Nancy Buchanan, from Lesage, WV, Amanda Rack, from Daybrook, WV and Kelley Lilly, from Flat Top, WV competed against other students from around the world. The students presented their best research to poultry industry professionals, well-respected researchers, academic leaders and their peers. Each presentation was followed by an intense question-and-answer session.
Buchanan, who earned her Ph.D. in August and is currently working as a nutritionist for Pennfield Feeds in Lancaster, PA, won the Graduate Student Metabolism and Nutrition Division for her research titled “The effect of diet formulation, manufacture technique and antibiotic inclusion on broiler performance and development.”
“The majority of all commercial broilers and turkeys are fed pelleted diets,” Buchanan explained. “However, diet formulation and pellet manufacturing technique vary widely resulting in inconsistent pellet quality. The research that I presented examined the interaction between diet formulation and manufacturing technique and the subsequent effects on pellet quality and broiler chicken performance. The results of the studies indicate that diet formulation and manufacturing technique do, in fact, interact. The highest quality pellet can be achieved by manufacturing a diet formulation with increased levels of crude protein and moisture using a thick pellet die and a slow production rate. However, broiler chickens grew best when the aforementioned diet was manufactured using a thin pellet die and a fast production rate.”
Rack, who earned a M.S. in May and is currently working for Cargill Turkey Production in Missouri, won the Graduate Student Products and Processing Division for her research titled “The effects of genotype, choice-feeding and seasonal variation on organically-reared broilers fed diets devoid of synthetic methionine.”
“My research focused on growing Organic chickens in a small-farm situation,” Rack said. “We were using different strategies to try and remove the last allowed synthetic ingredient, the amino acid methionine, from Organic feed. Synthetic methionine is slated to be banned from Organic use in 2010, but this deadline has already been pushed back twice. The research that we do is a bit controversial, since many growers in the poultry industry want to keep the synthetic methionine in the diet because it is cheaper. However, we were able to show that it is not necessary.”
Lilly, who will complete a B.S. in Animal and Nutritional Sciences in the spring of 2009, won the Undergraduate Metabolism and Nutrition Division for her research titled “The effects of fiber, moisture and protein on pellet manufacture variables.”
“This has been the second PSA that I have attended,” Lilly said. “I have been a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience student the past two summers, which has provided funding for me to attend these meetings. I enjoy attending PSA because it allows you to network with a variety of intellectuals from around the world. PSA also exposes you to cutting-edge research being performed within the poultry industry. I look forward to attending and competing at next year’s PSA.”
“The meeting can be incredibly intimidating,” Rack said. “After the first jitters wear off, it’s also an incredible place to meet people and interact with students and researchers from anywhere in the U.S. or around the world. Giving a presentation to all these folk is a rush. On one hand, you’re terrified of speaking in front of the professors who wrote the papers you cited in your research, but on the other hand, those same professors have come to hear you talk and are interested in what you have to say.”
The three students share a faculty mentor, Joe Moritz, an associate professor of poultry production in the Davis College, and he’s understandably thrilled with the results.
“It is unheard of for three students from the same laboratory to win three different divisions,” Moritz said. “This is the proudest moment of my career.” Last year, Moritz received the PSA’s Land O’Lakes/Purina Mills Teaching Award.
Rack added that the collegiality of Moritz’s laboratory plays a key role in student performance. “Dr. Moritz and our lab group are really awesome in these situations; while giving my talk, I could look around the room and see them smiling, nodding, and just generally showing support. I spent two years as a grad student and one as an undergrad working with these folk, and you will not find a better bunch of people anywhere.”