The history of the modern chicken and ventilation of broilers in hot weather, were the two subjects debated by a United States academic during a guest lecture hosted by the Discipline of Animal and Poultry Science in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES).
Dr Mike Lacy, the retired Head of Department of Poultry Science at the University of Georgia and a Fulbright Scholar, was accompanied by Mr Richard Fritz, Managing Director of the World Poultry Foundation (WPF).
The duo were visiting as part of the US Department of State’s Fulbright Specialist Programme, which enabled Lacy to work with the WPF and the KwaZulu-Natal Poultry Institute (KZNPI) ‘to provide assistance to historically disadvantaged poultry producers who have faced significant production constraints due to high feed costs, absence of disease control and a severe lack of educational resources’.
The visit involved Lacy assisting the KZNPI with the training of extension agents to address the needs of small and disadvantaged producers in the country. Lacy also helped teach government extension agents, and poultry and egg farmers attending the KZNPI, and visited farmers to provide hands-on instruction and training in the areas of biosecurity, poultry housing, feed quality and conversion rates, disease prevention and egg quality.
He also assisted the KZNPI in evaluating their curricula and teaching programmes.
An overarching goal of the project is to help South African small farmers increase egg and poultry meat production which will help address protein malnutrition issues in their families and communities.
Lacy spoke on the tracing of some of the history of poultry across the world, and particularly in his home state of Georgia, while considering contrasts and similarities in South African poultry production. Discussion included topics like the spread of disease and techniques for cooling housing.
Lacy covered the history of the domestication of chickens, which initially happened for sport, and how they were consulted for auguries in the Roman Empire. Students also heard about how “hen fever” gripped Europe and the USA in the mid-19th Century, leading to increased ownership and breeding of chickens.
Lacy and Fritz also noted UKZN’s fame for its innovations and research into poultry nutrition and housing.