Balanced Breeding for Optimum Broiler Performance

By Santiago Avendaño, Senior Geneticist, Aviagen, addressed the Ross Asian Association meeting in Bali last year. Here he updates you with the latest news from Aviagen’s world-class genetic programme.
calendar icon 16 April 2007
clock icon 4 minute read

Aviagen is a technology-led business with a long and successful research and development heritage. It invests 10% of its annual turnover in ongoing research and development programmes to enable the delivery of enduring, balanced progress of existing product lines, with simultaneous new product development to meet changing market needs. The inhouse research team is nearly 60 strong and the Research & Development department regularly supports and funds university-based research.

Santiago Avendaño, Senior Geneticist
Through time, with market demands evolving rapidly, the number of breeding goal traits has greatly increased, covering not only production traits but also traits related to the physical and metabolic support, liveability and health. The delivery of improvement in key traits is achieved by incorporating sophisticated tools for selection that has enabled steady increases in body weight, feed efficiency, processing traits and liveability while at the same time expanding the reproductive advantage and reducing the clinical and sub-clinical incidence of leg defects.

In an increasingly competitive market, Aviagen has a strong selection strategy focused on broad breeding goals making robustness across contrasting environments the main objective. A multi-environment selection strategy enables the genetic evaluation of breeding stock for best performance in commercial conditions. In addition, with the help of radio transponder and weighing technology, feed efficiency is recorded individually and selected in group environments, maximising the number of selection candidates with records and accelerating progress at the industry level.

Progress in processing traits is also enhanced by the use of sophisticated ultrasound techniques enabling accurate predictions of breast and eviscerated yield.

Maintaining our breeder advantage is essential. Therefore, Aviagen continues to support genetic improvements in male and female fertility and hatchability by introducing novel statistical approaches to select for high and continuous reproductive performance across lay.

Our broad gene pool allows us to strategically develop new lines and test March 2007 products to fulfill current and future industry needs. Customer feedback is extremely valuable to us to help focus our R&D developments at the breeding programme level in key areas of commercial importance.

As an extension of the company’s existing technologies, genomics provides information about the products’ existing natural variation and provides an additional tool for further stock improvement through selective breeding. The uptake of genomic approaches in breeding programmes of other livestock species is growing and Aviagen is confident of the potential for genetic markers in poultry breeding.

In partnership with Iowa State University, Aviagen conducted a successful pilot study which found significant associations between genetic markers and genetic variation for growth, yield, livability and support traits. The sequencing of the chicken genome and its public release in 2004, coupled with the pilot study successes and a reduction in the cost of typing markers, has led Aviagen to make a multi-million pound investment in their genomics initiative. The development of this research is anticipated to lead to further identification of genetic markers for improving selection accuracy in current and new traits, including disease resistance and other difficult attributes.

The applications of the research will also provide opportunities to enhance Aviagen’s breeding programmes and deliver increased strain security and breed traceability. Continued investment in research and development and employing the data from phenotypic and genomic information sources will lead to optimal product performance for Aviagen customers in a multi-environment trategy for both broiler and breeder products.

April 2007

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