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Close-up of a chicken (poultry)

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The Alabama Cooperative Extension System poultry science priority program team (PPT) is getting a new name. To better reflect the team’s all-encompassing role in serving Alabama’s poultry producers, the team will now be known as the poultry PPT.

“It seems so simple, but the new name focuses the learning resources of several programs across Auburn University,” said Ken Macklin, an Alabama Extension specialist and professor of poultry science at Auburn University. “These programs include the National Poultry Technology Center (NPTC); commercial poultry health, management, processing and food safety; backyard/small poultry flocks support and training; and feed milling.”

The Alabama poultry industry generates more than $15 billion in revenue each year. It accounts for an astounding 65.6 percent of annual farming revenue in the state and employs more than 86,000 workers on farms, processing plants and allied industries. The small/backyard flock producers are a growing group within Alabama whose numbers range upwards 10,000 of flocks.

Members of the Extension poultry PPT include the following:

  • Ken Macklin, poultry disease specialist and chair of the team
  • Dennis Brothers, poultry economics specialist
  • Dianna Bourassa, poultry processing specialist
  • Wilmer Pacheco, poultry feed milling specialist
  • Jeremiah Davis, poultry house technology specialist
  • Jesse Campbell, poultry house technology specialist
  • Rishi Prasad, poultry waste management specialist
  • Kent Stanford, poultry waste management specialist
  • Kristin Woods, small flock and food safety regional agent

Poultry Programming

In the past year, the Extension poultry team has created a variety of educational materials and programs for poultry producers.

Feed Milling

A monthly series of articles on feed milling were published in Feedstuffs magazine, which is the leading source of news for animal agriculture in the United States. Feedstuffs has 12,500 accredited subscribers, 20 percent of them work for and run companies with $100 million in gross annual sales. These technical articles help the feed industry to improve feed mill operations, feed quality and maintain normal operation amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.

National Poultry Technology Center

There is a lot of equipment to manage on a poultry farm and it is important to do routine maintenance. The NPTC decided to produce a “Poultry Housing Tips Calendar” for growers to put in their control rooms as a monthly visual reminder of opportunities they can improve around the farm. The NPTC has produced and disseminated over 3,000 calendars in 2020 and over 4,000 this year across Alabama and other poultry producing states.

Commercial Poultry Health, Management, Processing and Food Safety

Relationships between Alabama poultry companies and regulatory agencies (USDA-FSIS) can sometimes be challenging. Dianna Bourassa has continued to develop and expand a forum where poultry and meat food safety and quality assurance personnel can discuss current food safety regulatory issues and then pose these issues and related questions to representatives from USDA-FSIS. This HACCP Roundtable Discussion meets quarterly and has been instrumental in encouraging conversation between poultry and meat producers and regulators.

Through this conversation, both Alabama poultry and meat companies have been able to receive clarification on current expectations and future regulatory direction for which they will need to prepare. For 2020, meetings were converted to a virtual format with 74 participants in this program representing 21 companies. The results for the HACCP Roundtable Discussions will impact more than 3 billion pounds of poultry and meat products that are produced in Alabama by these companies each year.

Backyard/Small Poultry Flocks Support and Training

The number of small poultry flock (backyard) producers seem to have leveled off here in Alabama and throughout the US. However, the need for basic information has remained high, primarily in the areas of basic management and biosecurity. Several presentations and publications were given/distributed in Alabama to more than 30 families. This information included the basics they need to raise poultry and to keep their poultry safe. This is important information since many of these families live in communities where there are commercial poultry operations. This past year there have not been any serious poultry diseases reported in small poultry flocks in the Southeast. These efforts have helped to protect Alabama’s $15 billion poultry industry.

Animal Waste and Nutrient Management

Poultry is the second-largest agricultural commodity in the state of Alabama. The poultry industry generates an estimated 1.5 million tons of poultry litter containing approximately 19,350 tons of phosphorus (P). Poultry litter is a good source of nutrients for pasture and row-crop lands if properly managed. However, repeated land application results in phosphorus buildup in the soil to extremely high levels. A statewide soil sampling was carried between 2018-2020 covering 18 Alabama counties, 68 producers’ fields, five Alabama soil regions, and covering more than 32,000 acres in row crop, pasture and hay lands.

This programing effort led to a collection of more than 850 soil samples belonging to five soil regions of Alabama and four soil depths covering top 0-24 inch soil layers. The five soil regions included the Appalachian Plateau, Coastal Plain, Limestone Valley, Piedmont Plateau and Blackland Prairie. The team analyzed the soils for soil nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, aluminum and micronutrients. The study recorded several astonishing findings. Extension professionals observed a case of phosphorus stratification in many Alabama farms. This observation has both agronomic and environmental implications. The team informed the farmers about the nutrient levels on their farm.

Farmers perceived both short-term and long-term benefits from this program. In the short term, the program trained farmers to collect soil samples and also taught them how to interpret soil test results and what those soil test results mean for their operations. In long term, they will be able to save money on costly fertilizers and avoid over-application of manure/fertilizers. The program will result in reduced footprints of phosphorus in the environment.

More Information

To contact a member of the poultry PPT, visit the Alabama Extension directory at www.aces.edu. For information on a variety of poultry topics, visit the poultry section of the Extension website.

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