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Research Benefits Poultry Industry
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi poultry producers in the past two decades have transformed an industry into the state's top agricultural enterprise, with annual poultry and egg sales in excess of $1 billion.
Researchers at Mississippi State University support the growth of the industry and continue to aid producers in finding new ways to manage the health and productivity of their flocks.
One of the newest areas of poultry research at MSU is the broiler-breeder fertility work conducted by Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station poultry scientist Chris McDaniel.
"We collected eggs from about 15 industry farms to determine the number of sperm that have penetrated each egg yolk," McDaniel said. "We analyzed semen and sperm quality at each of these farms so the male contribution to any fertility problems could be further understood."
By counting the number of sperm inside each egg, researchers can determine if a male or female fertility problem exists.
"We have seen farms where fertility was as much as 25 percent below normal," McDaniel said. "On some of the farms, infertility seemed related to heat stress and on other farms, infertility was blamed on the male birds' diets, with some obese and some undernourished."
To study the problem, researchers designed a controlled environment broiler-breeder house at MSU.
"The facility allows us to do research and respond to current and future needs in broiler-breeder management, nutrition and fertility," McDaniel said.
Battling Costly Disease...
In another research field, MAFES poultry scientist Paul Thaxton developed a vaccine to help producers battle one of their most costly diseases, coccidiosis. Preventive treatment for coccidiosis costs the industry $100 million each year, and another $100 million is lost through the effects of the disease.
The single injection vaccine, cocci-yolk-vac, protects newly hatched chicks from the three major species of coccidiosis and other poultry diseases.
"The procedure is termed intra-yolk-sac vaccination because the vaccines are injected into the yolk sac of newly hatched chicks," Thaxton explained.
Improving Egg Production...
Poultry scientist David Peebles is studying dietary fat in broiler-breeder flocks. His data shows boosting unsaturated fat in the diets of broiler-breeder hens improves their egg production with no negative effects on the eggs.
Good news for Mississippi poultry producers is that fat is an inexpensive source of energy and its increased use will reduce feed costs.
Developing New Products...
Keys to the continued success of Mississippi's poultry industry are developing products for the fast-food industry. MSU poultry scientist Tsun Chen is studying this area.
Chen has worked with a major spice manufacturer in the state to keep the hot taste in chicken hot-wings. Currently, Chen is researching methods to extend the shelf life of poultry and egg products.
Disposing Poultry Waste...
The rapid growth of the poultry industry in Mississippi has created new waste-disposal challenges. A five-year study by MSU scientists and researchers is assessing the impact of poultry waste on the land.
Industry data and information have been collected on poultry waste in Mississippi. Samples have been taken of soil, sediments and natural waters within intensive poultry-producing areas of the state.
The next step will be the development of a data base showing how various Mississippi soils are impacted by poultry waste. An additional part of the project is a study of nutrients and their levels in poultry litter.
All of the MAFES poultry research projects have the goal of keeping the industry an important part of Mississippi's economy.