Sunday, May 28, 2023

Local poultry scientists gather for first time in two years

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Around 400 members of the poultry science community gathered at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) International Convention Centre in Pretoria for the 39th symposium of the South African branch of the World Poultry Science Association.

The theme of this year’s symposium was “Applied poultry science in a challenging environment.” It was fitting as the event was held a week after Argentina closed its borders for exports due to highly pathogenic avian influenza. During the symposium, two of the most important topics discussed were poultry health and the economy.

Economic deep dive

Tracy Davids, manager of commodity markets and foresight at the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), said while poultry was one of the biggest contributors to South Africa’s import bill, the local industry was also the biggest livestock sector. She added that a million households were involved in the industry on a primary production level.

“Poultry is the largest agricultural subsector in South Africa in terms of value and is well integrated into other value chains,” Davids said. She explained that broilers alone consume half of South Africa’s animal feed. Furthermore, poultry remains the country’s cheapest source of animal protein and it earns over R50 billion in revenue per annum. “Over 65% of meat consumption in South Africa consists of poultry.”

However, from an economic perspective, Davids said it was crucial to remember that local consumers’ purses are still severely under pressure, and this is likely to continue over the next three to five years. Therefore, poultry producers need to look for alternative markets outside the country.

Read more about the 15% growth in the South African poultry market.

Feed focus

Prof Michael Kidd, director of poultry nutrition at the University of Arkansas in the United States, discussed the latest research into branched-chain amino acid nutrition. He said it is crucial to consider all the amino acids needed to create a nutritious, balanced feed ration for birds as this could play a key role in meat formation.

“When testing the effectiveness of essential amino acids, all acids must be tested in conjunction with each other due to their delicate interaction with each other.”

Disease focus

Dr Paco Fernandez Lopez-Brea, Zinpro’s poultry support manager for Europe, Russia and South Africa, spoke about the impact of stress and inflammation on broiler performance and meat quality in poultry.

Over the past five decades, poultry production has improved to such an extent that broilers’ muscle yield and growth rate has increased significantly, which may contribute to an increased rate and development of new muscle disorders in chickens, he said. “Not only does this lead to poor meat quality traits, but it also has a very negative economic impact on the poultry industry.”

RNA-sequencing technology has shown that localised hypoxia (which leads to oxidative stress) increased intracellular calcium, as well as the possible presence of muscle fibre-type switching, which is one of the key features of wooden breast disease, Lopez-Brea said. This is a muscle disorder found in modern broilers.

Find out more about the upcoming Pan-African poultry conference.

Pollution focus

Dr Andreas Lemme, technical director at Evonik in Germany, talked about the impact of nitrogen pollution and the issues Europe faced. To reduce nitrogen oxide, one of the most concerning greenhouse gases, Lemme looked at lowering the levels of nitrogen in animal feed by using less protein in the feed. However, despite his desire to reduce protein usage, he did not want to sacrifice growth.

Finally, Lemme’s studies showed that it was possible to reduce the protein levels in poultry feed and thus reduce nitrogen levels. Yet, this type of feed was more expensive, Lemme admitted. – Susan Marais, AgriOrbit

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