Two poultry science graduate students placed first in the student competitions hosted by the University of Arkansas Department of Poultry Science during Poultry Science (POSC) Research Day on May 25.

The first POSC Research Day invited faculty, students and industry professionals to collaborate and share ideas about ongoing research surrounding water efficiency in the poultry industry. As a portion of the one-day event, students from the U of A were encouraged to present their own research in two competitions.

The winner of the oral presentation competition, Clay Maynard, said he felt it was important for him to share his research with some of the brightest minds in the poultry industry. His presentation, titled "Performance and Processing Characteristics of Male Ross 708 Broilers Supplemented with Guanidinoacetic Acid," covered a research study that looked at ways to alleviate woody breast in broilers.

Woody breast is a muscle myopathy that affects high breast yielding broilers. This causes a number of challenges for producers, including decreased yield due to lowered fillet quality and appearance. Restaurants have received complaints from customers about poor texture, and they have started requiring plants to sort fillets to limit the amount of woody breast they receive.

"The annual cost of woody breast in the industry is tremendous, and the cause of this myopathy remains undetermined," said Maynard, poultry science Ph.D. student. "However, as we continue to progress, numerous nutritional strategies have been utilized to reduce the occurrence of woody breast, with little success."

Maynard suggested that the research study he presented showed a different trend, and that is why he felt it necessary to present this during the POSC Research Day. Varying levels of guanidinoacetic acid were supplemented to regular broiler diets.

"Varying levels of guanidinoacetic acid were supplemented to broiler diets to alleviate the incidence of woody breast when grown to 56 days," Maynard said. "The supplemented acid expressed a reduction in woody breast without negatively impacting performance." 

Maynard said he was thankful for a great opportunity to connect with industry professionals.

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"The ability to present at this event was nothing short of amazing," Maynard said. "I believe that communication and networking opportunities such as this event are vital for graduate students' success in their future endeavors."

Jossie Santamaria Archbold, poultry science Ph.D. student, placed first in the poster presentation category with his poster titled "Vehicle Choice Influences Cellular and Humoral Responses to Salmonella Bacterin Vaccines in Light-brown Leghorn Pullets." Santamaria's research highlighted the need for studying how a Salmonella vaccine affects poultry.

"Chicken products that are not handled or cooked correctly can cause salmonellosis in humans," Santamaria said. "Salmonella vaccines are utilized to aid in the mitigation of Salmonella spread in chickens. Since there is little information regarding the local and systemic immunostimulatory effects of Salmonella vaccines, I plan to keep researching ways to understand and potentially enhance their capacity to develop immunity and manage infection of Salmonella in poultry more efficiently."

Santamaria was excited to place first in the competition.

"I am extremely grateful and humbled to know that I was awarded first place at POSC Research Day," Santamaria said. "It is encouraging to see that hard work, determination and passion for research can be rewarded." 

Several students were selected by a committee to compete in both the oral presentation and poster presentation of the competition.  The committee consisted of Michael Looper, professor and Animal Science Department head; Rachel Hawken, director of genomics and quantitative genetics for Cobb-Vantress; Daniel Lessner, professor and vice chair for the biological sciences; Fiona Goggin, professor in the Entomology and Plant Pathology Department; and David McCreery, nutritionist and water quality lead for Pilgrim's Pride.

The POSC Research Day was sponsored by Cobb-Vantress, Proxy-Clean Products, the Poultry Federation, Weeden Sprinkler Systems, Kemco Systems and a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Critical Agricultural Research and Extension grant.