 involving more sophisticated installations, which would provide an 80 percent level of protection. 

The probability of exposure of a complex or farm can range from zero with no challenge, to unity (1.0) which means an absolute certainty of exposure in a given time period.

The projected loss following exposure, considering each of the two levels of biosecurity can be calculated from the numerical value incorporating the financial consequences of infection, the probability of exposure and the level of protection.


Dr. Catharina Berge Rebuts Comments on Raw Milk and Small-scale Production.

Dec 11, 2015

As reports have become available EGG-CITE has posted items relating to infections associated with consumption of raw milk. The retro-movement favoring raw milk parallels backyard egg production since both sources of food are devoid of safety measures required to prevent foodborne infection. Dr Catharina Berge a friend and colleague who is a highly qualified veterinarian with advanced degrees from the U.S. and her native Europe, and an accomplished athlete took exception to my comments. Accordingly she is afforded the opportunity to respond and defend her position which is reproduced in the rebuttal below  



Dec 1, 2015

University of California, Davis. Pastured Hen Project

As the co-directors of the UC Davis Pastured Poultry Farm we read your op-ed in Egg-Cite on December 4th with much interest.

In general, it appears that you believe that our project seeks to re-create a 19th century poultry production practice and hence “hardly requires the involvement” of a university. Your assertion is simply wrong; our goal is to re-create these systems using 21st century technology to improve production, welfare, food safety, predator control, biosecurity, farmer ergonomics and management and environmental management.

Examples of this are:

• We are developing Bluetooth-enabled temperature, moisture and light sensors to transmit data remotely to a $35 computer inside the coop. The data then can be transmitted to a “cloud”-based system that also captures data submitted by farmers using a “Google form.”

• In addition, we are researching the use of hyperspectral imaging to better understand pasture management via the generation of Normalized Difference Vegetation Indices (NDVI).

Both of these examples may seem impractical, but with open-source data analysis tools and cost effective electronics (e.g., our computer was $35), these techniques have significant potential to improve production. This is not “re-inventing the wheel” as you suggest.

In short, a university is essential from an innovation, research and outreach perspective to address challenges in pastured poultry production and “integrative farming” (i.e., where the land is used for both livestock/poultry and field crops). We have faculty in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Plant Sciences, Animal Sciences and Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology and Cooperative Extension working jointly to research these systems, come up with practical innovations and extend that knowledge domestically and internationally.

While these systems may not “feed the world” they are becoming more and more common. As an extension veterinarian at a land grant university, it is my responsibility to work with these farmers who have traditionally not utilized all the resources that cooperative extension offers. Furthermore, while conventional poultry production is indeed more efficient, the idea that conventional production will solve all the world’s problems is not currently attainable in “food desserts” and in parts of the developing world. Alternative systems offer other options that should be considered.

To address one other point you made that was inaccurate: Your statement that our density is 1 bird per 1,400 square feet is incorrect. In fact you incorrectly extrapolated the amount of land we are using and what the maximum size of our flock could be. In fact, based on current practices and guidelines from certifiers the number of birds per square feet range from four square feet per bird to 108 square feet per bird.

Hypothesis driven research is badly needed to address problems related to predator control, biosecurity, production efficiency and food safety among other issues. Applying 21st technology to address these challenges will have a positive impact on non-conventional poultry production locally, regionally and globally

Dr. Maurice Pitesky DVM, MPVM, Dipl. ACVPM
Assistant Specialist in Cooperative Extension
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
Poultry Health and Food Safety Epidemiology

Dr. Deb Niemeier, Ph.D, P.E.
UC Davis Department of Engineering
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Director: Sustainable Design Academy


Developing a Scoresheet to Evaluate Biosecurity

Nov 20, 2015



Based on the epidemiologic information emanating from research on the recent outbreak of HPAI in the upper Midwest, and following site visits to clients, the attached draft biosecurity scoresheets are provided for the guidance of Subscribers to EGG-CITE.

It is necessary to evaluate biosecurity according to a hierarchy and accordingly separate pages are provided for conceptual biosecurity, structural biosecurity and operational biosecurity.  A fourth page deals with complexes receiving feed from a mill not located on the complex.

The concept of the biosecurity evaluation relates to assessing the risk of introduction of disease into an operation and the subsequent dissemination of disease among complexes. A maximum score would be assigned if there was no appropriate conceptual approach, structural installations or operational procedure.

The auditor would assign a facility score less than the maximum risk score based on experience and comparisons among U.S. egg-production operations.  For example any specific complex in Darke County, OH. or Sioux County, IA. would probably be assigned a score of 200 for “population density” since these areas have a high concentration of hens and turkeys operated by different companies located in close proximity.  In contrast an isolated complex in Arizona or Utah would be assigned a score of 0 to 10 on population density since it is the only facility with commercial poultry within 250 miles.  It is therefore obvious that facilities which operate with a high level of conceptual, structural and operational biosecurity will have low risk scores compared to what may be regarded as the maximum value of risk given the provisional scoring.


