Professional development for agricultural service providers in applied poultry science

Final Report for ENE10-116

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2010: $134,501.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: Connecticut
Project Leader:
Dr. Richard Brzozowski
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

The US agricultural census estimates more that than 6,400 New England farms include poultry enterprises, indicating a clear need for agricultural service providers with poultry expertise in the region. In a 2009 survey of agricultural service providers in New England, 36 (88%) of 41 respondents detected a growing interest in poultry enterprises in their respective service areas; however, all but one respondent felt they lacked knowledge and confidence to address poultry-related questions and concerns from farmers, and were not effectively serving poultry producers.

This professional development project provided a multi-faceted and effective approach to equipping agricultural service providers with skills and knowledge in applied poultry science. With a four person leadership team that included the only Extension poultry specialist in the region, this educational project began with 24 agricultural service providers selected by application. Participants were farm advisors and educators from organizations that included Extension, USDA, state agencies and non-profits; and they had a variety of backgrounds in agriculture, animal health, technology, education, business and service.

Over the four-years of the project, participants gained knowledge and skills in poultry science. Annual trainings, which involved approximately 20 hours of educational activities on key poultry topics, were presented each October in Maine. Attendance for the annual trainings was as follows: Twenty six participants attended in 2010; 24 in 2011; 18 in 2012; and 18 in 2013. Areas of knowledge and skills increase included: the US poultry industry; egg production; bird anatomy; nutrition; biosecurity; health; egg & meat production cycles; processing; food safety; federal & state regulations; marketing; pest management; raising turkeys and ducks; business planning; and economics. Tours of a large organic egg laying operation and a USDA inspected poultry processing plant were included in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and 7 participants attended the International Poultry Exposition to complement their educational experience. All participants received a library of reference materials.

In the final project survey (19 respondents), participants reported working with 1,117 poultry producers over the life of the project; these enterprises represent an estimated total value of over $1,000,000. Work included one-on-one technical assistance, farm visits, workshops, webinars, day-long schools, and surveys. Participants also assisted 146 farmers in starting a poultry enterprise, and 63% of respondents felt their work helped poultry producers save money or generate additional income.

This project also emphasized development of educational materials by participants. In the final survey, participants reported these outcomes: 11 participants authored fact sheets or publications; 6 created spreadsheets; 3 created templates; 6 wrote articles; 10 assembled slide presentations; 5 were involved in research projects; 6 presented workshops; and 6 worked with poultry producer groups.

This project successfully developed a cohort of agricultural service providers and equipped them to serve individuals interested in starting, adapting or expanding poultry enterprises. These service providers are assuming regional leadership in poultry science education, an outcome evidenced by developments such as: one participant being appointed statewide Poultry Specialist by his Extension administration; a Vermont participant receiving a $20,000 Working Lands Grant to develop enterprise budgets and business feasibility templates for 3 laying hen business models; and yet another Vermont participant is completing a 2-year market research project addressing poultry demand in the state.

Performance Target:

At least twenty (20) agriculture service providers in the six-state region will gain practical knowledge and skills in applied poultry science to confidently design and present educational programs to assist at least 200 small scale poultry producer enterprises and assess the local economic impacts. The annual estimated total net return is $548,750.00 (100 poultry producers with egg enterprises $273,750.00 annually; 100 poultry producers with meat enterprises $275,000.00 annually).

Introduction:

In response to increasing consumer demand for locally produced foods, many farmers in New England have started or are interested in integrating small-scale poultry enterprises in their operations to increase farm income. We define small scale poultry production in New England as those enterprises with less than 10,000 birds (either egg producing or meat type birds). Poultry are efficient converters of feed to meat and eggs. They require less space then most livestock and fit nicely as a complementary enterprise on many types of farms. Eggs and poultry meat are an inexpensive, excellent source of nutrients for people of all ages. With proper education and management, it is feasible that every local small scale poultry producer can become a profitable operation in their community, supplying it with healthful, fresh, nutritious food. Under this agricultural model, food miles are reduced, local economies are enhanced and farms within the community maintain viability.

Extension agricultural service providers in New England were electronically surveyed in July 2009 on the topic of poultry science and forty-one individuals responded. Of those responding, 87.8% of the respondents reported increasing interest in egg or poultry meat enterprises in their service area. However, only one of the respondents rated themselves as “very confident” in addressing poultry related requests. A staggering 92.7% of the respondents felt they were not effectively serving producers with poultry enterprises. The survey noted that 50% of the respondents were interested in gaining knowledge and skills in applied poultry science, while an additional 31% said they might be interested.

It was estimated by the latest US agricultural census that over 6,400 farms in New England include poultry as an enterprise as a part of their farming operation. There is a clear need for agricultural service providers with poultry expertise in each state in the region.

This effort equipped agricultural service providers with practical knowledge and skills through a three-year professional development project focusing on applied poultry science and helping farmers establish, maintain or expand profitable poultry enterprises. A team of experienced educators directed the project under the leadership of a poultry specialist, and with the help of an advisory team comprised of successful poultry producers. Training topics included egg and meat production, alternative feeds, breed selection, bird health, biosecurity, poultry processing, product regulations, marketing poultry products, poultry pests, poultry business planning, and the economics of production. As a result of the practical training, participants developed local programs for their clientele in their areas of service. A main focus of the project was the development of educational materials.

