Poultry Summit 2019
Poultry leaders confer on issues. Waterfowl, turkeys get special attention.
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Poultry leaders from all perspectives of Standard and exhibition poultry — conservation, production, hatchery, poultry science, state and federal regulation — came together at a Poultry Summit in August to unite on supporting poultry. They emerged with a will to collaborate and work together to help each other in the greater good of poultry success.
“We chose a group of less than 20 people, decision-makers, long-time breeders, judges, university people,” said Jeannette Beranger, senior program manager for The Livestock Conservancy, which organized the meeting. “It’s the first meeting of its kind, bringing all to the table, people who are not usually connected like this.”
The Livestock Conservancy led
The Livestock Conservancy organized the two-day meeting, at P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm in Little Rock, Arkansas. The invited participants included American Poultry Association president John Monaco and APA judges and breeders Dick Horstman, Bart Pals, and Tim Bowles, Bud Wood, president and owner of Murray McMurray Hatchery and John Metzer, CEO of Metzer Farms, Julie Gauthier, DVM, of USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services, who attended in an unofficial capacity, Keith Bramwell, extension reproductive physiologist of the University of Arkansas, and Ann Knowles of Frank Reese’s Good Shepherd Conservancy. TLC executive director Alison Martin, Ms. Beranger, and technical advisor Phil Sponenberg participated. The APA’s Dave Anderson and Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch’s Frank Reese were invited but unable to attend for family reasons.
“We’re all concerned about the same thing, with different approaches and missions,” Ms. Beranger said. “We’re looking for ways to help each other.”
Participants left the meeting with Action Points, agreeing on assignments to make things happen. November will be United Turkey Month, with special attention to turkeys at the Ohio National. The Ohio National will hold a table judging of turkeys, which will be video-recorded and posted to the APA website. Representatives will work with the USDA to set up a Salmonella Committee. They will collaborate with hatcheries on resolving problems with bird shipping.
“To face future challenges, we have to pull together to have a united voice,” Ms. Beranger said.
Waterfowl and turkeys were the main focus of the summit. Breeders of these large birds need space and facilities to succeed. Long-time breeders have retired or are no longer breeding them.
Only six breeders are known to be working with Aylesbury ducks, and only two with Steinbacher geese. Numbers like that put breeds at risk of disappearing entirely. APA president Monaco said the APA will add a page to its show reports, asking show secretaries to report waterfowl entries.
“It will give us a better idea of how many breeders have them, and how many they have,” he said.
Reaching the public
Sessions focused on diversity within breeds; training, both formal and informal; collaboration, marketing, and partnerships; and public outreach and education.
Exotic, unusual breeds can attract public attention and raise awareness of the diversity of poultry species and breeds. They may not be recognized by the APA, although they may be recognized by poultry organizations in their home countries.
“A lot of people just love exotic chickens, said Ms. Knowles. “Prominent exotic breeds can bring recognition to the poultry field.”
That’s a different issue from the purity of Standard breed genetics, Mr. Reese’s area of expertise. Although he was unable to attend the meeting, his concern is for exhibition Standard-bred birds to continue with high production values.
“I am trying to put these old breeds back to work on the farm,” he said in an interview. “To do that, these animals must perform. They must be decent egg layers, decent meat birds, and must represent the phenotype.”
He champions the traditional values of poultry. He raises about 10,000 turkeys and 10,000 chickens, certified though the APA’s Flock Inspection program, for market annually.
“The birds of the market should be the birds of Champion Row,” he said.
Mr. Wood of Murray McMurray Hatchery committed to featuring an endangered breed on its catalog cover. Participants will make concentrated efforts to help locate bloodlines within breeds to help revitalize breeds. They will seek out isolated flocks to collaborate with others to improve genetic diversity. Ms. Beranger’s Crevecoeur project has improved the outlook for that breed since she began looking for other flocks six years ago. Mr. Wood suggested the Red Cap can benefit from a similar project.
Education and training include both continuing education for experienced breeders and formal education for young people. The APA and TLC will connect websites, to increase opportunities for members to learn from each other. Ms. Beranger is working on a video series, “Secrets of the Masters.” Mr. Smith’s video team offered to work with her on professional editing for the series.
Public education and outreach can be served by formal academic programs. Good Shepherd Conservancy is developing a college curriculum for a one-year certification in Standard breeds and a two-year degree. Bethany College in Kansas had expressed interest, and collaboration with Iowa State University or other schools is possible. Good Shepherd Conservancy is developing an Educational Barn, a Culinary Center and a Research Center.
“Young people need to know that they can make money raising certified breeds,” Ms. Knowles said. “It can be part of farming income.”
Government regulation, both state and federal, requires good faith on both sides. Public health is the USDA’s primary concern, but their focus is on large industrial producers. Participants at the Poultry Summit determined to develop a biosecurity plan for small flock keepers. Mr. Smith offered his farm as a place to identify strategies and serve as a model for biosecurity.
Being able to demonstrate biosecurity is crucial in the event of a disease outbreak.
“We need to be able to clamp down and secure those birds, show that we are doing everything in our power to prevent contamination,” Ms. Beranger said.
Good food, too
Mr. Smith provided chicken and turkey from his farm for every meal. The chef at a local restaurant prepared Standard-breed turkey for dinner. Mr. Smith’s hospitality encouraged goodwill, despite the hot weather.
“It was a productive meeting,” Ms. Beranger said. “It was a small group of people who can make things happen. Everyone had a voice at the table.”
Mr. Monaco supported meeting in person.
“There’s no way we could have gotten that much done in emails,” he said. “You can convey a lot more in person. Everybody I talked to at the meeting came away with good feelings.”
Christine Heinrichs writes from her home on California’s Central Coast. She keeps a backyard flock of a dozen hens, eight large fowl of various breeds and four bantams.
Her book, How to Raise Chickens, was first published in 2007, just as the local food movement was starting to focus attention on the industrial food system. Backyard chickens became the mascot of local food. The third edition of How to Raise Chickens was published in January 2019. The Backyard Field Guide to Chickens was published in 2016. Look for them in Tractor Supply stores and online.
She has a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Oregon and belongs to several professional journalism and poultry organizations.
Originally published in the December 2019/January 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.