The Norwegian Link

AUSTRALIA - After arriving in Australia for the 2012 Australian Poultry Science Symposium, Professor Birger Svihus has spent some time at the Poultry CRC HQ in Armidale.
calendar icon 26 March 2012
clock icon 3 minute read

Professor Svihus cracks the whip

Currently a Professor with the Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (with its Norwegian acronym being UMB), Professor Birger has a background in Animal Science, and holds a PhD in Poultry Nutrition. His research focus includes the interaction between diet, feeding pattern and the anterior digestive tract.

“I have been very impressed by the quality and the amount of poultry research happening in Australia, particularly the Poultry CRC’s work on cereals, fibres and physiology,” said Professor Birger. He has also been delighted by the amount of cooperative effort he sees between academia and industry here. “In Norway, communication between scientists and farmers is good, and this is also the case for Australia,” he said. A major positive effect of this communication is that research outcomes are easily and quickly implemented by industry.

Professor Birger sees many similarities in the poultry industry here in Australia compared with his native Norway. “Norwegian poultry production is pretty much for domestic consumption, as is the case here, with a majority of your (Australian) production focussed on the domestic market. We, like much of the international poultry community, currently face issues of sustainability, microbial control and animal welfare” said Professor Birger. However the kinds of issues differ between Australia and Norway, as, for example, climate dictates that free-range production in Norway is not practicable.

Raised on a farm, Professor Birger has had an interest in avian species since he was young, and has always enjoyed the applied aspects of scientific studies. “This career path seemed the natural choice for me, and it has provided me with some wonderful opportunities, such as being here in Australia with people such as Mingan (Choct) and Hank (Classen)” he said. Speaking with Mingan and Hank has allowed Birger to discuss frontier thinking in a number of research areas. One of the activities they have commenced is a review on the role and function of the avian caeca. “Unlike wild birds, the modern domestic poultry are highly selected and their nutrient requirements are well catered for”, said Mingan. “Our review will focus on the role of the caeca in a nutrition sense. Would the caeca be as critical in modern birds in digesting fibrous material, re-absorption of water and possibly the recycling of nitrogen as in wild birds?” No doubt the review will be an interesting read.

Professor Birger has also enjoyed the atmosphere and weather here in Australia very much, even sampling a local music festival (A Day on the Green) hours before flying out of Armidale.

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