This 3-year project involved an annual multi-session training for participants in addition to regular updates via electronic media. This group of participants became part of an interactive electronic communication network utilizing email, web pages, webinars, blogs and other media. Participants were selected through an application process reviewed by the collaborators. Selection criteria were based on level of interest and commitment, availability, service area distribution, and communication skills and abilities. It was hoped that the same group of participants would continue to be involved with the project over the entire three-year period. The purpose behind equipping a consistent group was the creation and development of a strong working group comprised of individuals who knew and trusted each other and would work together effectively. Selection of the most suitable individuals was important for the success of the program.

An advisory team comprised of experienced poultry producers from the region was formed in the first year to serve as paid consultants for the project. These successful poultry producers played an important role in the project by sharing their expert opinions, knowledge, information, contacts and experiences. Their sharing of experiences was an important part in preparing service providers to inform and provide recommendations to others. Advisory team members interacted with the project team leaders on a regular basis, as case study demonstration clients or in other educational capacities. The advisory team met once a year for planning purposes. Members stayed connected throughout the year via an email group and conference calls.

The sequence of training started with poultry basics and progressed into more advanced topics. Existing poultry farmer skill and knowledge lists were revised for use by the participants. Following is an outline of the topics and issues that were presented each year.

Year 1 
In the first year, 26 agriculture service providers participated in an applied poultry science short course with 20 hours of intensive interactive training. The short course was held in Gray, Maine and included a combination of lecture, discussion, hands-on activities, case studies and other problem solving exercises. This introductory training included:

  • basic poultry biology
  • management
  • housing and environmental factors affecting production
  • nutrition
  • diseases of poultry
  • laws & regulations concerning poultry and poultry products

Each participant received a reference notebook with information related to small scale poultry flock production and management, basic poultry science texts and other educational materials. Participants were asked to provide feedback in making the material more relevant and useful to them and their clients.

Within the first year, each participant was expected to work with an average of 4 small scale poultry growers in their service area (county, region, district, etc.). This meant that each provider was to become familiar with local poultry enterprises. These interactions were viewed as educational opportunities for participants through a “learn by doing” model. Agricultural service providers informally interviewed farmers with poultry enterprises to assess their needs. They gathered and adapted information from these clients in developing relevant educational materials and programs for others. This included, but was not be limited to, fact sheets, educational displays, marketing and economic models, customer surveys, ideas for courses and small scale poultry related templates.

At least one case study was identified for documentation each year. A primary purpose of utilizing case studies was to determine economic impact of small scale poultry enterprises within communities. Case studies were reviewed and discussed by the group.

Year 2
Twenty-four service providers participated in 20-hours of in-service instruction in Kennebunkport, Maine that addressed advanced concepts in:

  • poultry health and disease management
  • poultry processing
  • problem solving

Broilers were processed by the group at this training as an educational activity. Additionally, instruction included discussion and analysis of their experiences in developing their client base, applicability of the educational materials they were provided with in year one, problems encountered by service providers, and developing and addressing case studies from the region.

In addition, 3 participating service providers were selected to attend the International Poultry Exposition at the World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia to gain knowledge of the products and services available to the poultry industry. They were charged with finding appropriate technology and information for poultry producers in New England. A report on their experiences was required and presented to the team.

Year 3
Eighteen service providers participated in 20-hours of in-service instruction in Freeport, Maine that addressed:

  • advanced concepts on the poultry enterprise economics and marketing
  • food science/safety
  • turkey production
  • laws and regulations governing the production and sale of locally produced poultry products

In depth discussions of their experiences in developing their client base, applicability of educational materials, any additional problems encountered, and additional case studies from the region occurred. Two participating service providers, who had not previously attended, were selected to attend the International Poultry Exposition at the World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia to gain knowledge of the products and services available to the poultry industry. A report on their experiences was required and presented to other project participants.

This professional development program was unique in several respects.  Individuals were selected to participate in learning; they applied what they learned as they worked; and they created educational materials for clientele. An active network and working group of agricultural service providers around the science of poultry was also established and utilized throughout the life of the project.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Michael Darre
  • Carl Majewski
  • Diane Schivera

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

Milestone 1. Participants will demonstratively gain knowledge and skills in applied poultry science. This will be assessed annually with pre and post testing.

In 2010, a total of twenty-eight participants demonstratively gained knowledge and skills in applied poultry science. This included 11 Extension personnel; 2 USDA personnel; 5 state agency personnel; 5 non-profit personnel; 4 industry personnel; and 1 farmer. This knowledge gain was assessed with pre and post testing using an on-line exam with 50 questions. All participants had significantly higher scores following the training. The class average score for the pretest was 60% while the class average score for the post test was 80%. In addition, an on-line survey was administered immediately after the training. This survey showed that over 95% of the participants felt that the training helped them to a good start.

In 2011, a total of 24 agricultural service providers participated in the annual training. This included 9 Extension personnel; 1 USDA personnel; 5 state agency personnel; 5 non-profit personnel; 3 industry personnel; and 1 farmer. Participants took a pre-test and post-test on the topic poultry health at the annual applied science training in October. However, the results were inconclusive. The participants were also surveyed immediately after the training to measure change. When asked “was the recent 20-hour poultry health training effective in equipping you with practical knowledge and skills for your work with farmers?” 95% of the 20 responding participants said “yes”.

