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CURRENT

DEVELOPMENTS
IN POULTRY
AND SELECTION

BREEDING

M. R. PATCHELL
Massey

University,

Palmerston

North

SUMMARY
The emergence of large scale poultry businesses in some
overseas countries is outlined,. and the development of large
scale private breeding orgamzations
is discussed. Geneticeconomic considerations
and market potential largely determine the type of breeding plan followed. The New Zealand
Random Sample Test is described, and its usefulness in
eval;.lating poultry stocks assessed.

THE POULTRY INDUSTRY has in the past been the Cinderella


of agriculture,
and is still receiving the Cinderella treatment
from agricultural
education. However, in nearly all economically advanced countries
of the Western world it is rapidly
becoming the most progressive
branch of agriculture,
both
in technical
development
and in the adoption
of modern
business methods.
BUSINESS

STRUCTURE

Starting
in America, then in Britain
after the war and
latterly in Australia, the poultry industry has developed or
is rapidly developing
into quite a major
industry.
It is
characterized
by very large business
organization,
with
substantial
capital brought
together
through integration,
by the employment
of top-flight scientists
to enable technological
discoveries
to be swiftly
applied,
by organized
marketing
outlets for products
tailor-made
for consumer
demand, all in a situation
of fierce competition.
In 1954, the broiler boom in Great Britain
got under
way after 14 years of feed rationing,
and the consequent
technical
stagnation
of the industry. It was impractical
for
the broiler industry to develop under conditions
of strict
feed rationing.
In America, on the other hand, the reverse
situation applied. The war years gave the American poultry
industry
a great stimulus;
there was a greatly increased
demand for animal products,
and owing to shipping difficulties the export of maize was limited as were exports of
Canadian wheat.
In 1953 the consumption
of chicken per cupitn in Great
Britain was estimated
(Hunt and Clark, 1962) at less than
1 lb per annum and specialized
broiler units were virtually
no,q-existent.
In 1960, seven years later, the annual per
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PATCHELL

capiln consumption
of chicken meat was estimated
by the
British
Chicken Association
at 9 lb and the production
of
broilers
had risen to 100 million
per annum.
Today in
Britain
the annual production
of broilers
is about 220
millions
and per capita consumption
of chicken
meat is
still increasing.
Ninety per cent. of the U.K. broiler production
is in the
hands of no more than one thousand growers. Thus, a few
farmers produce efficiently the entire national requirement
of chicken meat with no help f.rom the taxpayer by way of
subsidies,
in contrast
to some other agricultural
products
in Britain. The success of the broiler industry has been due
largely to vertical
integration,
organized
on big-business
lines.
This pattern is now being followed by the egg production
side of the industry with million-bird
factories being set up.
The egg empire of Eastwood
(1964),
being developed
in
Britain, owns all the land required for the stock, for growing much of the feed and the disposal of manure. It has its
own breeding
and multiplication
farm and hatcheries.
It
manufactures
its own equipment
and has its own processing plants and retail outlets.
The situation
in the U.S.A.
and other Western countries
is very similar.
To compete
and prosper,
th.e individual
broiler
or egg
producer
must first decide, through market research,
the
best market for the product and its potential size. Next, the
whole cycle of operations
from production,
through manufacturing,
processing,
transportation
and merchandizing
must be planned. At evety/stage
advantage
must be taken
of modern technology.
The new poultry industries
depend
on highly specialized research, imvolving new approaches
to
applied poultry genetics,
controlled
environment
housing,
disease control, nutrition,
and to the processing
and marketing of eggs and chicken.
An outstanding
feature
of the poultry
industries
of
America, Great Britain, and recently in Australia, has been
the evolution
of large breeding
organizations.
Since the
mid-1940s it has been the custom for the larger American
breeders
to engage geneticists,
and some of the worlds
leading
animal
geneticists
are now employed
by these
establishments.
The results have been impressive.
Largcscale selection and testing programmes
have been embarked
upon, improved
systems of poultry stock evaluation
have
been developed, and within a few years stock has been so
improved in all-round performance
that commercial
poultrymen can afford to buy chicks only from those organiza-

