Master’s student in Animal Science wins Koos van der Merwe Award

Posted on April 30, 2019

Ms Micaela Sinclair-Black, an MSc (Agric) student in Animal Science at the University of Pretoria, recently received the Koos van der Merwe Award at the Animal Feed Manufacturers’ Association (AFMA) symposium.

To commemorate the contribution of the late Dr Koos van der Merwe to the feed industry in South Africa, AFMA annually awards a prize to the best final-year student in animal nutrition who has already registered for postgraduate studies in animal nutrition at a South African university.

“I am incredibly grateful and humbled by this award! It is a gateway to opportunities that I aim to embrace at every moment. It is thanks to the support of my lecturers and my employer Chemunique, that I was able to reach my potential, and I hope that I can uplift and support those around me to do the same! As an industry, the quest for knowledge and truth sits as a core value and this award has motivated me to continue my studies and further this quest. I cannot thank AFMA enough,” Ms Sinclair-Black said about receiving the award.

She is currently a poultry research intern at Chemuniqué, a company committed to enhancing animal production in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her research for her master’s degree, done under supervision of Dr Thobela Nkukwana in the Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences, is focused on understanding both fundamental and applied aspects of calcium nutrition in laying hens. Ms Sinclair-Black explains that, despite the importance of calcium to a laying hen for eggshell development and bone mineralisation, there has been little research to date that has investigated the true digestibility of calcium from different sources. Since
over 90% of the dietary calcium fed to laying hens is derived from limestone, the primary objective of the first study was to investigate how differences in the particle size of limestone affected ileal calcium and phosphorus digestibility of the diet, and ionisable calcium in the blood.

“Since all laying hen diets are formulated to total calcium,” she adds, “differences in the utilisation of that calcium by the hen can result in differences in eggshell quality and economic profitability of egg producers. Due to the fact that there is large variation in the characteristics of the source of limestone rock and the particle size of limestone used in feed formulation, it is important to understand how these can affect
calcium utilisation.” 

Ms Micaela Sinclair-Black with Mr De Wet Boshoff, Chief Executive Officer of AFMA

She expressed her excitement, since the ionised blood calcium (iCa) results from the study have already shown clear differences between treatments, with higher blood iCa during the time of day when eggshell formation was occurring. “We hope that the data from this and future research can help our industry to provide the hen with the correct amount of calcium in the times that she requires it, which, in turn, will improve the welfare of hens in extended production cycles and increase profits and the number of saleable eggs in the egg industry,” Ms Sinclair-Black concludes.

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