PERSPECTIVES Winter 2000: Healthy Process
Perspectives On Line
NC State University Winter 2000 Contents Page Features Healthy Process Ready or Not, Here Comes the FQPA Good Coordination Critical Control A Feast of Information  Precautionary Measures Noteworthy News Awards Alumni Giving From the Dean College of Agriculture and Life Sciences






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Good Coordination

nticipation of the Year 2000 elicited reactions as individual as cash-hoarding and provision-stocking and as far-reaching as global systems overhauls to ensure that two misinterpreted zeroes wouldn’t crash computers, jets and the stock market.

Yet to N.C. State University’s Poultry Coordinating Committee, Y2K meant more than just a Millennium Bug. It meant important deadlines for the clients of this group of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service field faculty and poultry specialists.

Specifically, the state legislature said that by January 2000 owners and operators of dry waste poultry farms were required to develop and implement a poultry dry litter management plan, says committee member Dr. Donna Carver, assistant professor and poultry science Extension veterinarian. The plan must ensure that poultry litter is applied to fields in a manner that will prevent nitrogen runoff into water supplies.

To assist growers in meeting compliance deadlines, members of the Poultry Coordinating Committee developed a Nutrient Management Plan workbook that outlines how to take used litter from poultry houses, get a nutrient analysis and track where the litter goes based on the nutrient needs of a field. So far, Extension has trained more than 4,000 growers using this workbook.

"Growers from all the integrators within North Carolina have received the training," says Dr. Mike Wineland, professor of poultry science, referring to the companies, such as Perdue or Prestage, that own the birds and to the farmers that are contracted to grow them. "We’ve also worked on training what we call third-party applicators — organizations that are in the business of cleaning out poultry houses.

"The Nutrient Management Plan workbook was put together by a group from entomology, from soils, from poultry," Wineland says. "It’s the basis for all the training we do with nutrient management plans. Already, that notebook has been requested by as many as 12 other states to see what kind of information we put in there." In fact, he adds, one company, Tyson, took that same book and, with some minor modifications, made it their companywide nutrient management training manual.

Integrators and growers are the committee’s clientele, says Carver. "We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on this project. It’s really been a very coordinated effort from a lot of areas. It’s an environmental problem essentially, and we’re all working together to try to address it and have everybody in compliance."

Working together is the standard operating procedure of the multidisciplinary Poultry Coordinating Committee as it develops educational resources for poultry Extension programs all over the state. "We’re basically working to educate about Best Management Practices that keep pests down, diseases out, and the environment safe," Wineland says.

Addressing these issues are faculty from six College of Agriculture and Life Sciences departments — food science, soil science, biological and agricultural engineering, poultry science, entomology, and agricultural and resource economics — as well as faculty from the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). Explains Carver, "The Extension specialists and field faculty [area agents] will identify projects that need a multidisciplinary focus, problems that not just one department can deal with. This group provides a forum to give individuals who work in the field and on campus an opportunity to get together on projects."

Carver says that vertical integration in the poultry industry has necessitated the multidisciplinary approach to problem solving. "The poultry industry is a multifaceted industry, from feed mills and hatcheries up through growout operation and processing. This requires us to have more of a total quality management approach throughout the whole continuum of the production cycle and into the food safety arena as well."

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Group members collaborate on funded research activities, as well as training classes for field agents and industry personnel. Projects range from issues with poultry house ventilation to biosecurity against disease and pests to addressing economic crises.

"No one individual has all the answers, but as a group we can provide more precise information," says Wineland. "We’re getting the expertise together while not duplicating efforts or wasting resources."

The poultry science department does a lot of training sessions and conferences each year, Carver says, "and we always rely on the coordinating committee to help us out with those. We go to the people who the training is for and ask them what types of things they’d like to have training in this year."

The sessions cover a variety of areas, such as biohazards, business and finance, effective communications, general industry and feed and nutrition. Additionally, industry short courses and hands-on lab experiences are available to producers, breeder service personnel and hatchery personnel.

"We have specific conferences that we give each year, such as the N.C. Flock Supervisors Short Course in April, Broiler/Breeder and Hatchery Management Conference in October and N.C. Turkey Industry Days in October. But we also, ahead of time, do an assessment to see what kind of training is wanted and needed," Carver says.

She offers the example of a recent session attended by poultry flock supervisors for the broiler industry, led by Mike Stringham, of the College’s entomology department, and Dr. Bob Bottcher, of agricultural and resource engineering.

"We utilized the CVM teaching animal facility. Bob was able to go in and put some of his ventilation equipment in the poultry house over there and actually show what these new fans could do. Then Mike took them to the other end of the house to give lessons in rodent control, mite control, those types of things. We are always coordinating very well and getting people from all different disciplines to help with these training sessions," says Carver. "Then when we take it on the road, we train the field faculty and the county agents, and they can train people in their counties."

