New Programme Will Help Industry, Improve Welfare

US - A new poultry handling and transportation programme will play an important role for the industry, according to the Poultry Science Association (PSA).
calendar icon 14 March 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

A new programme centred at The Pennsylvania State University will soon be the first in the US to provide third-party training, proficiency testing and certification on the correct techniques for handling and transporting poultry. It will also provide a number of additional important benefits not typically found in poultry companies' in-house programs, according to PSA.

Scheduled to launch in late spring, the Poultry Handling and Transportation Quality Assurance Program (PHTQA) will offer multiple one-day training sessions to transportation and catch crews on biosecurity, disease recognition, emergency planning and the safe and humane handling of birds. With the exception of ducks, PHTQA will cover every segment of the poultry industry, including day-old poultry, pullets, spent fowl, broilers, leghorn and broiler breeders and turkeys.

Programme materials, including a detailed training manual, will be made available in both English and Spanish. Each training session will last approximately four hours, after which participants will be tested on the day's materials. Participants who successfully complete the training programme and tests will be certified by PHTQA.

The Poultry Handling and Transportation Quality Assurance Program is similar to the Pork Transportation and Quality Assurance Program developed by the National Pork Check-off Program. PHTQA training will initially focus on companies in the Northeast, though depending on interest, it may eventually serve as the foundation for a national programme, according to Dr Eva Wallner-Pendleton, PHTQA's senior editor and project coordinator, and an avian pathologist and field investigator at Penn State's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory.

She said: "While we have yet to conduct our first training session, we have already received a tremendous response – including international inquiries – from the program web site. There's increasing pressure from the general public and others, both here and abroad, to ensure that animals are being handled humanely. While many companies have excellent in-house training on animal welfare and poultry quality assurance, this pressure has generated the need – and the desire among many poultry companies – for third-party certification. This programme is designed to meet that demand."

The PHTQA manual was developed by a team of poultry specialists drawn from academics, industry and USDA, and it incorporates best practices for each of the training areas covered. The program is partially funded under the umbrella of the Avian Influenza Cooperative Agricultural Project (AICAP), which is supported by the USDA-NIFA AFRI Animal Biosecurity Competitive Program to the University of Maryland and The Pennsylvania State University.

Training sessions will initially be conducted by members of the PHTQA development team and will take place at the individual companies where bird handlers and transporters are located. At a later point, plans are to hold 'train the trainer' sessions so that more individuals are qualified to conduct training.

Said PSA President, Dr Mike Lilburn: "In addition to being a third-party educator and certification provider of correct poultry handling protocols, what makes the PHTQA programme at Penn State unique is that it is so much broader than similar existing in-house company programs. While providing vital training, PHTQA also incorporates content on bird behavior and biology, so that handling and transportation crews have a better understanding of what's driving reactions among birds in the large flocks that these workers deal with every day.

"The programme is very hands on and comprehensive, and it targets not only managers of these crews – which is often the case with in-house programmes – but also front-line crew members themselves, who are the first line of defence when it comes to disease prevention and biosecurity issues. So in addition to increasing the integrity of the poultry transportation system, the programme has the potential to further strengthen the industry's overall contribution to these other important areas as well."

For additional information on PHTQA training sessions or to download the programme manual, click here.

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