When asked to “identify any knowledge gained by marking one or more of the following topics that were presented,” participants by percentage responded positively as follows –
“I gained knowledge in . .

  • characteristics of normal healthy birds 65%
  • signs of disease in poultry 85%
  • influence of management on bird health 70%
  • poultry disease prevention 75%
  • availability of diagnostic labs in the region for poultry specimens 50%
  • reportable diseases of poultry 100%
  • common diseases of poultry 80%
  • availability and limitations of drugs for poultry 70%
  • informational resources related to poultry health 80%
  • poultry enterprise spread sheets 50%
  • additional informational resources related to poultry 65%
  • poultry enterprise case studies 80% fresh egg marketing 85%

When participants were asked to identify the skills gained over the 20 hours of training by marking one or more of the following topics, participants by percentage responded positively as follows –
“I gained or refined skills in . . .

  • live poultry handling 55%
  • live bird evaluation 55%
  • live poultry observation for external parasites 75%
  • poultry slaughter and processing 95%
  • poultry dissection & anatomy 70%
  • developing questions to ask producers in solving problems 80%

For the annual applied poultry science training that took place in Freeport, Maine in October 2012, 18 agricultural service providers participated. This included 7 Extension personnel; 1 USDA personnel; 4 state agency personnel; 4 non-profit personnel; 1 industry personnel; and 1 farmer. Participants used a prepared template to measure skill and knowledge gain. They documented the knowledge and skills which were gained or reinforced related to the business aspects of poultry production as they participated in the annual applied science training over a three-day period. This measurement was used in lieu of a pre-test, post-test exercise. In addition, participants were surveyed electronically immediately after the training. One hundred percent of the respondents found the training useful and felt they had a better grasp of farm business as it related to poultry production and marketing. They documented gaining practical skills and knowledge in business planning, business structures, enterprise budgets, cash flows, business management and marketing. As part of the training, participants interviewed and interacted with a turkey producer, a couple who produce broiler chickens year-round; and a farmer who has a seasonal small-scale hatchery business.

In October 2013, the 20-hour training was again presented in Freeport, Maine. 18 agricultural service providers participated. This included 7 Extension personnel; 1 USDA personnel; 4 state agency personnel; 4 non-profit personnel; 1 industry personnel; and 1 farmer. This training focused on duck production, poultry problem solving, economic impact of poultry enterprises, alternative poultry feeds, organic poultry production and best management practices. One hundred percent of the participants in this training felt they gained practical knowledge and skills in applied poultry science.

Milestone 2. Participants will identify poultry enterprises in their areas of service. This will be assessed annually. This information will go beyond the agriculture census data.

The accomplishment of this milestone grew steadily as participants assisted clients with poultry related issues in their counties or states. Each participant worked with individual producers. Many participants worked with groups of producers through state-wide or regional poultry associations. In each instance, poultry enterprises were identified. Some states created poultry producer data bases. For example in Maine, there are currently 954 on Extension’s poultry mailing list. In addition, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension helped establish and continues to work closely with the Maine Poultry Growers Association.

In 2011, a region-wide list of poultry producers was initiated via the project web page. Farmers were encouraged to sign up on the project web site http://umaine.edu/poultry/ to be on a poultry event notification mailing list for New England. To date, 132 individuals have signed up to be notified of future educational events hosted by project personnel.

By 2012, statewide poultry producer mailing lists maintained by Cooperative Extension, the state department of agriculture or other agencies existed in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

Milestone 3. At least 200 poultry related enterprises will be started or enhanced over the three year period. This will occur as a result of the participants’ efforts and will be assessed each year.

In 2011, it was estimated that twenty-six project participants from the six states had interacted with approximately 75 individuals with poultry enterprises. In 2012, it was estimated that twenty-five project participants from the six states had interacted with approximately 150 individuals with poultry enterprises over the past two years. In 2013, it was reported via a survey of nineteen participants that 363 producers were assisted by project participants in starting a poultry enterprise.

Milestone 4. Two hundred (200) small scale poultry producers in the region will gain skills and knowledge in starting and/or managing a profitable poultry enterprise. This will occur as a result of the participants’ efforts. This will be measured on a yearly basis.

In 2010, this milestone was yet to be fully accomplished. However in November 2010, teams of participants were created in the following areas to address this need: Educational Outreach/Teaching Aids; Financial Farm Management; Health/Biosecurity; Marketing; Nutrition/Feed; Egg Processing; Meat Processing; Production Practices; and Regulations. Each team was lead by a chair or co-chair and developed objectives for respective team.

In 2011, our Internet records showed that eight hundred and ninety-four (894) individuals had visited the project homepage http://umaine.edu/poultry/ . In addition, thirty-one individuals took part in one of the two egg quality schools sponsored and coordinated by this project and offered in October 2011 at two sites, one in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts. These one-day schools were designed for new or established small scale producers of local, natural, or organic eggs. The schools were also appropriate for agriculture service providers and purchasers of locally grown products. Extension Poultry Specialist, Dr. Kenneth Anderson of North Carolina State University was the lead instructor. The schools included a review of the Egg Laws in New England states and components which apply to small producers. The schools included both lecture material and hands-on laboratories.

