Improving Poultry Production through Regional Extension Education - Poultry [Skip to Content]

Illinois Livestock Trail
Improving Poultry Production through Regional Extension Education
by Ken W. Koelkebeck, Tony Pescatore, Austin Cantor, Richard Adams, and Mickey Latour


Poultry extension education is important in today's industry because it helps maintain visibility with clientele and provide current information. The poultry extension specialists at Purdue University, Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, University of Illinois, and University of Kentucky have formed the Multi-State Poultry Extension group. This group has conducted eight regional programs and seminars designed to: 1) provide quality education, 2) attract outside speakers, and 3) secure extramural funding. These programs have helped poultry and game bird producers improve production efficiency, and have provided them with information in many areas including management techniques aimed at satisfying current environmental concerns.


The poultry industry in the Midwest has undergone extensive consolidation and concentration in all segments within the past 10 to 15 years. The size of the industry has grown very rapidly, while the number of independent producers have been decreasing. To provide technical information for the rapidly changing industry, effective means of delivering this information is important. Also, as the poultry industry has expanded, the number of poultry extension personnel has decreased. Thus, the concept of regionalizing poultry extension programs becomes more and more important. This idea necessitates interaction among poultry extension specialists in adjoining states to put together a meeting and bring in the best speakers to present information on various subjects to industry personnel. Providing the most current and accurate information to the clientele is of greatest importance.

Regionalizing extension programs in commodities other than poultry has been successful. A four-state dairy extension program involving the states of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota has sponsored the Four-State Dairy Nutrition Conference for a number of years. In the poultry area, there is a New England poultry regionalization effort involving the states of Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. This group has sponsored several programs for the poultry industry and one of them is called the New England Poultry Management Conference. In the Midwestern states, a regional poultry extension program has been conducting extension seminars and conferences for the past 15 years. These programs have provided commercial poultry producers in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio with information to help them operate a successful poultry business. To our knowledge, there has not been any published articles concerning the specifics of these regional programs including how successful they have been. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to describe the poultry regionalization programs conducted in the Midwest and present advantages and disadvantages of conducting poultry extension programs on a regional basis.


The poultry industry in the Midwest is dynamic and has been expanding. Table 1 depicts the number of eggs, broilers, and turkeys produced and the dollar value for each. While the poultry industry is expanding the number of poultry extension personnel are declining. Two Poultry Science Departments have been absorbed into Animal Science Departments as well. Currently there are five Animal Science Departments with eight poultry extension personnel with only 5.05 full-time equivalents in extension.


The poultry extension specialists at Purdue University, Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, University of Illinois, and University of Kentucky have formed what is called the Multi-State Poultry Extension group. In 1984, Dr. Richard Adams, Poultry Extension Specialist, Purdue University, contacted Dr. Cal Flegal at Michigan State, Dr. Carl Parsons at Illinois, Dr. Ed Nabor at Ohio State and Dr. Austin Cantor at Kentucky to see if there was interest in putting on an industry-oriented meeting involving the area of poultry nutrition. Everyone agreed that this would be a good regional extension programming effort, so the first meeting was held in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1984. Since that first meeting, the Multi-State Poultry Feeding and Nutrition Conference has been held every year with very good success.

In 1987, Drs. Adams and Flegal suggested that the group expand a Michigan Game Bird Conference into a Multi-State Game Bird Conference. All states agreed to do this and this has been a cooperatively sponsored meeting ever since. The Multi-State Game Bird meeting is held in Michigan every other year and then rotates among the other states. Another multi-state meeting, called the Multi-State Poultry Health and Management Conference was also held in 1987. In order to meet the educational needs of other groups, additional regional multi-state meetings have been held and other states such as Wisconsin and Minnesota have participated. One of the programs that was most successful, with respect to the number of attendees, was the Multi-State Big Bird (Ratite) Conference. The first of these conferences was held in the Fall of 1992 in Indianapolis, IN and approximately 350 people attended the two-day meeting. This conference was held every six months for the next three years.

Another multi-state regional project was initiated in 1989. Dr. Gerald Havenstein, who at that time was the Head of the Poultry Science Department at Ohio State, initiated what was called the AMulti-State Poultry Extension and Research Newsletter.@ Poultry related faculty at each of the cooperating five state universities prepared articles for publication in this newsletter. This newsletter received excellent reviews by the poultry industry, but is currently not being published.

In addition to the above mentioned multi-state regional poultry extension programs, several meetings were conducted in Michigan that were Atailor-made@ for several egg producing companies. Since the other multi-state meetings had been so successful, several poultry companies have come to us to see if we would put on a program dealing with specific subjects.