POULTRY

BREEDING

AND

SELECI-TON

45

tions which have replaced breeding as an art, by breeding


as a science.
This kind of work is costly. Hence, it is imperative
that
the breeder
mounts
large multiplication
programmes
to
produce chicks of the improved stock by the million, maintaining
strict
quality
control
during
the multiplication
stages. By this means he can spread the cost of the work
over a large output of chicks. In the United States in the
1930s
there
were
several
thousand
so-called
poultry
breeders.
Today, the bulk of the 250 million pullets raised
annually for the egg industry are bred by 5 breeders,
all
of whom are mass-producing
stock which, given good management,
averages 230 to 250 eggs per pullet in a laying
season on less than 4r/2 lb of feed per dozen eggs. In the
American broiler industry, with an output of 2,000 million
broilers per annum, the selection of the majority of the stock
is carried
out by four breeders
of female lines and two
breeders of male lines. Selection
programmes
costing over
half a million
dollars per annum are mounted
by some
breeders.
A number of these top American breeders are now becoming established
in other countries,
in Western
Europe,
Africa, the Middle East, South America
and Asia. Since
1963, with the ending of the official embargo on the import
of U.S. poultry breeding stock into Great Britain, American
breeders are becoming established
in that country as well.
However,
some British
hatchery
organizations,
notably
Thornber
Bros., have developed their own genetic research
techniques
with promising
results,
and Thornbers
have
extensive overseas markets for their stock.
BREEDING

METHODS

Modern poultry breeders


adopt the well-known
systems
of selection
based on modern population
genetic theory.
Usually several types of breeding
programme
are under
way, particularly
if chick sales are large. The costs of expensive breeding schemes, such as the development
of highly
inbred lines and their subsequent
crossing, or use of allied
schemes
such as reciprocal
recurrent
selection
are high.
These more sophisticated
breeding
schemes
are possible
only if there are large markets to defray costs. Others may
use more conventional
selection
schemes
based on individual, full-sister
and half-sister
performances
combined
into an index. Strain crosses for the commercial
product
may be used from among the most promising
lines being
developed from conventional
selection schemes. In the case

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PATCHELL

of broilers,
the essential
principle
consists
of the employment of strain crosses, whereby female lines of relatively
high fecundity,
reasonable
growth rate and conformation
are crossed with male lines with superior growth and conformation
to produce the market bird. The initial promise
from blood typing as a useful .tool in breed improvement
now appears to be waning, and there is now less enthusiasm
for this expensive technique
(Nordskog,
1964).
Because of competition
between breeders and the greater
sophistication
of the chick-buying
public, breeders
have
found it necessary
to increase
the number of factors
for
which they select. This adds greatly to the difficulty of
improving
performance.
In breeding for both broiler and egg production
there is
increasing
awareness
of the importance
of genotypes
environmental
interactions.
Bowman and Powell (1962) of
Thornber
Bros. reported significant
interactions
in 8 week
body weight in broiler chickens,
and Dickerson
( 1960), of
Kimber
Farms, has reported
interactions
with egg lines,
particularly
egg number
and mortality.
Abplanalp
and
Menzie ( 1961) also reported
interaction
effects
for egg
strains from a Swiss co-operat.ive
breeding
unit. Indeed,
Dickerson
(1961) looked critically
at the whole concept of
selection
theory, particularly
the prediction
of response to
selection and the problem of plateau situations.
He outlined
techniques
for the experimental
explanation
of selection
theory in animals.
In discussing
genetic
interaction,
he
presented
the results made up from 79 strains of birds at
each of 13 locations
in one year and 59 strains of birds
at each of 12 locations in another year with a total of 22,494
pullets.
Egg production
data were obtained
at 22 of the
locations
for 19,739 pullets,
and body weights
and egg
quality measurements
were taken at 32 weeks of age at
16 locations
for 15,080, and 12,920 pullets,
respectively.
These figures perhaps illustrate
better than anything else
the scope and size of the testing programmes
and it is quite
likely that current
problems
of selection
in animals
are
being actively studied in these organizations.
The great expansion
of the breeding groups to the stage
where their stock are used in many parts of the world,
covering a large range of environments;:has
resulted in their
being confronted
with this problem of genotype X,environment interaction.
At the same tirne, however, the inte&ti,on
problem
is becoming
evident even within much smaller
geographic
regions, particularly
for traits where environ-

POULTRY

mental factors
et al., 1963).

