Fish farms getting an assist from chickens; discovery could have global implications for Atlantic salmon industry

(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

MADISON, Wis. — University researchers are using oil that comes from a gland on chickens’ tails to improve survival at fish farms in a discovery that could have global implications for the Atlantic salmon industry.

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers discovered the oil has anti-inflammatory properties, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

University animal science professor Mark Cook knew from previous research that another anti-inflammatory compound boosted fish growth. He contacted university senior scientist Terence Barry and they ran a test using fathead minnows where they saw an increase in growth.

“During the experiment all the fish getting the oil survived and many or most of the fish on the control treatments died and that happened with different stressors in different experiments,” Barry said.

Researchers believe the oil allows fish to focus energy that’s otherwise spent fighting off infections and parasites in their gut into growth development. It also improves their chances of survival in stressful situations.

“So, by eliminating that or reducing it, that energy that would normally go to fighting something you don’t really have, goes to growth,” Barry said.

The oil, which they’ve named cosajaba, could have a global impact on the Atlantic salmon industry, Barry said. The industry loses hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of fish when they’re moved between tanks, vaccinated and transition from fresh water to saltwater.

The oil could also be used to domesticate wild fish like walleye and allow them to be farmed, Barry said.

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