New face in poultry research

The Poultry CRC has recently added another young scientist to our list of CRC supported students. Under the supervision of Associate Professor Aaron Cowieson from The University of Sydney, PhD candidate Ms Sonia Yun Liu is working on enzyme feed additives aimed at improving overall poultry feed efficiency. Ms Yun Liu has completed a Master’s degree in food science and human nutrition at The University of Queensland.

Sonia explains, “after I graduated in 2008 I obtained a job working as a research assistant with the Pork CRC. That was the first chance I had to explore animal nutrition. I found it extremely interesting and very productive. As my interest in animals grew, I wanted to move to something more closely related to animals, so decided to study animal nutrition”. Her move into the poultry arena was, as she describes, due to the fact that this is “an area of great growth”. As enzymes are used in almost all poultry feeds in Australia, and many parts of the world, Sonia sees great potential for further developments in this area for poultry, resulting in productivity gain in the industry.

“Feed efficiency and enzyme application are extremely closely linked”, said Sonia. “You can’t really look at one without the other, because the application of enzymes directly affects feed efficiency. So, of course, my PhD work is aimed at increasing feed efficiency”. The primary focus will be increasing digestibility of starch and protein, and the interactions between these factors. “We hypothesise that if we have starch and protein digestibility values falling in a narrow ratio band, then it will affect bird performance positively”.

Using different feed regimes on birds, digesta samples from various parts of the gastrointestinal tract will be taken for analysis. “At this stage we will be looking at one particular enzyme, but will be experimenting with different diet formulations”, said Sonia. “Of course we will also be looking to compare different feed formulations in an effort to cut overall feed cost”.

The outcomes of this research will be directly applicable, and readily transferable to commercial broiler farms, with results helping deliver an economic advantage to Australia’s broiler breeders. “At this stage my research focuses only on broilers as there is already a parallel project within the Poultry Research Foundation at The University of Sydney, exploring the same concept in layers”.

At the completion of her PhD, Sonia is hoping to gain employment in the poultry industry. “I’d love to gain more practical and hands on experience. Animal nutrition is a very dynamic and interesting area. I think that the poultry industry provides fascinating backdrop for nutritional studies and fantastic work opportunities which will hopefully keep me busy for the rest of my life”.

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