HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – April 24 was a lively day for employees at the Aviagen® corporate office in Huntsville, hosting students from nearby Limestone County Career Technical Center (LCCTC) in Athens, Ala. The occasion was to recognize the students’ successful completion of a 12-week Poultry Breeding 101 class sponsored by Aviagen. While celebrating the milestone, Aviagen also took the chance to award the winner of a poultry house model competition. And, in honor of Earth Day, the LCCTC students held their yearly plant sale at the Aviagen headquarters, where employees stocked up on house and yard plants for the spring.
Learning poultry basics
What started as a learning opportunity for 30+ students at one school, has grown to encompass three high schools and close to 120 students from LCCTC, as well as Cumberland County and Stone Memorial Schools in Crossville, Tenn. Aviagen started the introductory poultry breeding study at LCCTC in the spring of last year, and this year Cumberland and Stone Memorial have joined in on the unique learning opportunity.
The program gives students invaluable insight into the world of poultry production – a well-established and growing sector across the southeastern United States and across the North American continent. During the course, theory converges with hands-on practice, as Aviagen specialists lead students through the care and expertise that go into raising quality breeding stock. These chicks are then bred to provide families around the world with affordable and sustainable chicken meat.
Poultry breeding insight gained by students includes research and development, planning, the egg depot, the hatchery, and the feed mill. They also learn the importance of animal welfare, biosecurity, health monitoring and diagnostics, and other elements that are vital to health, food safety, and food security. And, they receive coaching to help them develop professional skills, such as interviewing and resume creation.
Learning by doing
We all learn better by doing, and students were able to put their skills into practice by creating a chicken house model. In doing so, they demonstrated their understanding of biosecurity, and how feed, light, air, and water all play important roles in bird health and welfare. Each school submitted several models, and LCCTC took home the prize for the best chicken house model.
“We are extremely proud of the growth and success of this community outreach project. The course is designed to set students on a journey of lifelong learning in the proper care that leads to growing healthy, robust birds,” commented Karri Morton, Aviagen’s Human Resources Project Manager and coordinator of the Poultry 101 program. “Our sustainability as an industry depends on our success in attracting our youth and inspiring them to be passionate about poultry. The popularity of the program is proof our efforts are taking root in Alabama and Tennessee.”
De Wet Nortje, Aviagen’s Director of Pedigree and Great Grandparent Operations, is based in Crossville and was instrumental in engaging the Cumberland County and Stone Memorial schools in the program. He commented, "The Aviagen Poultry 101 program has helped forge strong connections between Aviagen and students in our community. This program has not only empowered them with hands-on experience and insights into the poultry industry but has also showcased the vast range of career prospects available at Aviagen and in the poultry industry as a whole. This program is an example of how we live our commitment to fostering a new generation of skilled professionals equipped to shape the future of the industry."