Catch Cups Also Harbor Biofilm.

Oct 2, 2015

Catch cup watering systems present an additional biofilm challenge that is not found in non-catch cup watering systems. The purpose of a catch cup is to “catch” some of the water that is spilled during the drinking process from nipples that discharge more water than the birds can retain in their beaks.

Catch cups are open and shared water vessels. As such, they are a perfect environment for harboring pathogens and creating a biofilm and the means by which the disease can be spread quickly from one bird to the next. The use of vitamins, electrolytes and other nutrient enriched water interventions only feeds and sustains the biofilm and elevates pathogen levels. The ongoing danger of this is that when birds drink this contaminated catch cup water, bird health and bird performance is compromised.
Additionally, it is virtually impossible to maintain hygienic catch cups during the production cycle, which is not the case with enclosed non-catch cup type watering systems.To strip away and fully remove biofilm in catch cups requires manually cleaning every individual cup with a cleaning agent, a process that can only take place between production cycles.  High pressure flushing and cleaning to remove biofilm from interior walls of the pipes during the production cycle will do nothing to help strip biofilm from the catch cups.
Some producers try to manage this problem associated with catch cups by putting high concentrations of chlorine in the water, thinking the super-chlorinated water spilled into the catch cups will help sanitize the cups as well. However, super-chlorination will corrode watering system components, resulting in premature replacement of drinkers without having any beneficial effects in terms of removing biofilm from the catch cups.

Utilizing a fully enclosed nipple type watering system without catch cups can eliminate this problem altogether.


How to avoid costly corrosion from chemicals in your drinker lines.

Sep 18, 2015

Posted on June 13, 2013 by Joedi

Corrosion can ruin your poultry watering equipment more quickly than anything else. Taking steps to prevent and reduce corrosion is an important management objective to keep replacement costs from eroding too much of your bottom line.

Many producers regularly inject chlorine and/or acidifiers into the watering system in an attempt to kill bacteria and viruses in the water. However, chlorine and acidifiers can damage the metal and plastic parts of the drinker

We know of one producer who had to replace every drinker in his poultry house twice in less than a year because his acidification program was too aggressive. That cost him about $4,000! Not good ROI.

Producers originally began using acidifiers because the acid reduces the pH in a bird’s crop, making the gut less hospitable to bacteria and improving  digestion in young birds. Producers then began using acidifiers as agents to clean the drinker lines and found that keeping the pH of the water below 7 acidifies the birds’ crops while also killing bacteria in the drinker line. Researchers also determined that chlorine used as a sanitizer is more effective when the  pH of drinking water is between 6.0 and 6.8.


Reason and Reassurance at Senate Hearing on HPAI

Jul 10, 2015

A hearing on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee under the chairmanship of Pat Roberts (R-KS) took place on The July 7th. The two-hour session was characterized by a reasoned and accurate recounting of facts and incorporated a candid assessment of the future by Dr. John Clifford, Chief Veterinary Officer of the USDA and Dr. David Swayne, Director of the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL)-ARS-USDA.

Testimony was also provided by Jim Dean, Chairman of United Egg Producers, Brad Moline representing the National Turkey Federation, Ken Klippen of Egg Farmers of America and Dr. Thomas Elam an agricultural economist who reviewed the financial impact of the 2015 HPAI outbreak.

The Spring 2015 H5N2 outbreak in the upper Midwest was the most extensive and costly animal health emergency in the history of the U.S. It is now evident that the disease has been contained with no new cases reported for 20 days.

From the outset, clear and unequivocal messages from the USDA, state officials and the CDC were instrumental in reassuring the public that the infection was not transmissible to humans and the virus was not carried on eggs or turkey meat entering the food chain.  In his testimony, Dr. Clifford emphasized that the outbreak did not impose any risk to either food safety or public health.


USDA-APHIS Shares Progress Report with Industry

Jun 19, 2015

On Friday 12th June, the USDA presented their weekly progress report on control and eventual eradication of HPAI. Topics reviewed included the current situation, investigations of the epidemiology of the current outbreak and contingency planning for future outbreaks.

No new outbreaks were detected during the week ending June 12th in either commercial turkeys or laying hens. Depopulation is proceeding well but flocks are still being processed from the most recent outbreaks in Nebraska.

Disposal of caged flocks in Iowa with the largest number of birds euthanized is moving ahead with two landfills now accepting bagged hens. Two small incinerators are in operation with a third unit due to come on line.  At this time among layer chickens and pullets, 7.5 percent of all flocks depopulated are pending disposal with 4.4 percent in Nebraska and 2 percent in Iowa involving four and three premises respectively. Losses to date represent 10 percent of average layer inventory and five percent of average pullet inventory. 

Backyard flocks and hatcheries distributing eggs and chicks still represent a potential problem.  One operation in Iowa recently shipped fertile eggs and chicks to 35 states in 100 consignments.