The work of this group is particularly important now, and will continue to be so, she says, "because growers and integrators are facing a lot more issues than they had to in the past. Food safety has become a huge issue. Traditionally, that concern was mostly at harvest or postharvest, but with HACCP [the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system], government regulations will call for more pre-harvest work, so we’re going to be involved with that. And environmental issues that were not a concern 10 years ago are now."

And again, because of the integrated nature of the poultry industry, Carver says, "We are a good resource, a good conduit to answer questions on environmental issues, such as, ‘Is the integrator responsible for that or is the grower responsible?’ In the end the grower is responsible because it’s the grower’s farm, but the integrator needs to be involved, as well. We can come in and be objective and come up with a way to get these people trained and do what has to be done for compliance.

"When disease problems persist, relations between growers and integrators can become strained. Who’s there to facilitate constructive dialogue? We are. We step in and say, ‘Here are the things you can do to reduce your risk of disease.’"

Preharvest safety starts in the field, but, "to date we’ve not really needed to educate growers about, for example, microorganisms, because that’s something that has been taken care of once those birds got to the processing plant," says Carver. "However, that’s all changing. All indications from federal regulatory agencies are that the responsibility for controlling contamination will include farm-level measures, as well."

Wineland says it’s a matter of educating clientele in Best Management Practices and in methods of preparing documentation that may be required in the near future to ensure, for example, that rodent control is in place and that litter is coming from sources uncontaminated with diseases.

When the time comes for such documentation, says Carver, "We’ll be here to help growers and integrators figure out how to do it and to show the USDA what’s doable on the farm."

dentifying poultry disease risk factors has been the focus of a two-year research project coordinated by Carver and the College of Veterinary Medicine, and involving Extension economist Dr. Tom Vukina and Extension entomology specialist Stringham. The project, Mobilizing National Resources to Combat Emerging Food Animal Diseases Using Poult Enteritis Mortality Syndrome (PEMS) in Turkeys as a Model, also included participation by faculty from the University of Georgia, Iowa State University and Ohio State University.

"We received a $500,000 grant from the USDA for the Fund for Rural America to fund our work on emerging and re-emerging diseases," Carver says. "The goal of this is to help growers, and we’ve done a lot of training on what they can do in terms of biosecurity on their farms, why it’s important." Also as part of the Fund for Rural America grant, the group is developing bilingual training programs to help poultry workers address the biosecurity aspects of disease that might emerge.

In working to identify risk factors, the group focused on the difference between farms that have PEMS and those that don’t. There was speculation that flies, beetles or rodents might carry the disease. In addition, some of the risk factors identified for PEMS were how the litter was treated once the birds were removed from the farm, prior history of PEMS on the farm and the presence of pets, which might carry and spread the disease on their paws, in the production area.

Carver’s team has done some work in the field to determine how long litter remains infected once a disease-positive flock leaves the farm. Specifically, the group determined that "if you leave the litter in the house two weeks before you move it, it is no longer infective," she says. "After two weeks the disease dies or survives at such a low level that it is no longer infective when you move it. That’s when you can move it safely."

Following this procedure has reduced the incidence of corona virus, which is a component of PEMS, she says. "We have found that PEMS cases are drastically reduced since we have started train-ing in management and prevention. We haven’t found the silver bullet [for PEMS] yet, but by training growers on basic principles of bio-security, which work for any trans-missable disease, you can keep the disease from getting on your farm."

In a situation where the disease might be transmitted by multiple sources, Carver says, biosecurity is the key to keeping it away.

"It’s going to become more important, especially with pre-harvest food safety coming on line," adds Wineland.

Food safety is the focus of a major project on the horizon in the form of a three-part graduate course in food safety that will include faculty from animal science, food science, poultry science and the CVM, Carver says. "Essentially, it will offer three courses in food safety addressing the preharvest aspects, the at-the-plant harvest aspects, and then postharvest. It will concern keeping products safe once they’ve left the processing plant, such as refrigeration of products and egg cooling. Potential contaminants in food, including microorganisms and pesticides, will be discussed. This is something that is evolving out of the needs all of the food-producing industry is going to have."

Several members of the PCC will be involved in the course series, including Carver, who will be lecturing. "Poultry science will of course be a component of the overall course," she says. "Food science and animal science have taken a real lead, and microbiology as well."

In this as all committee endeavors, she says, "It’s critical that we let our stakeholders know that we are as a university working on problems that you can’t really assign to one department or college."

And, Wineland adds, "by bringing in the right people to address issues, we’ll be helping clients make well-informed management decisions. That’s our role."

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