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Study refines animal care practices for poultry producers

NEW STUDY Creates provincial protocols 
for ammonia and humidity in Alberta 
poultry barns

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A new initiative will result in made-in-Alberta standards for ammonia and humidity in provincial poultry barns.

The effort to set provincial standards stems from the Canada Animal Care initiative, which was implemented in 2010 and has since seen all 238 of Alberta’s chicken producers audited and certified on their animal care protocols.

“We’re the first province to achieve that,” said Karen Kirkwood, executive director of Alberta Chicken Producers (ACP). “We’re proud of that and the work our producers have done.”

But the standards for ammonia and humidity in the national code don’t reflect harsh Prairie winters, which can result in less air exchange as producers conserve heat.

“One of the questions that came up at that time was how ammonia and humidity levels compared to what we would see here in our province,” said Trevor Prout, producer program manager with ACP. “We thought it would be prudent of us, if we’re going to be auditing these programs, to make sure that we’re auditing it fairly.”

Chickens, like humans, suffer from stinging or burning eyes when ammonia levels are too high. Dry conditions make them itchy while high humidity results in wet litter and foot problems.

Forty Alberta producers volunteered to participate in the study, which will consider barn size, age and construction; the operation’s location; and the time poultry spends in a barn before being market ready. Relative humidity, temperature and ammonia will be measured every hour for an entire year.

Once complete, researchers hope to issue Alberta-specific standards and protocols for dealing with problem situations.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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