Interview with Peter Mumm

Jun 4, 2015

Peter Mumm


EGG-CITE had the opportunity to discuss the formation of Hendrix-ISA, LLC with the GM, Peter Mumm at a recent industry meeting. The items discussed are of interest to the readership of EGG-CITE and the U.S. egg production industry.

EGG-CITE: Peter, please provide a brief outline of your background in our Industry

Peter Mumm: I graduated in 1994 from the University of Wisconsin majoring in poultry science.  During my high school and university education I worked during summers on farms and recognized that I wanted to make chickens my career.  Over the past 20 years I have worked for a number of companies including Creekwood Farms, Dean’s Eggs, Primera Foods, Daylay and have spent the last seven years as the Director of Operations of Midwest Foods Association .

EGGCITE: You are now the General Manager of a new company Hendrix-ISA, LLC.  What led to the formation of this enterprise?

Peter Mumm: The Company was founded in January 2015 out of the realization that as a primary breeder, Hendrix Genetics required a substantial and stable presence in the U.S. to ensure consistency of production and quality.  Expansion also required considerable capital investment.  Accordingly after negotiations, it was agreed that Hendrix would acquire the production facilities and hatcheries of the Midwest Foods Association and follow the model used by the other primary breeder by integrating forward into parent stock.  I would add that Hendrix Genetics’ turkey division, Hybrid Turkeys has followed a similar program, with their contract production agreement  with Ag Forte.


Characteristics of the CEVA Vectormune HVT-AIV Vaccine

May 21, 2015

The use of a vaccine as an adjunct to existing control measures in the face of devastating mortality from H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza implies a consideration of available vaccines.  CEVA Vectormune HVT-AIV is reviewed for the benefit of subscribers to EGG-CITE the key facts are summarized:-

Characteristics of the CEVA Vectormune HVT-AIV Vaccine

The use of a vaccine as an adjunct to existing control measures in the face of devastating mortality from H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza implies a consideration of available vaccines.  CEVA Vectormune HVT-AIV is reviewed for the benefit of subscribers to EGG-CITE the key facts are summarized:-

  • Vectormune HVT-AIV is a recombinant, avian influenza vaccine using the herpes virus of turkeys (HVT) as the vector.  To produce the vaccine the hemagglutinin (HA) gene of an H5N1 avian influenza virus was inserted into the genome of HVT. After administration HVT replicates with expression of the HA gene, inducing immunity.
  • The vaccine will provide substantial protection (between 70 and 95 percent) against virulent challenge under field conditions.  The vaccine will not prevent but will significantly reduce shedding should vaccinated flocks be challenged.
  • Since HVT is apathogenic no adverse effects are associated with administration of the vector virus.
  • The HA gene inserted into the HVT vector was derived from highly pathogenic H5N1strain isolated from a swan in 2006 but was altered to express the amino acid sequence at the cleavage site characteristic of a low-pathogenic avian influenza virus.
  • The vaccine is registered in the U.S. and could be administered subject to availability and with the approval and limitations imposed by the USDA-APHIS.
  • The vaccine will stimulate immunity when administered in ovo or at day-old in the hatchery even to chicks with maternal antibody again HVT.
  • Vectormune HVT-AIV has been shown to be effective against both H5NI and H5N2 highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza. To date under field conditions continuous efficacy has been demonstrated in Egypt and Mexico.
  • Since herpes virus continually replicates, it is anticipated that long-lived breeder and egg-producing hens will be protected for their entire life.
  • Durable immunity is established between two and three weeks after administration as with any HVT cell-associated vaccine but subject to the same restraints and precautions applied to conventional HVT vaccine.
  • Efficacy, host challenge and shed rates have been verified in the U.S. at the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory and results have been published in a peer review journal* and company literature in addition to presentations at international scientific meetings.
  • HVT-vector vaccines have been shown to be superior to pox-vector vaccines due to the universal presence of material antibodies against avian pox.  Inactivated oil emulsion vaccines to be effective must be homologous with the challenge strain and must be manufactured according to accepted protocols to achieve safety and efficacy.
  • Vaccinated chickens will demonstrate H antibodies applying the hemagglutination assay.  Infected flocks can be differentiated from vaccinated flocks by application of the ELISA-based assay which detects viral nucleoprotein. This combination of assays can be used to differentiate between exposed and infected flocks independently of demonstrating viral RNA by PCR in peracute cases. The ELISA assay will be positive in the event of a naturally exposed flock and will be negative in vaccinated flocks consistent with the DIVA principle.

Subscribers are referred to the EGG-CITE Editorial on May 15th which reviewed the benefits and negative considerations relating to a change in APHIS policy to allow vaccination.

* Kapczynski, D. et al Vaccine protection of chickens against antigenically diverse H5 highly pathogenic avian influenza isolates with a live HVT vector vaccine expressing the influenza hemagglutinin gene derived from a clade 2.2avian influenza. Vaccine. 33:1197-1205 (2015)