IPPE: VP of Research & Development William Herring describes Cobb’s Proving Grounds

Plus, Dr. Herring shares an update on the Cobb Research Initiative
calendar icon 2 April 2024
clock icon 4 minute read

Dr. William Herring, Vice President of Research and Development at Cobb, spoke to The Poultry Site’s Sarah Mikesell at the 2024 International Poultry and Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta about two of the company’s key initiatives. Dr. Herring began his career with Cobb in August 2022 and leads the Global R&D team for Cobb’s broiler genetics portfolio.

Cobb’s IPPE booth is showcasing the theme “Cobb is on the edge of something big” and things look a little different at Cobb. What's this new positioning all about?

Our positioning is more than around the look; it's really around a number of things we've been working on over the last year that we're really close to implementing and beginning to realize how they can impact product performance.

Let's talk about one of the initiatives Cobb’s Proving Grounds, which is unique to the poultry industry. How will it help Cobb achieve its goals for genetic excellence?

Cobb’s Proving Grounds is all around generating a large amount of data, so that we can make our products better. Then, when we're ready to share those products with our customers and new customers, they can be confident in the quality and quantity of data that we go to market with and share in advance. That's been a miss, if you will, I would say across poultry in general. You really need a set of facilities and infrastructure to generate that large amount of information.

Describe your timing and the process you are going through.

We're very close to a launch. The Proving Grounds is really – if you think about the pyramid of poultry production, where you start at the very top of the pyramid, you go all the way through from great grandparent (GGPs), grandparent (GPs), parent stock (PS), broilers and further processing, it really encompasses all of the pyramid. It's meant to generate data that one can have confidence in.

From a timing perspective, we're placing the first parent stock in April 2024. We'll place again in August 2024 and then again in February 2025. So it'll be close to a six month cycle for the first parent stocks that are going in. Then the broilers will follow around, 32 to 34 weeks later. The nice thing about this is not only is it going to generate a large amount of information, for example, it’ll generate 40,000 PS female data points within each cycle. So a large amount of information – more than we've ever done at Cobb, but it will also generate a very large number of broiler chicks that we’ll clearly be testing ourselves, but we're going to be inviting our customers to take a look as well. A quantity that I think they can be comfortable with on their size and scale based on their business. This will allow our customers to take a look at the results and make decisions based on their own operations. It's clearly underway.

It does a couple of other things too, in addition to the genetic confidence building we're doing, for key products that we're going to go to market with, we will offer – I call it a playbook that we can share with customers with our recommendations for right feeding plan, the right lighting plan, the best husbandry practices, whether it's a breeder or broiler. So that if there’s something different than what they're used to in their normal operations, they have recommendations available.

Also, this is really a key feature – we want customers, if they wish, to be able to go to the site and view chickens and see what we're doing. If that adds to the degree of product confidence for them, we want them to have the ability to do that, whether it's their own technical staff, operations folks or others on the team. We want to welcome them to the site and let them see what we have underway.

Let’s shift to another key initiative – your research grant program called the Cobb Research Initiative. Can you share in update?

It's been very successful. A year ago today, we sent out the request for proposals across the globe. It was an interesting process; we had over 40 different research grants submitted. We took a really hard look at all of those, and we funded nine from across the world, and those projects are actively underway. They cover a number of key areas across poultry production - live performance, fertility, nutrition, genomics and interestingly four proposals have artificial intelligence as a key part of a deliverable from the project.

Now we’re going to do it again. We’ve launched a fresh announcement for proposal requests, and I'm confident we're going to get a large quantity of those based on feedback through the year and specific request I've gotten from research institutions across the globe. If you’re interested in participating, can go to the new website address, www.cobbgenetics.com. All of the associated materials one needs to submit an application are there. And of course, if there are any questions, contact us because we want to see as many great research ideas as possible.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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