Also in 2011, project participants organized and presented workshops for small scale poultry producers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine, with an estimated 140 individuals participating. Lastly, a project participant presented a one-hour webinar on December 20, 2011 on the topic of broiler production, with 24 people participating in the live broadcast.

In 2012, project participants again organized and presented workshops for small scale poultry producers in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine, with an estimated 150 individuals participating. A 1-hour webinar on troubleshooting poultry problems was aired in February, 2012, with 29 people participating in the live broadcast. Another 1-hour webinar was broadcast on December 4, 2012 of the topic of a poultry breakeven calculator, and nearly 80 producers and agricultural service providers took part. Lastly, our Internet records showed that project homepage http://umaine.edu/poultry/ received 2,445 page views in 2012.

In 2013, participants reported working with 1,117 poultry producers over the life of the project. These interactions included one-on-one technical assistance, farm visits, educational workshops, webinars, day-long schools, surveys and downloads of information. The applied poultry science project web site has received a total of 12,875 page views since June 2010.

Milestone 5. At least one hundred (100) poultry producers in the region will develop a written business plan for their poultry operation and a strong, local customer base for their products. This will occur as a result of the participants’ efforts. This will be measured on a yearly basis.

In 2010, this milestone was yet to be accomplished. However, the financial farm management team and the marketing team for this project put forth effort in this area.

In 2011, this milestone was yet to be reached. It was identified that a better system to monitor this number needed to be implemented for the project. In an effort to measure this milestone, the working group on financial farm management was established. It was hoped that business plan templates for egg enterprises and poultry meat enterprises would be made available to potential and established producers in 2012. Nothing came to fruition in 2012 regarding business planning for poultry producers. In a final survey of project participants in 2013, respondents stated they assisted 15 poultry producers with their business plans - well short of our goal. It was found that having farmers write a farm business plan was a very difficult task. Such a task is often complicated and typically never started.

Milestone 6. Economic impacts to producer families and the local economy will be identified and measured. This will be accomplished through case studies. However, one or more of the participants will provide more emphasis to this theme and take it on as a special project.

In 2010, this milestone was yet to be accomplished, and in 2011, this milestone was still slow in coming to fruition. A working group on financial farm management, which was established by this project, was to address this need in 2012. Project participants reported working with at least 25 producers as case studies. The Principal Investigator requested assistance of an economist to lead the group in this effort in 2012. The Principal Investigator gained the assistance of a professor and student of agricultural economics at the University of Maine in 2012 to help with this aspect. The team, with the input of four project participants, developed a producer survey to measure this impact. The PI prepared the Institutional Review Board application for use with human subjects to measure the economic impact of at least six individual poultry operations in their respective New England communities. In 2013, interviews with producers occurred. Sample interviews of six farmers with poultry enterprises were conducted to determine the economic impact of the enterprise on their family and the surrounding communities. Nearly half of the farmers interviewed had egg production operations while the others raised turkeys, broilers or ducks for meat. It was verified through these interviews that small-scale and mid-size poultry enterprises have proven to be profitable in New England. In every instance except one, poultry was an important component to the profitability of their farm business. Five of the six farmers planned to maintain or expand their poultry operations due to their success.

A verification tool was designed and put into use by some project participants in late 2013. For instance, a broiler producer in northern Maine estimated that, as a result receiving assistance from one or more participating agricultural service providers about proper sanitation of equipment and facilities, their enterprise realized a savings of $428.40. In addition, this same producer, upon the advice of the service providers, was encouraged to calculate their cost of production per batch of birds. They determined they needed to increase their product price per pound, and this change in price netted an additional $3,128 in 2013 for this family.

In another instance and with the assistance of a service provider, a change in lighting proved to be a wise decision for an egg producer with 1,500 layers who realized a greater than 20% increase in egg production through the winter months when natural light was lacking. With no change in the amount of feed for the hens, this change of production meant an improved bottom line for the producer. It was calculated that the increase in the amount of light for just 150 days of the winter season was valued at an extra $11,250 in egg sales for this producer.

Milestone 7. The types and numbers of educational materials developed and used by service providers and their clients will be identified. This will be assessed each year.

In 2011, the following was accomplished as a result of project participants’ efforts:

  • The egg processing working group developed a flow chart on egg processing for small scale producers.
  • The poultry marketing working group developed an activity for the evaluation of egg cartons and carton labeling from the consumers’ point of view.
  • The meat processing working group developed materials for small scale producers for meat processing.
  • A biosecurity checklist for agricultural service providers in visiting producers with poultry enterprises was developed.
  • The poultry health working group coordinated a question flow chart to assist a team member in discussing and diagnosing health problems with potential callers.
  • A list of the top ten regional diseases of poultry was assembled.
  • A list of reportable poultry diseases by state was compiled for New England.
  • A power point presentation for beginner poultry producers was developed and used.

In an effort to reach agricultural service providers not involved in the project as well as poultry and egg producers, the Principal Investigator cultivated working relationships with four Extension poultry specialists. These included Dr. Jacquie Jacob of the University of Kentucky, Dr. Kenneth Anderson of North Carolina State University, Dr. Paul Patterson of Pennsylvania State University and Dr. Michael Darre of the University of Connecticut. In 2011, these specialists assisted the project by advising on possible webinar topics. In July 2011, Extension agricultural service providers in New England were surveyed electronically to determine the level of interest in poultry science training as well as educational delivery methods, timing and topics. Over 87% of the respondents were possibly interested in gaining more knowledge and skills to help them better work with poultry producers.

