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Estonian Poultry Society and Poultry Breeding

01 December 2012

By Dr Matti Piirsalu, Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture of Estonia and the Estonian Poultry Society

Estonian Poultry Society (EPS) was founded on 21 December 1919 to settle mainly practical matters. It provided its members with beneficial feeds for poultry and small animals, supplied them with high-quality pedigree material, and organized special courses. The poultry herdbook keeping was started in 1928 (hens laying at least 170 eggs and the mothers of roosters at least 190 eggs, were recorded).

In 1929 the Poultry Research Station was established by Kehtna Higher School of Economics. The poultry test station with 45 hens started work in order to control pedigree poultry, to carry out feeding experiments and to select valuable breeding material.

In 1939 Estonian Egg Export – the Central Union of the poultry product producers and selling co-operatives was founded. World War II stopped the activities of the Union and in 1949 it was liquidated.

EPS resumed its activities on 21 December 1989. Eleven members were elected to the board and Renaldo Mändmets was elected chairman. Matti Piirsalu was initially elected secretary and later chairman.

Prof. Emer. H. Tiik and Matti Piirsalu, PhD

Since 1990 poultry fairs and exhibitions have been arranged at Poltsamaa. Presently EPS has 73 single and 13 collective members. The tasks of the society have changed, embracing advisory and counselling services, preservation of Estonian quail as an endangered breed, refreshment courses and information distribution.

The most active members of EPS are the following persons: a vet and poultry breeder Aare Filippov, Prof. Emer. Harald Tikk, researcher Viive Tikk, Peep Lass and Vello Ilves. The society has 14 honorary members.

Collective members of the society are the following companies: Tallegg (Harju), Milletel (Rapla), Karinu (Järva), Ovolex (Saare), Farm Plant Eesti (Viljandi), Remolius (Tartu), Tamsalu Veskid (Lääne-Viru), Sanlind (Valga), Äntu Mõis (Lääne-Viru), Li-Fi (Viljandi), Peri (Põlva), Interfarm (Tallinn) and Kehtna Mõis (Rapla).

In Estonian big companies egg- and meat-type hens are raised, at the same time in small farms and holdings a considerably smaller number of guinea-fowls, quails, turkeys, geese, ducks, Musk ducks, fancy hens and pheasants are being kept.

Agricultural Census of 2001 revealed that there were 25,760 agricultural holdings with the total of 2.4 million birds including 1.1 million egg-type hens, 7,380 geese, 17,990 ducks and 700 turkeys.

Geese are met only in farmyards
(H. Viinalass)

In 1960 the only elite breeding farm of hens and Emden geese was the experimental poultry farm at Kurtna (Harju) where hens of White Leghorn, New Hampshire and Australorp breeds were raised. In 1961 elite breeding farm of Sussex, Cornish and white tailed red hens which were imported from England, was founded at Järlepa poultry breeding farm (Rapla). At the beginning of the 1960s elite farm existed at Kurtna as well. In 1963 there were 118 reproduction farms for hens, 5 for geese and one for turkeys in addition to elite farms.

In 1965 pedigree poultry breeding system was applied in both egg and poultry meat production. A new breeding farm Sakala started. The tasks of breeding farms were to design specialized lines with high performance to improve the existing lines and to find appropriate combinations (crosses) for combining and crossing lines, also to maintain the high value properties of imported lines. Breeding material was evaluated at Kehtna Poultry Test Station from 1966 until 2000 when it was closed.

Recording data were distributed to all poultry breeding farms and on the basis of these results pedigree breeding farms sent proper initial lines or parents to reproduction farms.

In 1968 Poultry Breeding Board was founded that coordinated poultry breeding until 1989.

Poultry breeding is very specific and expensive. In the world there are about 10 large poultry breeding companies that produce 90 per cent of the breeding material of a hundred existing hen crosses.

Chickens of egg-type hens
(A. Juus)

In 1991 when Estonia regained its independence, the supply with breeding material improved. Being based only on local breeding material, it was impossible to achieve the production results of European leading poultry breeding countries. Therefore breeding material of parent flocks from the best breeding companies abroad was imported and reproduced for egg and poultry meat production.

Ostrich farming is expanding rapidly
(A. Juus)

Foreign breeding companies that are most well-known in Estonia are Lohmann, ISA, De Kalb and Hy Line. The top breeding companies of meat-type hens are Cobb, ISA and Ross, also Euribrid from the earlier period. In 2003 the percentage of breeding material of egg-type hens among several other hen crosses was the following:

Hisex white 26
Hisex brown 28
ISA brown 17
Hy-Line brown 14

  • Hy-Line white 8
  • Shaver 2000 7

In the breeding of meat-type hens, crosses Ross 208 (95 per cent) and Ross 508 (5 per cent) are being used. In the last three years the best parent flock of meat-type hens has been Ross 208 in company Tallegg.

Total number of poultry has decreased more than 50 per cent but due to the use of imported crosses, the average egg production at the moment is 303 eggs per hen (Table 1). Daily mass gain of hen broilers increased nearly twice (from 27 to 50 g). Success in egg- as well as in meat-type hen breeding has been great.

Number and Production of Poultry in 1993-2002

December 2012

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