have

BREEDING

a large

AND

effect

SELECTION

on performance

47

(Hull

If the main objective


of a breeding
programme
is the
production
of one strain with good performance
ability
under a variety of environmental
conditions
there appears
no way in which genotype~environment
interactions
can
be exploited for genetic progress. They merely tend to distract selection
decisions
from the general
aim towards
special adaptation
of strains to a given environment
unless
strains are tested on several farms. There has been experimentation
with multiple
location
or on-the-farm
random
sample testing of egg production
stocks, for the purposes
of obtaining more reliable ranking of stocks under typical
commercial
conditions (Nordskog
and Kempthorne,
1960;
Abplanalp et al., 1962).
_
The development
of genetic control populations
for use
in selection experiments
with poultry received impetus with
the publication
of Gowe et al. ( 1959). The establishment
and
testing of various types of genetic control populations
have
been carried
out by some of the larger breeding
groups
(Bowman
and Challender,
1962) ; Goodwin et al. (1960)
published
a report describing
the repeat mating control
strain technique.
The commercial
breeding
of chicks for distribution
to
industry has replaced breeding schemes previously
imp1e.s
mented by Government
and other institutions.
This is probably due to increased
efficiency of all operations
enforced
by free competition.
However, private breeding
organizations may not always adopt the breeding programme
which
maximizes
improvement
because
of economic
considerations.
Genetic-economic
interrelationships
need
to be
considered
carefully by these breeding establishments.
For
example, performance
traits of the parent stock as well as
the broiler progeny influence
the net income of a broiler
enterprise,
and studies have been made to determine
the
relative
importance
of the factors
which determine
the
profitability
of a strain of broilers.
Strain and Nordskog
(1962a)
concluded
that broiler
weight and broiler
feed
conversion
were the most important
factors
determining
net income in the Maine Random
Sample
Broiler
Tests.
Egg production
in the parent flock was of little importance.
Using egg laying test data, Nordskog (1960) found that egg
production
was the most important
factor affecting income.
However, these studies were based on phenotypic
correlations between traits.

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PATCHELL

In a breeding programme,
the genetic-economic
relationships of traits become important.
Genetic changes in the
parent flock influence
net returns
directly
through chick
costs and indirectly
through
correlated
responses
in the
broiler
progeny.
Hence, there can be a see-saw effect in
which emphasis
on adult body size may favour broiler
growth rate yet reduce egg production
and vice versa. Strain
reviewed these problems
and conand Nordskog
(1962b)
cluded that it was important
th.at breeders should make an
assessment
of the genetic correlations
associated
with their
breeder flocks in order to formulate
breeding programmes
designed to maximize profit.
Another problem is that the commercial
breeder, under
a free enterprise
system, must conduct his operation
with
a view to obtaining
a profit at least in the long run. The
increase
in profit through the application
of a particular
breeding plan will be determined
by the increase in gross
income caused by the genetic improvement
of the stock
less the increase in cost caused by operating
the particular
breeding plan.
A breeding programme
can increase the operators
gross
income through increased
sales of eggs and meat caused
by higher production ; and by more revenue from day-old
chick
sales and/or better
prices
obtained
for a better
quality chick. Skaller (1964) has shown that increased chick
sales, direct or through franchised
hatcheries,
must make
the main contribution
towards not only the cost of a breeding programme,
but towards profit margin as well. Thus,
volume, or rather potential
volume of chick sales, restricts
breeders
of Australia
and New Zealand
because
of the
limited market. With a small market even relatively
simple
breeding schemes may be too costly to operate. Most breeding schemes
require
a definable
minimum
flock size for
th&r efficient operation
and the cost of this flock must be
distributed
over the largest possible number of commercial
chicks sold. This number is set by the reproductive
ability
of the population
and with poultry this is quite considerable. A flock of 1,000 pullets, with a breeding
season of
30 weeks, and an expected 30 daughters
per pullet, should
after two generations
of multiplication
yield 27 million
chicks in the fourth generation.
The closer the actual output
of salable
chicks
to this biological
potential,
the more
profitable
will be the breeding operation.
In Australia and
New Zealand, with limited markets, it is not easy to expand
chick sales to the point where sophisticated
breeding,plans
could be followed,
particularly
breeding
systems such as

those designed to exploit specific combining ability in which


large flocks must be tested.
Hence, the choice of a breeding plan which will produce
optimal
results
for a commercial
breeding
organization
requires the consideration
of several factors, some genetic
yet others economic.
PROGENY