In February 2012, this project hosted a webinar, promoted and aired nationally, on “troubleshooting poultry problems”. This webinar was presented by Dr. Jacquie Jacob of the University of Kentucky.

In the final survey of project participants in 2013, respondents reported they:

  • wrote 11 fact sheets or publications
  • created 16 poultry-related slide presentations
  • wrote 11 articles
  • produced 4 video clips
  • created several decision-making tools.

c) Assessment of Project Approach and Implementation (what worked and what didn’t).

Not every participant was able to continue from start to finish over the 3-year life of this project. It is understood that change happens in the lives and jobs of individuals. Even though there were a few who decided to drop out, the group of active participants maintained their involvement and their enthusiasm to learn. This continuity of the group might have occurred for three reasons:
1) Participants got to know each other quite well at the start of the project. They lived together for three days, prepared and ate meals together, were involved in discussions, learned through lectures and hands-on activities, and solved problems together. Each participant had a part in creating a solid cohort.
2) The PI communicated with participants on a fairly regular basis through emails, phone calls, mailings, and webinars.
3) Participants were expected to be actively involved. This was accomplished through the establishment of working groups; individual assignments and team assignments.

The part of the project that didn’t work well was the collection of impact data. A verification tool was slow in development. By the time the tool was made available, participants did not have the time to go back and use it with their clients.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

a) Performance target outcome data and discussion

A total of 27 agricultural service providers participated and ultimately benefited from this professional development project. Participants were surveyed each year to determine their accomplishments and their professional growth. In 2010, twenty–six providers participated. Twenty-four participants responded to the year-end survey. It was reported in that survey that the participants worked with at least 38 producers since their initial training. In 2011, twenty-four providers participated. Twenty participants responded to the year-end survey. However, participants did not report the number of farmers with whom they worked in 2011. In 2012, participants reported interacting with a total of 297 producers. Fourteen of the responding 21 participants stated they had been involved in presenting poultry-related workshops for producers. In 2012, one-hundred percent of the project participants reported they had grown professionally as a result of their participation in this project. In a final survey of participants conducted in 2013 for which 19 people responded, it was reported that project participants had interacted with a total of 1,117 producers since the start of the project. It is estimated that the poultry farming enterprises of these producers represented a total value of over $1,000,000. These interactions included full-time farmers, part-time farmers, beginning farmers and individuals exploring the possibility of raising poultry. It is evident through the annual survey results that all project participants took actions to teach or advise farmers.

The project participants also took actions to deliver educational programming to producers in their geographic area. Many participants offered poultry-related presentations for the first time in their careers. These actions took the form of workshops, day-long schools, field days, pasture walks, articles, fact sheets, surveys, power point presentations, video clips, virtual tours, worksheets and checklists. 

Titles for these programs and products include:

  • Poultry Processing Regulations Training
  • Hands-On Poultry Processing
  • Pasture Poultry Field Walk
  • Community Poultry Processing Day
  • Introduction to Poultry Science
  • Common Poultry Health Problems
  • Raising Broilers
  • Break-Even Calculator for Poultry Enterprises
  • Trouble-Shooting Poultry Issues
  • Recognizing the Healthy Bird
  • Backyard and Small Commercial Flocks Disease Survey
  • Raising Poultry in Maine – Health Topics
  • Introduction to Backyard Poultry
  • Pastured Poultry Field School
  • Embryology
  • Introduction to Poultry Raising
  • Small Flock Management
  • Lighting for Organic Growers
  • Pastured Poultry
  • Maine Poultry Health Survey
  • Poultry Disease in Maine.

b) Beneficiary outcome story

Following are success story statements from 15 different project participants: “I developed a video on identifying productive laying hens and posted it on UNH Extension’s YouTube channel. To date, it has received over 12,000 views.”

“I presented introduction to poultry seminars 15 times in 2013. I estimate that I have reached 300-400 people this past year with this presentation.”

“I have an increased confidence in all things related to poultry science and feel that I can effectively serve clients, respond to questions, address issues, design and implement programs, conduct some basic applied research and continue to learn more about poultry.”

“I have been involved in several poultry projects since beginning the training and feel comfortable in my knowledge or ability to find an answer.”

“I could not have predicted at the start of the project that I would be largely focusing on avian health issues in my employment with the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Education through this project has been absolutely critical to my effectiveness in my position.”

“When I began this training, I had virtually no experience with any kind of livestock and certainly none in poultry. I now feel rather confident handling a standard poultry client call. The supportive learning environment and diversity of opportunities really made this a fantastic experience for me.”

“I worked with a new poultry grower in Northeastern Massachusetts who wanted to start a pasture-raised broiler enterprise. He came to our poultry processing training events and I worked with him individually on navigating the state slaughter license process, which included attending his local Board of Health hearing. He was granted approval and rented our mobile poultry processing unit to process 400 broilers in 2013. He turned a profit in year-one and plans to scale up significantly over the next few years.”

“I supported a producer suffering major egg loss due to a screw up in winter lighting. I was able to guide him through the process of adjusting lights and get their production back in line. 1,500 layers dropped to less than 50% lay rate . . . after fixes they got back to 70% winter lay rate.”

“I helped a farmer understand their basic costs and through developing a better pricing model, improved their profitability.”

