UNE poultry scientist awarded ARC Early Career Industry Fell

University of New England

A poultry scientist from the University of New England (UNE) has been awarded a prestigious Early Career Industry Fellowship from the Australian Research Council for a project aimed at developing tools to combat parasitic worm infections in free-range chickens.

The fellowship, which only has a 14 percent acceptance rate, will see Dr Teka Dewo improve the ability of poultry researchers, advisors and farmers to investigate and manage the problem in a sustainable manner.

“There is a growing relevance of these parasites due to the increased use of free-range production systems which now dominate egg production in Australia, and the industry is concerned about this issue,” says Dr Dewo.

“The methods and tools to be developed by this project would likely have wide application with national and worldwide impact.”

Despite gastrointestinal parasitic worms posing significant threats to the health and welfare of chickens, it’s an area that hasn’t been widely explored by researchers.

However, data produced by UNE scientists in a previous project shows that it’s a pressing concern for the Australian free-range chicken industry.

“It is well established in the literature that gastrointestinal parasitic worms compromise health, production performance, and welfare of chickens,” says Dr Dewo. “Our online farmer survey published in 2022 evidenced that producers commonly experience heavy parasite infections in their farms and are concerned about the level of infection as well as the potential impacts on hen performance and welfare.

“This perception was supported by our actual prevalence study which revealed that out of 507 hens examined from five free-range egg farms in Australia, 85 percent were infected with one or more gastrointestinal parasites.”

Dr Dewo will work with Australian Eggs (AE) and Invetus to carry out the research, which is set to get underway in July. Studies will be undertaken on campus at UNE’s state-of-the art poultry research facilities, as well as on-farm with around 20 layer flocks. Part of the research will also be carried out in the Invetus specialist parasitology laboratory in Armidale.

Dr Dewo says receiving the fellowship and working alongside partners such as AE and Invetus is an opportunity that will have significant impacts on his career as a young poultry scientist.

“I am very excited to be a recipient of this prestigious fellowship. I am keen to develop a career involving the Australian poultry industry and this fellowship is an ideal opportunity to further develop my research, collaboration and research translation to industry skills.”

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