Industry and academia bridge the gap at poultry research seminar

The NFU’s second annual poultry research seminar, held at NFU HQ, Warwickshire brought together over 60 industry delegates, including researchers, farmers and those working in nutrition, welfare and breeding.

While innovation and new technologies, through data, robotics and genetics have played an integral role in productivity enhancements and progression in the poultry industry, there is sometimes a disconnect in communication between the academic world and the practical application of these new concepts on farm.

The seminar aimed to bring together parties from across the industry, with an aim of bridging this communication gap and to assist engagement between researchers and the farming community, to further understand how on-farm projects can be of value to all involved.

Speakers hailed from a range of backgrounds, including those working to engage farmers and academics together in farmer-led research opportunities.

Kate Still, Farming Programme Delivery Manager; representing Innovative Farmers said: “This kind of research benefits all parties as it adds a practical context for the researcher but also allows the farmer to better understand their animals and in turn potentially make changes that benefit productivity and further enhance animal welfare.”

Bird health and welfare was a major theme across several speaker presentations.

Annie Rayner, research coordinator at the Food Animal Initiative (FAI) Farms, outlined a project run in collaboration with 2 Sisters Food Group, Hook2Sisters and The Co-op, which culminated in a training video which has been made public for the industry to use.

The video is particularly aimed at new entrants and encourages broiler producers to become more familiar with the behaviour of their birds as well as promoting ‘positive behaviours’. These behaviours include wing flapping, running, jumping, dustbathing and scratching at the litter and are integral to high bird welfare.

This work provides a link between research and its practical application on farm, further educating those working with broilers with the goal of ensuring good welfare.

NFU poultry board chairman Thomas Wornham said: “The UK is renowned for its high animal health and welfare standards, with the poultry industry championing this across all production areas. Farmers are increasingly aware of the effect housing, feed and bird health and welfare have on overall productivity and are always looking for ways to continually improve.”

Poultry nutrition was another key theme of the seminar, with speakers including Dr Emily Burton, Associate Professor at Nottingham Trent University presenting on her research into the use of nutrition as a tool to improve health and sustainability of poultry production.

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