Exciting Developments in Poultry Research Project
The Northern Ireland poultry and feed industries were recently briefed on progress being made in a major research project aimed at combating intestinal disease in poultry. The collaborative research by Devenish Nutrition, Queen’s University and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) is investigating methods of improving gut health and performance of commercial broilers without the use of in-feed antibiotics.
Dr Seamus Kennedy, Head of AFBI’s Veterinary Sciences Division, Dr Abdul Al-Jibouri, Invest NI, Dr Heather Hayes, Devenish Nutrition and Dr George McIlroy, Chief Executive Officer, AFBI.
The three year project is jointly funded by Invest Northern Ireland and Devenish Nutrition Ltd , and assisted by local broiler companies. Industry representatives from Moy Park, O’ Kane Poultry, John Thompson & Sons, GE McLarnon & Sons were updated on important findings from laboratory trials carried out by AFBI and Queen’s University along with results from field trials carried out by Devenish Nutrition.
Dr Seamus Kennedy, Head of AFBI’s Veterinary Sciences Division, welcomed the participants and gave an overview of the problems posed to the poultry industry by the progressive withdrawal of antibiotics and other drugs from poultry feed. He highlighted the importance of gut health and the urgent need for alternative methods of disease control. He said, ‘A particular focus of this research is improved control methods for necrotic enteritis which is emerging as a major health problem for the European poultry industry as further legal restrictions are placed on the use of growth promoting antibiotics and other drugs in poultry feed.’
Dr Heather Hayes of Devenish Nutrition, described the extensive field trials that are being carried out by Devenish in conjunction with Moy Park & O’ Kanes to investigate the effects of dietary and non-dietary interventions on the gut health and performance of commercial broiler flocks. Dr Hayes acknowledged the high level of support and co-operation received from the participating poultry and feed companies, and farmers. She emphasised that this project is adopting a holistic approach involving dietary and management interventions to improve the gut health, welfare and performance of broiler flocks.
Members of the AFBI and Queen’s University research team described their development and refinement of a model of necrotic enteritis that is being used to assess potential methods of control for this disease. This uniquely reproducible model will also be made available to commercial companies to test in-feed additives at a later stage of the project. Developments in improving our understanding of the cause of necrotic enteritis and in producing tests that could be used to predict outbreaks, were also presented.
Dr Abdul Al-Jibouri of Invest NI’s Innovation, Research and Technology Division described some of the programmes available to help companies invest in R&D and emphasised the usefulness of collaboration between sectors: “Investment in research and development can help companies identify new products and advanced practices which can in turn improve their competitiveness. This project is an excellent example of R&D collaboration among industry, universities and public bodies. Invest NI would encourage different sectors to work with each other in this way for mutual benefit.”
In summing up, Dr Eilir Jones of Devenish Nutrition, said that progress on this project had been excellent and hoped that similar partnerships between industry, universities and government bodies could be developed to further enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the agri-food economy in Northern Ireland. There was general agreement that there was a need to consolidate poultry research in Northern Ireland in order to enhance competitiveness of the industry.
Dr George McIlroy, Chief Executive of AFBI, closed the meeting and said: ‘I am delighted that AFBI is associated with this important partnership with Queen’s University, Devenish and the local poultry and animal feed industries. It is only by working together that we can fully exploit the value of scientific research and development to maximise the competitiveness of the local agri-food industry. In this way we can build on Northern Ireland’s reputation as a source of clean wholesome food.’