FFAR offers $6 million for layer hen keel bone research

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and Open Philanthropy launched a new funding program to provide $6 million of support to research projects that develop scalable solutions to reduce keel bone damage in layer hens.

Branex | Dreamstime.com
Branex | Dreamstime.com

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and Open Philanthropy launched a new funding program to provide $6 million of support to research projects that develop scalable solutions to reduce keel bone damage in layer hens.

“Keel bone damage is an obvious animal welfare concern, and one that also reduces revenue for producers. The Layer Hen Keel Bone Health program is an opportunity to address this this multifaceted issue through a cross-disciplinary research approach,” Tim Kurt, DVM, scientific program director for FFAR, said in a statement.

Keel bone damage, a deviation or fracture of a hen’s breastbone, is caused by housing design problems, genetics, behavior, rearing practices, feed and nutrition and other factors. The injury is a known challenge to raising hens in cage-free housing and occurs in an estimated 10-70% of birds on layer farms globally.

Investing in solutions applicable at a commercial scale

The Layer Hen Keel Bone Health program recognizes a need for additional investment in keel heel research at a commercial scale.

In particular, the program is seeking cross-disciplinary approaches between scientists, researchers, egg farmers, breeding companies, equipment manufacturers and other stakeholders in the following topic areas: genetics, rearing practices, nutrition, feed and physiology, early detection of keel bone damage in commercial settings and economic analyses that evaluate the time, effort and equipment trade-offs to reduce keel bone damage.

Pre-applications for the program are due June 8, 2022. Winners will receive one of two or three grants with a $3 million maximum grant available.

The Layer Hen Keel Bone Health program is a continuation of a earlier FFAR and Open Philanthropy call for research to reduce keel bone fractures in egg-laying hens. In 2017, the two organizations awarded three grants totaling $1.4 million to Purdue University, University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and University of Edinburgh, respectively, to improve the health and productivity of egg-laying hens. 

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