Dr. Doug Grieve obtained his undergraduate education at Michigan State University followed by a stint in the Peace Corps in Nepal. He earned his MS and DVM degrees from his alma mater in 1987 and joined a major pharmaceutical and biologics company in the Midwest. He was appointed to Hy-Line in 1994 as a Technical Service Veterinarian and became the Director of Global Technical Services in 2006. Recently he was promoted to president of Hy-Line International. His broad experience in management and veterinary medicine has enabled him to assemble and motivate a first class team of geneticists, veterinarians and production specialists.
EI: How is Hy-Line responding to the challenge of welfare compliance?
DG: Our selection programs consider temperament and behavior in the group environment. Hy-Line selects families using birds that have entire beaks on the basis of performance in both cages and floor systems. It is necessary to provide a hen that is calm, has good livability and is well suited to the environment for which it is intended.
EI: How are the strains currently under development performing in the context of commercial parameters?
DG: Traits must be changed or selected to conform to the demands of the market. Challenges include restoration of nesting behavior for non-confined flocks and enhancing socialization. Our current selection standard is the UEP Guideline which is based on principles as assessed by a scientific panel. Basically, we believe that pressure is good for the industry and we are responding by adapting our strains to provide optimal performance under emerging housing and management situations.
EI: Sustainability will become an important determinant of profitability and marketability in years to come. How is Hy-Line responding to this consideration?
DG: We have maintained intensive selection for improved feed conversion efficiency over many generations. Programs initiated by Dr. Jim Arthur, which are now under the capable leadership of Dr. Neal O’Sullivan, are incorporating feed utilization, manure output and feather cover in selection programs. With our international perspective, Hy-Line has certainly adopted a “green view” with respect to production and we are trying to anticipate and satisfy the needs of our customers through our breeding program
EI: Currently almost a third of all eggs produced in the U.S. are converted to liquid products. Does this reality influence breeding?
DG: Both our W-36 and W-98 egg strains provide a high percentage of solids. Egg mass and percent egg yolk are the drivers for optimizing a commercial variety for the egg processing industry. We believe that the proportion of eggs that will be broken will steadily increase and we must be in a position to offer products which benefit this market.
EI: Have recent changes in the structure of the industry influenced Hy-Line geneticists and management specialist?
DG: Our approach to pullet rearing and management is being re-evaluated. We recognize that a uniform flock of pullets of adequate weight and maturity will contribute to maximum egg yield. Management of pullet flocks will receive greater attention in the future with respect to nutrition, housing, ventilation and prevention of disease. This is exemplified in a technical service school to be held in North America in 2010 which will concentrate on commercial production. Hy-Line International has a long history of schools for our customers, but to date our schools have been structured for our international customers to optimize production at the parent level. The new approach will be to improve production technology in North America to assist customers in reaching the inherent genetic potential of our products.
EI: How are you approaching increased demands for product safety?
DG: As primary breeders at the top of the reproduction pyramid, it is incumbent on Hy-Line to achieve the highest possible standards of biosecurity which ultimately are reflected in food safety. We must continue to maintain surveillance over vertically transmitted diseases that we have successfully eradicated. We maintain a strong program to prevent introduction of Salmonella Enteritidis. Consistent with trends in Europe and of our sister company Aviagen, we are aggressively pursuing a program of eliminating all Salmonella. Over the years, we have virtually eliminated lymphoid leucosis and our lines down to the parent level are free of mycoplasmosis.
EI: Where do you envisage the industry will be in five years time?
DG: We earnestly hope that the industry will expand. It is our anticipation that shell egg production in cages will represent the mainstay of the industry. Obviously there will be expansion in enriched eggs and a concurrent demand for cage-free conventional and organic products. Whether the U.S. will follow the path of the EU towards floor systems and enriched cages remains to be seen. California Proposition 2 and subsequent voter initiatives or counter-legislation will ultimately change the centers of production, favoring the Midwest and Northern tier states which also have advantages in terms of grain availability.
EI: Do you have any message for the industry?
DG: Hy-Line will continue to apply breeding programs based on both quantitative genetics and traditional phenotypic selection requiring the application of stockmanship. Hy-Line was the first primary breeder to develop an in-house molecular genetics laboratory, and this new technology is yielding results. Our team will accelerate the rate of progress in important traits while assuring a high level of safety and compliance with the demands of environmental legislation.