Tour takes Del. agent to Israel, Netherlands
When Georgie Cartanza entered the Nuffield International Farming Scholars program last year, she knew it would take her out of her comfort zone. It began with a week-long conference in Brazil and then zig-zagging across the world, visiting a half dozen countries in two months with the seven other class members in agriculturally-intensive trips.
“The whole idea of Nuffield is really to push you beyond what you’re comfortable with,” Cartanza said while between duties at the Delaware State Fair last month. “The biggest thing from a personal development aspect is getting out of your comfort zone.”
Cartanza recently completed part of the last phase of her Nuffield experience: Traveling to Israel and the Netherlands on an independent study tour of the those countries’ poultry industry.
In putting together the trips, Cartanza, the first Nuffield participant from the United States, said she chose those countries to visit for the high level of technology they employ in agriculture and, especially in the Netherlands, to see how raising chickens is structured differently than on Delmarva.
“The whole goal was to explore technology and how to benefit the industry and how people can get the most out of it,” she said.
Cartanza said as an industry, Israel is going through some “growing pains” with nutrient management and she saw a litter grinder/incinerator that was interesting to see but didn’t seem practical for Delmarva growers.
One research project that caught her eye was on the effects of oxygen and ammonia levels in egg production.
To see if bird health could be improved, the project used thermal imaging to monitor ammonia levels in the poultry house and the readings were also integrated into the house’s controller which could then make changes in the house’s environment.
“That was a pretty amazing thing to see. That may be something that could be done down the road that we could use,” Cartanza said.
Beyond innovations in poultry, Cartanza’s 10 days in Israel yielded a tremendous cultural impact, she said, with visits to historic cities and places, from the Wailing Wall to the Sea of Galilee.
In the Netherlands, growers must source their own chicks and feed and line up processing for the grown birds. Their service technicians are employed by the the feed companies and many growers mix their own feed on the farm based on the technician’s nutrition advice.
Research in early chick feeding techniques particularly interested Cartanza as well. She saw three methods in action. In one, chicks were fed at the hatchery and transported to farms with feed.
In two other methods, eggs were hatched at the farm; one on a long conveyor belt lowered down from the ceiling and another where a machine rolls along the house floor setting eggs on new shavings.
“That was one of the most exciting things to see,” Cartanza said.
The interest in feeding chicks earlier, even a day or few hours sooner, Cartanza said, is in getting them off to a better start and improving gut health as the industry expands antibiotic-free production methods.
Visiting Viv Europe, a large poultry expo in the Netherlands, Cartanza took note of a company’s use of cameras inside the poultry house to monitor bird distribution.
She said when birds aren’t evenly distributed, 70 percent of time it’s due to a problem with feed so the cameras are an effort to alert the grower to issues sooner.
“I thought that was a cool concept as we look more at how to improve animal welfare,” Cartanza said.
The Netherlands, like many places in Europe, has been under pressure from non-governmental organizations to change growing practices, Cartanza said. The pressure has led to more stores sourcing slower-growing breeds of chicken, a move that is viewed by the companies as more humane but Cartanza said also can have a larger environmental impact.
Houses are tested for salmonella bacteria at three weeks into each flock, Cartanza said. If the test is positive, the grower loses 70 percent of the chicken’s value automatically.
Typical houses in the Netherlands are half the size of those built on Delmarva but cost twice as much to build and half of the cost is tied to government regulation, Cartanza added.
In conversation with a Dutch grower, Cartanza asked how these restrictions and pressures permeated the industry.
“He said farmers really didn’t push back and tell everyone what we’re really doing,” Cartanza recalled.
The message of that aspect of the trip is definitely something she wants to share with Delmarva growers is the importance of speaking up for their industry.
“Farmers need to be sharing what they do to avoid a similar situation,” she said. “We just need to be vigilant and share our story and dispel all of the misconceptions.”
The next part of Cartanza’s independent study is to travel throughout the Southeastern United States and other areas of heavy poultry production to see the technology implemented in those growing areas and connect with poultry Extension staff and see the research at their universities. All the experiences will make their way into a 10,000 word report and presentations for growers, industry representatives and Nuffield staff.
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