In Table 2, a complete list of the Multi-State regional conferences and programs is listed. These programs have been nearly self-supporting, and with continued cooperative efforts they will be entirely self-supported. Based on the attendance and written evaluation of these meetings, they have been very successful in delivering current educational information to our clientele. The goals of these meetings are to: 1) provide high quality educational information, 2) provide information for area poultry producers, 3) attract outstanding outside speakers, and 4) secure extramural funding.

Conducting successful Multi-State meetings has several specific requirements. The first is to obtain financial support from industry sponsors in addition to funds received from registration. Contributions from companies for sponsoring speakers, receptions, coffee breaks, meals, and other general costs is a must to conduct the meeting. As is the case with the Multi-State Poultry Feeding and Nutrition Conference, each state specialist secures funding in the amount of about $1,000 to help defray these meeting costs. In addition, several major companies solely sponsor receptions and meals functions for this meeting. Table 3 depicts many of the specific requirements which must be met in order to conduct a successful conference.

These Multi-State programs and conferences have been successful because of the work of the Purdue University Division of Conferences. The conference coordinator's office is responsible for mailing out the program, assembling the proceedings, taking registrations and taking care of many other specific tasks. So, it is critical to the success of any regional extension program to have professional assistance to take care of the details involved.


There are some pitfalls and disadvantages with regional programs. When conducting a regional extension program increased travel and expenses should be expected. The five-state area is a large geographical area. In order to have a central location for meetings some participants must travel a greater distance and for a longer period than for a state program.

There is great state loyalty in the five-state area. Producers are reluctant to travel to another state. Distance is not the limiting factor. Producers will travel long distances within their own state, but a segment of the target population do not want to travel out of state. To overcome this we have rotated some meetings from state to state in order to attract a new clientele. Once they have participated in a meeting they are more likely to continue attending the conference even if it is held in a different state.

The administration procedures at Land Grant Universities were developed with the idea that education programs would be developed at the local and state levels. As an example, an extension specialist can travel 500 miles within their state without any prior approval. However, out-of-state travel regulations require prior approval for travel only 20 miles into the other state. This can reduce the effectiveness of specialists to respond to request for help in a timely manner.

When a regional project is conducted, the personnel of various universities become interconnected. The staffing problems at one university can impact the effectiveness of personnel at the cooperating universities. In the multi-state program we have experienced retirements and resignations of key personnel, which have impacted the work load of the remaining participants. Even though a close working relationship between colleagues of the different universities is essential for the multi-stage effort to be successful, input into the selection process for replacements have not been solicited from cooperating institutions.


The advantages of conducting regional multi-state poultry extension programs are many. First of all, quality extension educational programs are conducted. In our planning meetings, we decide which topics and problems are most important to the industry, then decide who can address that problem or topic the best. First we look for an individual who is a good speaker, then we decide if that person has the experience and knowledge to address the topic. We try to choose speakers that work in the industry as well as those who are employed at universities in both extension and research positions. By adhering to these methods of picking speakers, we know that we will have a high quality program.

Another advantage of conducting these regional educational conferences is that we can reach a larger audience than if we were to conduct these seminars individually in our own states. By doing this, we can address topics that are common to everyone because these problems usually are regional in scope. Thus, these regional multi-state conferences have increased the efficiency of our individual extension educational efforts.

An important task that university administration likes to see accomplished is the securing of extramural funding. For our multi-state conferences, we have been able to do this for every meeting conducted. The companies which give financial support are recognized on the program brochure. These companies feel that this support enhances their exposure to key industry clients, and they view this as good advertising. Thus, the extramural funding we have received has been sufficient to financially support these conferences.


Decreasing human and monetary resources for poultry extension programs will require that more regional efforts be implemented. Regional programs can work if they are developed over a reasonable period of time and if all participants are committed to the program. The previous discussion about the success of the Multi-State Poultry Extension group is proof that this type of regional extension programming effort can be accomplished. Thus, this multi-state poultry extension programming effort should serve as a model for other commodity, livestock, species, and general extension groups.

Table 1. Characteristics of the poultry industry in the five state area for 1999

Industry Segment Number Produced Dollar Value ($1000)
Eggs (mil. eggs)
Turkeys (1,000 birds)
Broilers (1,000 birds)
Ducks (1,000 birds)
Total $1,366,399

Table 2. Multi-State regional conferences and programs initiated

1. Poultry Feeding and Nutrition Conference
2. Game Bird Conference
3. Big Bird Conference
4. Poultry Health and Management Conference
5. Ergonomics Conference
6. Pet Bird Conference
7. Pest Management Workshop
8. Poultry Extension and Research Newsletter

Table 3. Specific requirements for conducting a conference

1. Secure extramural funding from supporting companies to cover cost of proceedings, sponsor speakers, coffee breaks and meals.
2. Establish program brochure - printing and mailing
3. Update and maintain accurate mailing list
4. Determine location of conference
5. Secure hotel/motel accommodations
6. Develop proceedings of talks
7. Work with conference coordinator

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