Australia’s Poultry Cooperative Research Centre Program, Poultry CRC, is now well over a year into its latest seven-and-a-half year funding. Over this period, it has approved 21 research projects and commenced most of its education projects.

The initiative now has 32 participants, including more than 95% of the Australian poultry industry.

The 21 approved projects involve researchers from all research providers and some industry partners. The projects cover approximately 80% of the outputs in the funding agreement with the Australian government, including vaccines and vaccine antigens, rapid diagnostic tests for diseases, novel therapeutics, delivery systems for bioactive materials, evidence-based approaches to bird welfare, nutrition and the environment, and egg quality and food safety.

There will be further project calls in the future to fill the gaps for the remaining 20% or so of outputs that will require addressing over the remainder of the funding period.

Education  

The CRC’s education program has focused on bringing all of its activities initiated during the previous CRC to fruition. This includes offering support to postgraduate scholars who have completed or continue to pursue higher degrees, providing scholarships to poultry health professionals enrolled in the CRC’s Avian Health Online course, revising and finalizing books and other resources for the vocational education and training sector, and engaging schools for poultry related education projects.

Egg washing  

The search for effective egg washing techniques to improve the appearance of eggs and associated food safety is a key objective of the research being constructed at the South Australian Research and Development Institute. The key aims of the project are to identify and trial effective egg washing chemicals to improve the visual appearance, hygiene and safety of eggs.

In Australia, the majority of eggs are washed prior to packing to remove dirt and fecal material to reduce the microbial contamination of the egg shell. Eggs that are not visually clean after washing are frequently diverted for pasteurization, resulting in lower returns for the processor.

The washing process consists of several stages – pre-washing, washing with the aid of a surfactant/detergent, sanitizing and blow-drying – and can take less than 30 seconds. The surfactant’s ability to penetrate and remove dirt and faecal matter is critical for the recovery of table eggs. An effective detergent can also assist in the removal of bacteria while a suitable sanitiser, together with a clean post-wash processing environment, will assist in maintaining the hygiene status of the eggs.

To date, the project has developed a method for making dirty eggs for trialing the various surfactant/sanitiser combination and is in the process of developing a laboratory-based washer for the trials. If successful, the project should result in higher returns for processors due to fewer eggs being sent for pasteurization and providing a safer product for consumers.

Campylobacter  

Poultry CRC researchers as CSIRO and the Ohio State University, ONU, are working on a collaborative project to improve the control of gut levels of Campylobacter in broilers.

There are thought to be 220,000 of Campylobacter infections in humans in Australia each year, with 50,000 of these linked to poultry, and with an estimated financial cost of Aus$20 million.

CRC Program 3 – Safe and Quality Food Production – has several sub-projects already underway, all of with a focus on on-farm investigations.

To help build collaboration across the existing sub-projects and to bring together a possible vaccine research proposal, a Campylobacter workshop was held in late 2010 in Brisbane. As well as building collaboration across sub-projects, the focus of the workshop was to bring together the two potential vaccine proposals originally submitted independently by CSIRO and ONU.

NSW capacity building  

During its rebid process in 2009, the Poultry CRC obtained Aus$500,000 in funding from the New South Wales government. This was designed specifically to support poultry research facilities in NSW-based facilities that were partners in the Poultry CRC bid.

At the time of the application, the University of New England, UNE, was the only university that provided the necessary information enabling the CRC to submit the application in time. The CRC, in turn, provided these funds to UNE to deliver the services to the CRC.

The agreement represents an opportunity for the Australian poultry industry in terms of enhancing research capacity and skills development.

The project has a number of objectives, including the establishment of the world’s first closed circuit calorimeter facility at UNE, which will be an invaluable resource for the nation’s nutrition researchers and aligns directly with the CRC’s focus on Net Energy research. Another objective pertains to the upgrading of UNE’s Poultry Research Farm which will greatly improve the ability to deliver world class education and training in poultry science and production.

The NSW initiative is designed to add to the State’s research and development capacity by increasing the competitiveness of bids made by NSW research consortia, to a range of Commonwealth research funding programs. The agreement represents an opportunity for the Australian poultry industry in terms of enhancing research capacity and skills development.

The fund is an important innovation tool, allowing the NSW government to invest across the innovation landscape to provide research infrastructure, skills development, education and training in line with the State’s policy of priorities in areas such as health, agriculture, alternative energy, and climate change.