“I have visited poultry operations to investigate disease problems, to evaluate animal welfare conditions, and in so doing have helped to improve health and the profitability of the operation.”

“A farmer planned to raise broilers and decided to use bulk feed instead of bagged feed. He was very pleased with the results.”

“I assisted a poultry producer by being a sounding board for enterprise discussions. We discussed construction of a processing facility, operating a family egg producing business, and management styles that would benefit this particular operation. Feedback was that the farmer indicated that my assistance was helpful.”

“I helped a small scale producer address bird health issues. They had the disease diagnosed and made the necessary changes to correct the situation for future efficient production.”

“I have helped them become more economically viable through better management – such as proper lighting systems and feeding options to reduce costs.”

“My confidence has increased dramatically.”

c) Additional outcome discussion

In 2013, one participant was appointed as the Poultry Specialist by their Extension administration. He now has formal statewide responsibilities in serving poultry producers and other clients interested in poultry. In addition, he is responsible in identifying external funding opportunities and in performing applied research related to poultry.

One participant from Vermont applied for and received a Working Lands Grant of $20,000. He will be developing an enterprise budget and business feasibility template for 3 laying hen models: Single farm 2,000 to 3,000 layers; Contract grower with 2,000 to 3,000 layers; and Aggregator business with their own 2,000 to 3,000 laying flock that also buys in eggs on contract from 3-5 producers and market the eggs regionally.

One participant is now in charge of annually training Pullorum testers in her state.

A participant is completing a 2-year market research project addressing poultry demand in Vermont that involved 25 retail stores.

In an effort to build capacity, a project participant from Maine surveyed colleagues and 4-H volunteers to measure interest in establishing a state-wide poultry programming team for Cooperative Extension. Interest was quite high as 53 people responded. Forty-one individuals are currently interested in playing an active role in Extension’s poultry programming team. This team is comprised of Extension specialists, Extension educators, Extension professionals, 4-H aides, support staff and 4-H volunteers.

A project participant from Maine recently worked with a senior animal science major for her capstone project in conducting a state-wide survey of poultry producers regarding bird health and the practices they use to prevent disease and keep birds healthy.

Project participants plan to work together in designing, coordinating and presenting a New England Poultry Conference in 2015. Some project participants are now active in the small-scale poultry community of practice for eXtension.org

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Milestone 1. Participants will demonstratively gain knowledge and skills in applied poultry science. This will be assessed annually with pre and post testing.

In 2010, a total of twenty-eight participants demonstratively gained knowledge and skills in applied poultry science. This included 11 Extension personnel; 2 USDA personnel; 5 state agency personnel; 5 non-profit personnel; 4 industry personnel; and 1 farmer. This knowledge gain was assessed with pre and post testing using an on-line exam with 50 questions. All participants had significantly higher scores following the training. The class average score for the pretest was 60% while the class average score for the post test was 80%. In addition, an on-line survey was administered immediately after the training. This survey showed that over 95% of the participants felt that the training helped them to a good start.

In 2011, a total of 24 agricultural service providers participated in the annual training. This included 9 Extension personnel; 1 USDA personnel; 5 state agency personnel; 5 non-profit personnel; 3 industry personnel; and 1 farmer. Participants took a pre-test and post-test on the topic poultry health at the annual applied science training in October. However, the results were inconclusive. The participants were also surveyed immediately after the training to measure change. When asked “was the recent 20-hour poultry health training effective in equipping you with practical knowledge and skills for your work with farmers?” 95% of the 20 responding participants said “yes”.

When asked to “identify any knowledge gained by marking one or more of the following topics that were presented,” participants by percentage responded positively as follows –
“I gained knowledge in . .

  • characteristics of normal healthy birds 65%
  • signs of disease in poultry 85%
  • influence of management on bird health 70%
  • poultry disease prevention 75%
  • availability of diagnostic labs in the region for poultry specimens 50%
  • reportable diseases of poultry 100%
  • common diseases of poultry 80%
  • availability and limitations of drugs for poultry 70%
  • informational resources related to poultry health 80%
  • poultry enterprise spread sheets 50%
  • additional informational resources related to poultry 65%
  • poultry enterprise case studies 80% fresh egg marketing 85%

When participants were asked to identify the skills gained over the 20 hours of training by marking one or more of the following topics, participants by percentage responded positively as follows –
“I gained or refined skills in . . .

  • live poultry handling 55%
  • live bird evaluation 55%
  • live poultry observation for external parasites 75%
  • poultry slaughter and processing 95%
  • poultry dissection & anatomy 70%
  • developing questions to ask producers in solving problems 80%

For the annual applied poultry science training that took place in Freeport, Maine in October 2012, 18 agricultural service providers participated. This included 7 Extension personnel; 1 USDA personnel; 4 state agency personnel; 4 non-profit personnel; 1 industry personnel; and 1 farmer. Participants used a prepared template to measure skill and knowledge gain. They documented the knowledge and skills which were gained or reinforced related to the business aspects of poultry production as they participated in the annual applied science training over a three-day period. This measurement was used in lieu of a pre-test, post-test exercise. In addition, participants were surveyed electronically immediately after the training. One hundred percent of the respondents found the training useful and felt they had a better grasp of farm business as it related to poultry production and marketing. They documented gaining practical skills and knowledge in business planning, business structures, enterprise budgets, cash flows, business management and marketing. As part of the training, participants interviewed and interacted with a turkey producer, a couple who produce broiler chickens year-round; and a farmer who has a seasonal small-scale hatchery business.

