The ISPA and Purdue Agricultural Programs

The Indiana State Poultry Association, located within the Animal Sciences department of Purdue University's College of Agriculture, works closely with Purdue faculty, staff and other academic associates.

Purdue College of Agriculture Website  -  One of the world's leading colleges of agricultural, food, life, and natural resource sciences and now home to three World Food Prize Laureates.

Purdue Animal Sciences  -  The Department of Animal Sciences is part of the College of Agriculture is the place to go for anyone seeking knowledge in animal sciences. They are comprised of about 700 undergraduate students, 60 graduate students, 30 professors, and 20 staff members. The Animal Sciences Department is moving into a new building (Creighton Hall) in late 2017.

Purdue University Poultry Program  -  Poultry studies is an important part of the Purdue Agriculture College.


Purdue University Poultry Faculty

Dr. Layi Adeola, Department of Animal Sciences

Dr. Adeola's research program emphasizes amino acid nutrition of nonruminant animal species and utilization of plant minerals by nonruminants. The total program is aimed at improving the efficiency of lean meat production in nonruminant animals and minimizing the flow of potentially detrimental levels of nutrients through animal waste to the environment.

Currently, he is working on the metabolizable energy values for ducks, because most of the diets employed for ducks were obtained from nutritional studies of domestic chicken. This arises because limited information is available on ducks. The methods are currently being used to provide data on metabolizable energy and amino acid digestibility values on a variety of feed ingredients and byproducts that have the potential of being used as feed ingredients.

Dr. E.K. Asem, Department of Basic Medical Sciences


The goals of Dr. Asem's laboratory are to understand the mechanisms whereby locally produced bioactive molecules (intraovarian factors) in the regulation of ovarian follicular development and death (atresia). To develop, mature and eventually ovulate, an ovarian follicle must escape atresia or follicular death.

After escaping atresia, the follicle must go through prescribed stages of development in order to release a fertilizable egg at ovulation. The processes of follicular atresia and follicular development are tightly regulated by both extraovarian and intraovarian hormones or factors. Greater emphasis has been placed by researchers on the roles of extraovarian regulators (for example pituitary gonadotropins) than on intraovarian factors. His laboratory intends to identify and characterize bioactive molecules in the ovary and demonstrate their physiological roles in follicular development or atresia. They will focus on the components of extracellular matrix proteins (especially components of basement membranes) that participate in the regulation of follicular development and atresia.

Results from their studies will identify and explain the roles of intraovarian factors in the functions of the ovary. Moreover, these results will explain how the extraovarian and intraovarian factors interact to control ovarian function.

Dr. Heng-wei Cheng, Livestock Behavior Research Unit, USDA-ARS, and Department of Animal Sciences

The goal of Dr. Cheng's research is to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms of stressor-induced neuronal plasticity and behavioral adaptation and to develop quantitative indicators of animal well-being.

Works in Dr. Cheng’s laboratory includes studies 1) To develop intervention strategies for increasing heat tolerance in poultry, especially to determine if cooled perches improve thermal comfort and welfare for caged hens during hot weather; and 2) to prevent feather pecking and aggression in poultry by modification of the serotonergic system.

Dr. Marisa Erasmus, Department of Animal Sciences

The public is becoming increasingly interested in and concerned about how food animals are produced. Consequently, animal well-being is continuing to gain attention within the agriculture industry and in the public sphere. Within the poultry industry, there are several challenges to animal well-being, including being able to objectively evaluate animal well-being, damaging behavior such as feather pecking that leads to reduced feather cover, skin damage and cannibalism, and the impacts of housing and management conditions on animal behavior and well-being.

The goals of Dr. Erasmus' work are to 1) examine the impacts of housing and management conditions, such as stocking density, on animal well-being and 2) to develop indicators based on animal behavior, physiology, production and body condition that can be used to evaluate and improve animal well-being on the farm.

Dr. Kevin Hannon, Department of Basic Medical Sciences

Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) are powerful regulators of bone and skeletal muscle development in vitro. The effects that these locally-made fibroblast growth factors exert on bone and skeletal muscle development is unknown. Therefore, a major goal of Dr. Hannon's research is to understand the importance of endogenously made fibroblast growth factors for control of long bone and skeletal muscle development in vivo.

