Jacobs studying humane on-farm euthanasia tactics for large birds
BLACKSBURG, Va. — An interest in animal welfare has brought Dr. Leonie Jacobs, a native of The Netherlands, to Virginia Tech, where she is researching on poultry.
Jacobs, who is an assistant professor in Virginia Tech’s department of animal and poultry sciences, joined the university’s faculty last August with a Research and Extension appointment.
She obtained her masters of science degrees in animal science from Wageningen University in The Netherlands, and from the Swedish Agricultural University.
Her education and previous work were focused on animal welfare, mainly for poultry.
Her current work includes a study on humane on-farm euthanasia methods for large poultry, both broiler breeders and turkeys.
Jacobs said she is eager to reach out to the poultry industry in Virginia and beyond to find what their needs are and how she can use her expertise to help the industry, including both commercial growers and those who have backyard flocks.
She can be reached by phone at 540-231-4735 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Her PhD research was focused on broiler chicken welfare during transportation, both to the producer and to the slaughter plant.
She talked about what she wants to do during a recent interview on campus. Her previous work has focused on broiler chickens she said.
She said being in Virginia is a good fit for her with the boiler houses that are concentrated in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
She said she would also be glad to work with other production animal species if the need exists.
So far, she has been doing talks and demonstrations for backyard growers.
One of the big areas of interest by backyard owners is about humane slaughter of their birds.
She often explains how to carry birds without causing distress.
Rather than carrying them by the feet and legs, it is less stressful to carry them upright with the wings restrained.
She said since birds do not have a diaphragm there is nothing to keep their internal organs from pressing against the heart and lungs, and this can result in physical and psychological discomfort and even death.
She said she looks forward to extending her work to commercial producers and doing trials focusing on welfare improvement for the animals.
She noted that improving animal welfare could result in economic gain as well.
Jacobs recently did a workshop at Appalachian State University in North Carolina for students there, together with Dr. Anne Fanatico and Jim McLaughlin of Cornerstone Poultry Ventures.
She said several Extension agents from both North Carolina and Virginia attended as well.
If there is enough interest, she would like to have a similar workshop at Virginia Tech.
Jacobs said she is still in the setting up stage of her work at Virginia Tech.
She has done a trial on campus with a commercial company testing different water sanitary treatments on broilers.
She said is looking forward to her next project, the humane euthanasia on large birds, both chickens and turkeys.
This becomes necessary when birds become ill or injured.
She is planning at looking at four different methods and their impact and ease of use for the workers who put them down.
The project includes a hands-on workshop for those workers where they get to learn about new methods of euthanasia.
This project will be done in collaboration with Auburn University and USDA-ARS and is funded by the U.S. Poultry and Egg Foundation.
Continuing her work on the pre-slaughter treatment of poultry is one of Jacobs’ goals.
She said she is focused on the catching, transportation and waiting for slaughter.
Most issues result from human/animal interaction, she noted.
If the problems can be identified and corrected, the result can be an increase in economic return.
Jacobs concluded by saying she has received some commercial interest in training people in this part of the industry.
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