November 24, 2020

5.2 Genetics

No other livestock industry has applied technological improvements as rapidly or effectively as the commercial poultry industry. Poultry respond well to genetic improvement measures because of their high reproductive rates and short generation intervals. Moreover, the vertically integrated structure of commercial poultry production has permitted widespread application of new technologies to large numbers of birds, often across thousands of farms.  Modern commercial layers typically produce about 330 eggs per year with a feed conversion ratio of 2 kg of feed per kilogram of eggs produced.

The gains in the production of poultry meat and eggs from individual birds in commercial flocks are largely due to genetic selection in the nucleus breeding flocks and the rapid transfer of these gains to the commercial crossbred progeny (McKay, 2008; Hunton, 1990). Breeding advances have largely been based on the application of quantitative genetic selection, without recourse to molecular technologies.

Bird health, robustness and product quality and safety have improved commensurately with gains in productivity as a result of the application of breeding, feeding, disease control, housing and processing technologies, Disease challenges can have a major impact on efficiency, but improvements in vaccination, nutrition and biosecurity have contributed to reducing their impact. Breeding for improved disease resistance, particularly through the adoption of molecular technologies will be an important component of future genetic programmes.


Source: Pym et al., 2008.