In October 2013, the 20-hour training was again presented in Freeport, Maine. 18 agricultural service providers participated. This included 7 Extension personnel; 1 USDA personnel; 4 state agency personnel; 4 non-profit personnel; 1 industry personnel; and 1 farmer. This training focused on duck production, poultry problem solving, economic impact of poultry enterprises, alternative poultry feeds, organic poultry production and best management practices. One hundred percent of the participants in this training felt they gained practical knowledge and skills in applied poultry science.

Milestone 2. Participants will identify poultry enterprises in their areas of service. This will be assessed annually. This information will go beyond the agriculture census data.

The accomplishment of this milestone grew steadily as participants assisted clients with poultry related issues in their counties or states. Each participant worked with individual producers. Many participants worked with groups of producers through state-wide or regional poultry associations. In each instance, poultry enterprises were identified. Some states created poultry producer data bases. For example in Maine, there are currently 954 on Extension’s poultry mailing list. In addition, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension helped establish and continues to work closely with the Maine Poultry Growers Association.

In 2011, a region-wide list of poultry producers was initiated via the project web page. Farmers were encouraged to sign up on the project web site http://umaine.edu/poultry/ to be on a poultry event notification mailing list for New England. To date, 132 individuals have signed up to be notified of future educational events hosted by project personnel.

By 2012, statewide poultry producer mailing lists maintained by Cooperative Extension, the state department of agriculture or other agencies existed in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

Milestone 3. At least 200 poultry related enterprises will be started or enhanced over the three year period. This will occur as a result of the participants’ efforts and will be assessed each year.

In 2011, it was estimated that twenty-six project participants from the six states had interacted with approximately 75 individuals with poultry enterprises. In 2012, it was estimated that twenty-five project participants from the six states had interacted with approximately 150 individuals with poultry enterprises over the past two years. In 2013, it was reported via a survey of nineteen participants that 363 producers were assisted by project participants in starting a poultry enterprise.

Milestone 4. Two hundred (200) small scale poultry producers in the region will gain skills and knowledge in starting and/or managing a profitable poultry enterprise. This will occur as a result of the participants’ efforts. This will be measured on a yearly basis.

In 2010, this milestone was yet to be fully accomplished. However in November 2010, teams of participants were created in the following areas to address this need: Educational Outreach/Teaching Aids; Financial Farm Management; Health/Biosecurity; Marketing; Nutrition/Feed; Egg Processing; Meat Processing; Production Practices; and Regulations. Each team was lead by a chair or co-chair and developed objectives for respective team.

In 2011, our Internet records showed that eight hundred and ninety-four (894) individuals had visited the project homepage http://umaine.edu/poultry/ . In addition, thirty-one individuals took part in one of the two egg quality schools sponsored and coordinated by this project and offered in October 2011 at two sites, one in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts. These one-day schools were designed for new or established small scale producers of local, natural, or organic eggs. The schools were also appropriate for agriculture service providers and purchasers of locally grown products. Extension Poultry Specialist, Dr. Kenneth Anderson of North Carolina State University was the lead instructor. The schools included a review of the Egg Laws in New England states and components which apply to small producers. The schools included both lecture material and hands-on laboratories.

Also in 2011, project participants organized and presented workshops for small scale poultry producers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine, with an estimated 140 individuals participating. Lastly, a project participant presented a one-hour webinar on December 20, 2011 on the topic of broiler production, with 24 people participating in the live broadcast.

In 2012, project participants again organized and presented workshops for small scale poultry producers in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine, with an estimated 150 individuals participating. A 1-hour webinar on troubleshooting poultry problems was aired in February, 2012, with 29 people participating in the live broadcast. Another 1-hour webinar was broadcast on December 4, 2012 of the topic of a poultry breakeven calculator, and nearly 80 producers and agricultural service providers took part. Lastly, our Internet records showed that project homepage http://umaine.edu/poultry/ received 2,445 page views in 2012.

In 2013, participants reported working with 1,117 poultry producers over the life of the project. These interactions included one-on-one technical assistance, farm visits, educational workshops, webinars, day-long schools, surveys and downloads of information. The applied poultry science project web site has received a total of 12,875 page views since June 2010.

Milestone 5. At least one hundred (100) poultry producers in the region will develop a written business plan for their poultry operation and a strong, local customer base for their products. This will occur as a result of the participants’ efforts. This will be measured on a yearly basis.

In 2010, this milestone was yet to be accomplished. However, the financial farm management team and the marketing team for this project put forth effort in this area.

In 2011, this milestone was yet to be reached. It was identified that a better system to monitor this number needed to be implemented for the project. In an effort to measure this milestone, the working group on financial farm management was established. It was hoped that business plan templates for egg enterprises and poultry meat enterprises would be made available to potential and established producers in 2012. Nothing came to fruition in 2012 regarding business planning for poultry producers. In a final survey of project participants in 2013, respondents stated they assisted 15 poultry producers with their business plans - well short of our goal. It was found that having farmers write a farm business plan was a very difficult task. Such a task is often complicated and typically never started.

