Poultry research in Minnesota

Several adult turkeys in a barn

Minnesota is home to over 4,000 poultry and egg farms and is the top turkey producer in the world.

With research dedicated to controlling pathogens and improving housing and fertility, University of Minnesota researchers are contributing to a safer and more sustainable poultry industry in Minnesota and throughout the United States.

Below is a sampling of ongoing MAES research projects related to poultry production. This list does not encompass all poultry research. For additional information on poultry research, see our Avian Influenza grant program.

Enhancing poultry production systems through emerging technologies and husbandry practices
Sally Noll
Litter condition and its moisture content is a primary determinant for bird performance and health. The overall goal of this project is to improve litter management and conditions with the use of a partially slotted floor system for market turkeys. Several aspects of litter management are being studied, including types of slotted flooring, appropriate stocking density, and manure handling characteristics of such a system. We’re also studying if vegetable based diets optimize the formulation to decrease the amount of moist waste that is produced by turkeys. This collaborative research encompasses a multi-disciplinary approach to create a resilient poultry production system through optimal management of inputs and outputs in an ethically responsible manner. 
Alternative approaches to control foodborne pathogens in poultry production and processing
Anup Kollanoor Johny
With the FDA's VFD final rule to phase out antibiotics from production agriculture, natural and alternative approaches for improving pre- and post-harvest of poultry are needed. This research seeks to determine the potential of several natural, safe, and alternative strategies that could be applied at farm and processing levels to reduce various pathogens in live poultry and poultry products, thereby improving poultry food safety. We’re assessing how approaches like probiotics, prebiotics, vaccination, bacteriophages, minerals, and phytobiotics control major foodborne pathogens in poultry production and processing. Target pathogens include Salmonella spp., Clostridium perfringens, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter, and pathogenic E. coli. 
Improving sustainability of poultry production by optimizing reproductive function    
Kahina Ghanem
The turkey industry relies on parent breeders to lay fertile eggs that will be hatched and raised for meat. Determining ways to improve turkey fertility and extend laying time, offers an opportunity to increase production while conserving resources. This research is exploring the genetic factors that may be responsible for the decline in turkey breeder fertility. In addition, we propose to look at the role of inflammation, and if reducing it in older turkey breeders will lead to improved fertility. The goal of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of the root causes of turkey breeder decline in fertility and help, at least partially, reverse it. The knowledge gained in this study can also help solve similar issues encountered in the broiler breeder industry. We’re studying laying hens to learn more about factors influencing avian and vertebrate reproduction, specifically follicle development. 
Preharvest application of a dairy-originated probiotic and a salmonella vaccine against emerging salmonella of food safety importance in poultry
Anup Kollanoor Johny
Salmonella has become an unavoidable cost of poultry production. The recent outbreaks of Salmonella through turkey and chicken products have alarmed the industry on these emerging Salmonella in live poultry production. The long-term goal of our research is to develop effective, long-standing, broadly applicable, and poultry gut-friendly anti-Salmonella strategies to improve poultry preharvest safety. Based on evidence from our previous and ongoing efforts to develop anti-Salmonella strategies with rapid translatable impacts improving poultry food safety, our goal is to determine the efficacy of a unique combination of a dairy-origin probiotic and an industry Salmonella-vaccine against the emerging Salmonella Reading (S. Reading) in turkeys and Salmonella Infantis (S. Infantis) in broiler chickens. The outcomes of this research will have an immediate impact on improving the sustainability of the US poultry industry heavily affected by these pathogens.
Ecology of avian E. coli in relation to vaccination pressure
Timothy J Johnson
E. coli is one of the biggest causes of disease in young birds raised for meat consumption. While a great deal is known about E. coli recovered from diseased birds, little is known about how these bacteria fit into the overall landscape of E. coli that exist in poultry production. The goal of this research is to define the ecological relationships occurring between clinical E. coli causing disease in commercial poultry production and the residential E. coli in the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and the barn environment. Our work is characterizing the ecology of E. coli occurring in healthy commercial turkeys and how mitigation strategies such as vaccination impact these communities. We’re also working to better determine what traits in E. coli enable it to cause disease in commercial turkeys. Our findings will be valuable for poultry producers to better understand which types of E. coli are of greatest risk to producers and how to effectively select vaccine strains to control disease on farms. 
Utilizing a genomic and phenotypic pipeline for predicting risk among emergent salmonella in poultry production    
Timothy Johnson and Randall Singer
Salmonella continues to be a major cause of human foodborne illness, and consumption of poultry products is one of the major contributors to this problem. Despite decades of research on Salmonella, poultry producers still grapple with its control. Many Salmonella outbreaks attributed to poultry products involve new or different types of Salmonella not previously found by producers, or not previously causing major issues related to human illness. The goal of this research is to enable poultry producers to be predictive, rather than reactive, to the changing landscape of Salmonella in poultry operations. We are analyzing the genomes of over 25,000 Salmonella from poultry and humans, and using this information to build a comprehensive genomic database. This database will allow anyone to rapidly analyze the DNA from Salmonella isolates coming directly from poultry farms and predict if changes have occurred in these Salmonella that now make them a greater risk for persistence in the birds or an enhanced risk for causing human disease. This project will empower poultry producers to respond proactively to emerging Salmonella in real time. As a result, poultry producers will be able to better mitigate Salmonella on farm before they cause large outbreaks in humans, thus reducing the burden of illness from the consumption of contaminated poultry products.
The secure food system: A cross-commodity risk-based approach for preserving agricultural business continuity during disease emergencies
Carol Cardona

The Secure Food Systems (SFS) approach is a way to prevent damage while maintaining food production and access to markets when a pathogen outbreak occurs. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the SFS approach was successfully used for poultry-to-market movements during the H5 avian influenza outbreaks because producers and regulators were able to follow the proactively developed guidances in the Secure Poultry Supply plan. This project is expanding the SFS to tackle other pathogens and movements. We’re assessing the risk of animal movements and their agricultural products during an outbreak and translating the risk-based science into workable movement permit guidances. We’re developing strategies to limit foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreak spread in integrated agriculture systems. Performing outreach to educate agriculture industries on how to use the SFS platform to effectively prepare for and respond to disease emergencies is also an essential part of this work.