Dr. Richard Gates, agricultural and biological engineering professor, University of Illinois, has been awarded a grant for special visiting researchers, Pesquisadors Visitante Especial (PVE), by the Brazilian government. The PVE program aims to attract senior foreign researchers recognized internationally as leaders in priority areas, such as engineering, technology and health sciences. Gates is one of 66 awardees this year.
Under this award, Gates will conduct projects with Brazilian research groups and is expected to visit Brazil for up to three months annually for the next three years. Gates said that his project seeks to improve the indoor environment of laying hen facilities in tropical and subtropical climates, such as Brazil. It involves the design of alternative facilities with improved insulation and mechanical ventilation and compares their operation with naturally-ventilated facilities. This study will develop guidelines for energy-efficient hybrid systems of ventilation to maintain productivity and enhance bird welfare while ensuring a safe and sustainable egg supply system.
"The research focus of our project in Brazil is to evaluate new ways to design and ventilate laying hen houses," said Gates. "We just completed a year-long study in the AWES lab, looking at the effect of areal ammonia concentration on laying hen preferences. Some of the alternative housing systems that are being developed aren't ventilated very well, and the ammonia levels can be higher than generally recommended. The AWES lab has an animal preference chamber with four environmentally controlled compartments that allow us to give the bird a clear choice among alternative conditions.
"For instance, will they tolerate high ammonia levels if it is warmer, or do they prefer cooler temperatures and low ammonia levels? That's a simple example of what preference chambers can tell us. The AWES facility will provide a training component for the students who come here, and then we'll all work together to develop a set of protocols on how to conduct preference testing."