Red chickens from the neck up standing in a row within a commercial livestock setting

FFAR Awards $1.4 Million to Purdue University, University of California, Davis and University of Edinburgh Researchers to Improve Health and Productivity of Egg-Laying Hens

Generating Advanced Animal Systems Solutions

Scientific Program Director Advanced Animal Systems

Tim Kurt

Year Awarded   2018

FFAR award amount   $486,594

Total award amount   $486,594

Location   Midlothian, SC

Program   Layer Hen Keel Bone Health Program

Matching Funders   Open Philanthropy Project 

  • Advanced Animal Systems

The three grant awards are the result of a competitive call for innovative proposals for research to reduce keel bone fractures in egg-laying hens. Bone fractures are one known challenge to raising hens in cage-free housing systems and are particularly prevalent in the keel, or breastbone.

Why this research is important

Based on U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates of the number of hens needed to meet existing cage-free pledges, including pledges by all top 25 U.S. grocers, this research has the potential to improve the welfare and productivity of approximately 225 million hens by 2025.

How This Research Contributes to Our Mission

FFAR’s Advanced Animal Systems Challenge Area supports research that improves animal health and welfare and pioneers practices that sustain our food system.

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research is pleased to support innovative approaches to reducing bone fractures in egg-laying hens, a phenomenon that harms both productivity and hen health. Today’s farmers and ranchers face new challenges arising from a changing production environment and cutting-edge research remains critical to providing producers with science-based solutions to those challenges. Sally Rockey, PhD
FFAR Executive Director Emeritus

Details About this Research

  • Ian Dunn, Ph.D., a research scientist at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and collaborators at the major poultry genetics companies Hy-Line and Lohmann Tierzucht, will lay the groundwork for breeding hens with stronger bones by developing a novel X-ray based measurement system adapted for on-farm use.
  • Darrin Karcher, Ph.D., Purdue University assistant professor and Extension specialist, along with collaborators will conduct research to determine the impact of nutritional interventions on the gut microbiome in addition to management interventions that help producers to reduce keel bone fractures in laying hens housed in cage-free systems.
  • Maja Makagon, Ph.D., UC Davis assistant professor, will lead a team of collaborators from UC Davis, University of Bristol, University of Bern and Iowa State University. The team will explore the impacts of poultry housing design, particularly vertical space, on the prevalence of keel bone injuries in egg-laying hens.

Matching Funders

These grants were funded by a partnership with Open Philanthropy Project designed to improve the welfare and productivity of egg-laying hens and commercially raised pigs. The partnership, which supports producers’ ability to adapt to a changing animal production landscape, is funded with a $1 million grant from Open Philanthropy Project matched by a $1 million investment from FFAR.

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