A researcher has released a report stating that if more consumers knew about hen housing, more would buy cage-free eggs.
Farm Management Canada has launched a competition to win an all-expense paid trip to the International Farm Management Congress in Poland in July 2013.
A team of University of Guelph students won second place and the admiration of their competitors at a North American agricultural marketing contest.
Researchers at Nagoya University in Japan have been investigating the mechanism behind the rooster’s signature crow.
Farm and Food Care Ontario has launched a new campaign focused on attracting and inspiring young farmers.
Expert Dr. Susan Watkins discusses Water Sanitatio...
Expert Dr. Susan Watkins discusses Water Sanitation
The population explosion...
With the world's population increasing exponentially and farmland staying the same, BASF took to the streets to ask consumers if this trend is sustainable.
The room went silent for a moment as Jan Shearer fought to keep his composure, unable to speak. “I struggle sometimes to give this presentation,” the veterinarian from Iowa State University told a gathering of Farm and Food Care (FFC) delegates at a meeting in Guelph earlier this spring. His presentation was about what he called the “caring and killing paradox” – the emotional toll of being called on to perform euthanasia, but not always for humane or medical reasons. Veterinarians struggle with euthanasia for the sake of convenience. For example, a dog is no longer wanted because the owner has redecorated the house and the dog doesn’t match the colour scheme anymore. “Do I send this person out the door and possibly send this animal to a terrible death?” he asked. But on the other end of the spectrum, what about when an owner wants to continue treating an animal regardless of the animal’s quality of life, only because they can’t let go? Dealing with the destruction of healthy animals creates a moral stress for the veterinarian, whose life is devoted to maintaining the well-being of animals. This can create a condition not dissimilar to post-traumatic stress disorder, called perpetration-induced traumatic stress. “It’s a very real issue,” said Shearer, “one day a healer; the next day an executioner.” One study in the United Kingdom has revealed that veterinarians are three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Shelter workers, laboratory technicians and even young people in 4-H clubs are exposed to the caring and killing paradox, marked by depression, grief and other destructive behaviours that can include alcohol and drug abuse. “It takes a toll,” said Shearer, “a real toll.” Shearer described the difference between human and animal cognition by quoting Bernard Rollin, a philosophy professor at Colorado State University: “In the animal mind – there is only ‘quality of life.’ It’s painful or it’s not, hungry or not, thirsty or not.” Humans, on the other hand, will endure short-term negative experiences for the purpose of achieving long-term goals. “To be the animal’s advocate we have to keep these things in perspective,” said Shearer. The euthanasia procedure can be stressful for a caregiver when the animals are suffering as well. “In a perfect world, we would preserve all life and relieve all suffering by medical or other means,” said Shearer. “Reality is, there are many conditions in animals, whether caused by injury or disease, that result in excruciating pain and/or horrible suffering that cannot be relieved by any other means than euthanasia.” Either way, as a veterinarian, Shearer looks for a so-called “good death,” where life is ended without pain or distress to the animal. “This requires a technique that induces immediate loss of consciousness followed by cardiac and respiratory arrest which results in a loss of brain function and death.” “It’s complicated,” he said, adding that the emotional aspects are harder to deal with than the actual procedure; “the decision is not always black and white.” No one likes or wants to do it, and all are afraid of the possibility of acting too soon. Research is improving euthanasia procedures and the Iowa State University website provides extensive information on euthanasia, including such aspects as equipment maintenance. “Killing can be kind,” said Shearer, again quoting Bernard Rollin. “Better a week too early than a day too late.”
In 2011, Maurice Richard became the first egg producer in Quebec to use enriched cages on his poultry farm. Two years later, he says he never wants to go back to conventional housing. It all began when he set off to western Europe in 2010 to tour poultry farms and study the newly installed enriched cage systems mandated by European Union directives. Upon his return, Richard, an egg producer with 76,000 layers on two farms in Rivière – Héva, Que., decided to demolish one of his own bird barns (circa 1975) housing 25,000 layers, to make the transition from conventional to enriched cages the following year. Richard now operates an enriched cage production system on two floors, with three decks on each eight-foot floor that is ventilated through a forced-air system in the roof. The layers like their enriched cages, says Richard, adding that 90 per cent of their eggs are laid in the nesting boxes. “Each hen will lay more eggs if they have more space in the cages,” he adds. “You have to achieve a balance with the cage’s population density.” With this new system, each cage can contain 60 white birds or 48 brown birds. Richard installed LED lighting in some scratch areas in the cages, leaving a darker area of the cage available for the layers’ nests. He also programmed his LED lighting for artificial sunrise and sunset to stimulate the productivity of his hens. He told the Nova Scotia Egg Producers (NSEP) that he chose to heat his new layer building because he wanted to dry the layers’ manure, “The eggs they lay are very clean,” he says. “The enriched cage system seems to lower bird mortality.” Productivity in the enriched cages is better than in conventional cages, with about 338 eggs per hen over 52 weeks of production, Richard estimates. The new cages are in a building that is 86.5 metres (284 feet) long and 13.7 metres (45 feet) wide, and each cage is approximately 1.2 metres (four feet) by 11.8 metres (39 feet). “With the enriched cages it takes longer to clean the building because it’s bigger than the building it replaced,” he says. “Because there are more birds housed, it also requires more poultry feed.” This year, he plans to tear down a second barn that holds conventional cages and replace it with another new structure holding enriched cages. The price per layer, not including the cost of foundation and footings, will be about $42: $17 per enriched cage and another $25 for the building itself.