Milestone 6. Economic impacts to producer families and the local economy will be identified and measured. This will be accomplished through case studies. However, one or more of the participants will provide more emphasis to this theme and take it on as a special project.

In 2010, this milestone was yet to be accomplished, and in 2011, this milestone was still slow in coming to fruition. A working group on financial farm management, which was established by this project, was to address this need in 2012. Project participants reported working with at least 25 producers as case studies. The Principal Investigator requested assistance of an economist to lead the group in this effort in 2012. The Principal Investigator gained the assistance of a professor and student of agricultural economics at the University of Maine in 2012 to help with this aspect. The team, with the input of four project participants, developed a producer survey to measure this impact. The PI prepared the Institutional Review Board application for use with human subjects to measure the economic impact of at least six individual poultry operations in their respective New England communities. In 2013, interviews with producers occurred. Sample interviews of six farmers with poultry enterprises were conducted to determine the economic impact of the enterprise on their family and the surrounding communities. Nearly half of the farmers interviewed had egg production operations while the others raised turkeys, broilers or ducks for meat. It was verified through these interviews that small-scale and mid-size poultry enterprises have proven to be profitable in New England. In every instance except one, poultry was an important component to the profitability of their farm business. Five of the six farmers planned to maintain or expand their poultry operations due to their success.

A verification tool was designed and put into use by some project participants in late 2013. For instance, a broiler producer in northern Maine estimated that, as a result receiving assistance from one or more participating agricultural service providers about proper sanitation of equipment and facilities, their enterprise realized a savings of $428.40. In addition, this same producer, upon the advice of the service providers, was encouraged to calculate their cost of production per batch of birds. They determined they needed to increase their product price per pound, and this change in price netted an additional $3,128 in 2013 for this family.

In another instance and with the assistance of a service provider, a change in lighting proved to be a wise decision for an egg producer with 1,500 layers who realized a greater than 20% increase in egg production through the winter months when natural light was lacking. With no change in the amount of feed for the hens, this change of production meant an improved bottom line for the producer. It was calculated that the increase in the amount of light for just 150 days of the winter season was valued at an extra $11,250 in egg sales for this producer.

Milestone 7. The types and numbers of educational materials developed and used by service providers and their clients will be identified. This will be assessed each year.

In 2011, the following was accomplished as a result of project participants’ efforts:

  • The egg processing working group developed a flow chart on egg processing for small scale producers.
  • The poultry marketing working group developed an activity for the evaluation of egg cartons and carton labeling from the consumers’ point of view.
  • The meat processing working group developed materials for small scale producers for meat processing.
  • A biosecurity checklist for agricultural service providers in visiting producers with poultry enterprises was developed.
  • The poultry health working group coordinated a question flow chart to assist a team member in discussing and diagnosing health problems with potential callers.
  • A list of the top ten regional diseases of poultry was assembled.
  • A list of reportable poultry diseases by state was compiled for New England.
  • A power point presentation for beginner poultry producers was developed and used.

In an effort to reach agricultural service providers not involved in the project as well as poultry and egg producers, the Principal Investigator cultivated working relationships with four Extension poultry specialists. These included Dr. Jacquie Jacob of the University of Kentucky, Dr. Kenneth Anderson of North Carolina State University, Dr. Paul Patterson of Pennsylvania State University and Dr. Michael Darre of the University of Connecticut. In 2011, these specialists assisted the project by advising on possible webinar topics. In July 2011, Extension agricultural service providers in New England were surveyed electronically to determine the level of interest in poultry science training as well as educational delivery methods, timing and topics. Over 87% of the respondents were possibly interested in gaining more knowledge and skills to help them better work with poultry producers.

In February 2012, this project hosted a webinar, promoted and aired nationally, on “troubleshooting poultry problems”. This webinar was presented by Dr. Jacquie Jacob of the University of Kentucky.

In the final survey of project participants in 2013, respondents reported they:

  • wrote 11 fact sheets or publications
  • created 16 poultry-related slide presentations
  • wrote 11 articles
  • produced 4 video clips
  • created several decision-making tools.

c) Assessment of Project Approach and Implementation (what worked and what didn’t).

Not every participant was able to continue from start to finish over the 3-year life of this project. It is understood that change happens in the lives and jobs of individuals. Even though there were a few who decided to drop out, the group of active participants maintained their involvement and their enthusiasm to learn. This continuity of the group might have occurred for three reasons:
1) Participants got to know each other quite well at the start of the project. They lived together for three days, prepared and ate meals together, were involved in discussions, learned through lectures and hands-on activities, and solved problems together. Each participant had a part in creating a solid cohort.
2) The PI communicated with participants on a fairly regular basis through emails, phone calls, mailings, and webinars.
3) Participants were expected to be actively involved. This was accomplished through the establishment of working groups; individual assignments and team assignments.

The part of the project that didn’t work well was the collection of impact data. A verification tool was slow in development. By the time the tool was made available, participants did not have the time to go back and use it with their clients.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Future Recommendations

This project has made a solid start in equipping a small cohort of agricultural service providers in applied poultry science. However, it is evident that many more service providers in the region are interested in, and feel the need to learn more about poultry as an enterprise for farmers. Phase II of this project has been proposed to Northeast SARE. In addition, each New England state ought to consider building capacity among service providers in the arena of poultry science as farm poultry enterprises remain quite popular.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.