Grease baking sheets lightly or line with parchment paper.
In a saucepan over medium heat, heat milk to 120°F (50ºC). Stir in shortening, sugar and salt until shortening is melted and sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine yeast and 2 1/2 C. (625 mL) flour. Beat in milk mixture at low speed until well blended. Beat in enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Cut dough into 64 equal pieces with sharp knife. Roll out each piece between palms of hands or on flat surface to make a 6″ (15 cm) strip. Place on prepared baking sheets.
In a small bowl, combine egg and water. Brush breadsticks with egg mixture and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cover. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Heat oven to 300°F (150ºC).
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown and almost dry. Cool on racks.