Applied Poultry Science Professional Development Project - Phase II

2014 Annual Report for ENE14-131

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2014: $70,715.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Donna Coffin
UMaine Extension
Dr. Richard Brzozowski
University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Applied Poultry Science Professional Development Project - Phase II


In response to increasing consumer demand for local foods, many farm families have started or are very interested in integrating poultry enterprises in their operations to increase farm income.  Poultry are efficient converters of feed to meat or eggs, do not require much space and fit nicely as a complementary enterprise on many types of farms.

Agricultural service providers within Extension were recently surveyed in 2013 on the issue of poultry. Over 92% of the respondents felt they were not effectively serving poultry producers. Only one of the 40 respondents was confident in answering poultry related questions. At least 81% of the respondents were interested in gaining knowledge and skills in poultry science. 

This project will directly involve a minimum of 20 agriculture service providers in New England and poultry producers in the region as a secondarily audience. These service providers will come from a range of backgrounds and experiences related to agriculture, technology, education and service. Each service provider will have a solid history of working directly with farmers. Eligible project participants from the six New England states will submit an application to participate. Each applicant will have the written support of their immediate supervisor.

Participants will gain knowledge and skills in basic poultry science of egg production, meat production, nutrition, health, facilities, breed selection, biosecurity, processing, regulations, marketing, poultry business planning and management.   The project will also focus on the development of poultry-related educational materials. This project will involve an annual series of webinars and practical, hands-on training workshops.


Objectives/Performance Targets

Twenty (20) agricultural service providers in New England will provide technical assistance and economic and management advice to 100 farmers raising at total of approximately 50,000 poultry for meat or egg production, helping them enact management changes that improve production, poultry health, poultry nutrition, market development, sanitation and biosecurity, food safety, regulatory compliance, energy efficiency, and business management; these changes result in, on average, an additional $5,000 in income each year over the two-year period.


Twenty-three agriculture service providers, with representatives from all six New England states, submitted applications to participate in the professional development project in the summer of 2014. Applications were received electronically from personnel and categorized as follows: 11 Extension, 6 non-profit, 1 farmer, 5 state agency. As per state, the number of applications were as follows: 2 from Connecticut, 10 from Maine, 3 from Massachusetts, 4 from New Hampshire, 2 from Rhode Island, 2 from Vermont and 1 from Minnesota.

A project web site has been developed and is used to post information and tools for participants.

Milestone 1
Thirty (30) agricultural service providers will complete an online pretest in applied poultry science as a benchmark from which to measure growth and change in knowledge and skill levels.

Twenty-two individuals completed the pretest at the start of the 3-day poultry training in October 2014. The pretest was not administered online as previously planned but for logistical reasons was administered as a paper and pencil test. Four Extension poultry specialists, who comprise the instructor team for this project, submitted questions for the pretest. Since egg production is the focus in year-one of the project, all pretest questions pertained to eggs and egg-laying birds. This same test will be given in year-two of the project to determine a “snap shot” of knowledge gain. The pretest was completed by personnel as categorized as follows: 10 Extension, 6 non-profit, 1 farmer, 5 state agency. The pretest is attached.

Milestone 2
At least 20 agricultural service providers who participate in the project webinars, workshops, independent study and problem solving network will gain measurable knowledge and skills to assist sustainable poultry enterprises through efficient and well-designed educational programs.

A 3-day poultry science seminar was presented in Freeport, Maine from October 22-24, 2014. Twenty-three (23) agriculture service providers participated. The seminar included lectures, discussions, problem-solving activities and a hands-on activity of dissecting chickens. The seminar schedule is attached. An electronic survey of participants was performed to determine the usefulness of the seminar. When asked - As a whole, how useful was the training to you and your work as an agriculture service provider? Eighty-five percent (17 of 20 respondents) found the training “very useful”. One hundred percent said that the training provided them with a good start to the two-year professional development project. A summary report of the follow-up survey results is attached. To complement the seminar, participants were provided with a resource notebook, “The Virtual Chicken” dvd, the Chicken Health Handbook, an Eggcyclpedia and a curriculum notebook on eggs. The training was accomplished by personnel as categorized as follows: 11 Extension, 6 non-profit, 1 farmer, 5 state agency.

In the two months following the seminar, two 60-minute webinars were presented through the online educational presence “eXtension”. Dr. Kenneth Anderson of North Carolina State University presented a webinar on egg production systems on November 12. Based on an informal registration at the time of the event, this webinar was attended by personnel as categorized as follows: 7 Extension, 3 non-profit, 7 farmers, 2 state agency. Dr. Paul Patterson from Pennsylvania State University presented a webinar on feeds & feeding of pullets and layers on December 10. Based on an informal registration at the time of the, this webinar was attended by personnel as categorized as follows: 10 Extension, 5 non-profit, 23 farmers. These webinars were designed for agriculture service providers but were promoted across the country and open to any interested individual. The webinars were archived for repeated viewing.

Milestone 3
At least 20 agricultural service providers will each design, adapt or create educational materials for poultry producers. Team leaders as well as other project participants will review these educational materials.

To date, three poultry-related fact sheets and one scholarly article were developed by team members.

Milestone 4
At least 20 agricultural service providers will learn about poultry anatomy by dissecting a chicken. In teams of 2 and 3 individuals, participants will dissect a chicken to learn about disease, parts & functions, the digestive tract and the reproductive tract.

On the morning of Thursday, October 23, project participants traveled to a nearby farm in Freeport, Maine and learned about poultry anatomy and physiology. University of Connecticut Extension Poultry Specialist, Dr. Michael Darre served as the lead instructor. Working in teams, participants learned how to properly catch, handle, restrain, humanely euthanize and dissect chickens. The protocol for handling and euthanizing the birds for this educational activity was approved by the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC) at the University of Maine. Personnel as categorized as follows took part in developing educational materials in 2014: 10 Extension, 6 non-profit, 1 farmer, 5 state agency.

Milestone 5
At least 20 agricultural service providers will actively participate in the poultry problem-solving network to strengthen and apply their knowledge of poultry science. Participants will actively solve poultry-related problems by asking probing questions and gathering facts. Team leaders will help direct questions for self-discovery.

Soon after the October 2014 seminar wrapped up, a list serve email group of project participants was established. Participants from Phase I of this professional development project were also invited to continue with the list serve. To date, 38 agriculture service providers are members of this list serve. Personnel as categorized as follows took part in problem-solving in 2014: 19 Extension, 7 non-profit, 3 farmers, 7 state agency and 2 industry.

Milestone 6
Each agricultural service provider will work directly with five farmers per year with an existing or planned poultry enterprise. Participating farmers will be asked to provide production results and basic income statements via online reporting for the respective poultry enterprises to compare performance with similar enterprises. Case studies of participating farms will be assembled for educational purposes. Using the verification template, participants will gather data from the producers with whom they are working. Project team leaders will assist as needed.

To date participants have not reported any work with farmers in their respective states.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The following journal article and poultry-related fact sheets are either under review or were published between October 2014 and December 2014:

Coordinating Effective Professional Development Projects – published in the Journal of NACAA December 2014

Selling Eggs in Maine – revised, reviewed and published by the University of Maine;

Winter Care of Your Laying Hens - revised, reviewed and published by the University of Maine;

The Pros and Cons of Poultry Swaps – under review