Breeding Poultry with Improved Natural Resistance

THE NETHERLANDS - Is it possible to improve the natural immunity of poultry through breeding? Selection of poultry with high levels of natural antibodies, will increase animal welfare, reduce antibiotic usage and increase profit. Wageningen UR researcher Tom Berghof stands on the threshold of this process.
calendar icon 26 March 2014
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"Thanks to DNA markers we will in future be capable of selecting animals with high levels of natural antibodies. Future research will help to determine whether or not this will lead to the breeding of healthier poultry," Mr Berghof.

Enhancing disease resistance, alongside balanced increase of production and efficiency are important goals in poultry breeding. This project aims to improve poultry health by selective breeding for natural antibodies using DNA markers. using only a limited DNA marker test an association has been established between natural antibody levels and various immune response-related genomic regions.

An increased level of antibodies lowers the risk of mortality of layers by 20 per cent. It is considered that selection of the best candidate birds for the breeding programme will improve performance and health.

This is to be monitored in a field test over five years, Mr Berghof. "Hopefully we can identify the DNA markers within 1.5 years research and thereafter test the theory in field conditions. Eventually, we will be able to include this approach in the breeding programmes for layers and investigate further the effects on poultry health and welfare."

It is hoped that this will provide the poultry industry with a new tool to implement genomic selection and develop breeding strategies for improving poultry health.

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