To address this goal, they are utilizing an avian-specific retroviral expression system. This system allows them to create a transgenic chicken by genetically regulating fibroblast growth factor expression in bone and skeletal muscle in ovo. They can then directly address the significance of each member of the fibroblast growth factor family for normal tissue growth and development. They have recently found that reducing the amount of fibroblast growth factor activity significantly retards the growth of skeletal muscle in developing chickens.

This type of research has the potential to provide novel strategies towards improving growth and development in avian species. The retroviral expression system we use is also currently under refinement. Therefore, any research involving this procedure may also spawn potential practical strategies for clinical/commercial gene transfer in avian or mammalian species.

Dr. Albert J. Heber, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Presently, Dr. Heber is evaluating turkey production facilities in southern Indiana to investigate the current ventilation strategies utilized for brooder and grow out facilities and to discuss ventilation issues with the production staff.

Ventilation strategies vary between and within companies. As compared to chicken and hog house ventilation, turkey house ventilation in southern Indiana has a greater use of manual controls and lower capital investment in environmental control equipment. It is apparently very important to keep ventilation controls simple so the growers can understand and operate them. Several lessons were learned during these investigations relating to size of sidewall openings, temperature controllers, control of ammonia, ridge ventilation, insulation levels and bird behavior.

Dr. Patricia (Scotti) Hester, Department of Animal Sciences


Work in Dr. Hester’s laboratory has shown that mechanical loading achieved through perching has beneficial effects on pullet and laying hen health by stimulating leg muscle deposition and increasing bone mineralization. Thermal perches as a means of cooling laying hens during hot weather is a current pursuit in Dr. Hester’s laboratory.

Dr. Darrin Karcher, Department of Animal Sciences

Dr. Karcher has been charged with developing a strong poultry extension program. His interactions with the industry revolve around organizing educational programs in the Midwest with the Multi-State Poultry Health and Management School, Multi-State Poultry Nutrition Conference, and Midwest Poultry Federation education program. He continues to seek grant dollars to establish a competitive applied research program to address his producers' concerns focusing on turkey skeletal issues and laying hen management. Additionally, Dr. Karcher works with small flock and youth audiences. He provides workshops on best management practices and works to elevate the knowledge and overall poultry experience. 

Dr. T.L. Lin, Department of Veterinary Pathology and Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory

Turkey poult enteritis has contributed to significant economic losses in the turkey industry in Indiana for the last several years. Turkey poult enteritis, apparently due to a viral etiology, causes several diarrhea, weight loss, uneven flock growth, and mortality. A better understanding of the etiology, pathogenesis, pathology, immune responses, and molecular characteristics of the viral pathogen associated with turkey poult enteritis is the key to effective diagnosis, control, and prevention of this disease.

The research is focused on: (1) characterization of turkey poult enteritis, (2) identification and characterization of the etiological agent causing turkey poult enteritis, (3) investigation of the specific humoral and cellular immune responses (4) development of immunological or molecular biological assays for viral antigen identification and antibody detection, and (5) study and comparison of molecular characteristics of different isolates from Indiana and other states.

These studies will generate useful information for the development of sensitive and specific molecular biologically or immunologically based diagnostic assays for turkey poult enteritis as well as the construction of effective vaccines to protect turkey poults from this disease.

Dr. William M. Muir, Department of Animal Sciences

Dr. Muir conducted a study where chickens were selected for improved livability and egg production over a 12-year period (6 generations). Birds were selected on the basis of group performance of half-sib families housed in either 9- or 12-bird cages. Although selection was consistently based on performance of the group, to either 60 or 72 weeks of age, the trait of selection changed over the generations from egg mass (EM) per bird housed to a non-optimal index giving equal weight to eggs per hen per day (EHD) and total days survival (DS). In generation 7, selected (S), control (C), and commercial (X) lines were housed in either single- or 12-bird cages. Birds were not beak-trimmed and lights during the laying period were set to high intensity. Birds which died were replaced with extra birds of the same line. Performance was measured from 20 to 58 weeks of age. The residual record from 59 to 72 weeks of age was projected by linear regression.

Dr. Pat Wakenell, Department of Comparative Pathobiology

Dr. Wakenell is an associate professor of Avian Diagnostics at Purdue University's College of Veterinary Medicine and an Avian Diagnostic Pathologist at the Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory. She is involved with eduation and outreach efforts and works with both commercial and backyard poultry owners to improve flock health.