TESTING

METHODS

A major problem with all farm livestock in past years has


been the lack of sound quality and performance
evaluation
procedures
for assessing breeding stock. Todays standards
and evaluation procedures
for beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs
and sheep have been developed
from traditional
stock
judging competitions.
The poultry industry has also been
hampered
by traditional
methods
of assessment
of performance.
Poultry breeders spent 40 years discovering
that
if the breeder was allowed to select 6 pullets for submission
to a laying test the results of such a test were of very
dubious merit.
The testing of laying strains of poultry, as carried out in
recent decades, has proved unsatisfactory
in many ways.
Most breeders entered pullets in Standard Laying Tests, the
larger breeders
entering birds for a number of tests. each
year. The breeders regarded the outcome of these tests as
valuable for publicity and advertising.
The practice was for
the breeder to select his entry of some 6 pullets soon after
his pullet flock came into lay. Those pullets which showed
an early promise from trapnest
records were selected for
the test. Obviously,
both the selection
of the birds tested
and the small sample tested meant that test results were of
limied usefulness
in predicting
performance
of unselected
samples of the stock under practical
conditions
of management.
Dissatisfaction
with Standard
Laying Tests led to an
improved method, the Random Sample Laying Test, which
started in California
about 1947. Its objective
was to compare the performance
of representative
samples of commercial gradesof
chicks, as offered for sale to poultrymen
by
breeders or hatcheries,
under uniform but practical
conditions of management,
and to publish test results for the
guidance
of poultrymen
as well as the hatcherymen
and
breeders.
Random Sample Tests have since been organized
in many other American states, and in other countries.
The New Zealand Random Sample Test started in August,
1963. It was set up by the poultry industry with the aid of

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PATCH ELI.

a Government
grant, and the Poultry Board is responsible
for financing
the test. By arrangement,
Massey University
runs the test on behalf of the Board, and is aided in this
by an Advisory Committee containing
representatives
of the
Poultry Board, the Department
of Agriculture,
and Massey
University.
Facilities
are available
for testing 25 different
stocks each year.
Eggs are selected at random from the entrants farms by
Poultry Instructors
of the Department
of Agriculture.
The
eggs are incubated
at the Test Unit. At hatching,
one hundred pullet chicks per entrant are selected at random. These
are brooded and reared on an intermingled
system to about
19 weeks of age. At random, 50 pullets per entry are selected
and placed in the laying shed in two pens each containing
25 birds. Full records of production,
mortality,
food consumption and egg quality are kept to 490 days of age. The
results
are made available
to the industry
periodically
throughout
the test.
The organization
of random sample tests in other countries is very smilar to the New Zealand test. Some take in
chicks not eggs, some run to 500 days or longer, and some
increase
the accuracy of the test by testing a larger pullet
sample of up to 100 per entrant:.
The results of a random sample test are published
and
serve as a useful guide, particularly
when compared
over
three or four years, as to where the most promising
stock
is likely to be available.
The accuracy
of the Random
Sample Laying Test is not very great because of the considerable
experimental
error. Only quite large differences
between stocks can be detected, and there is little point in
emphasizing
differences
in ranking based on small differences in performance.
In recent years most of the random sample tests in the
U.S.A. have been collated
and published
after suitable
adjustments
have been made for differences
between tests.
Even so, there is still a very considerable
experimental
error
remaining
in the ranking of stocks based upon test corrected averages.
Both in Iowa and in California
there has been experimentation
with multiple
locatidn
or on-the-farm
random
sample testing of egg production
stocks for the purpose of
obtaining
more reliable
ranking
of stocks under typical
commercial
conditions.
Analyses
by Hill and Nordskog
( 1956) and Nordskog and Kempthorne
(1960), have demonstrated the importance
of real but unpredictable
shifts of
ranking of stocks ,from one location
to another. Although

POULTRY

BHEEDtNG

.4ND

SELECTION

51

multiple
location
random
sample
tests or those using
several types of housing at one test location
have been
examined
in an attempt to reduce the experimental
error
from interaction
between
stocks
and management
procedures, experience
has shown that, despite these precautions, accuracy
in predicting
the ranking
of entries
in
another year, or in another
test, from results within any
one test and year is limited.
Hence, although random sample tests are a considerable
improvement
on the old standard
laying tests, they still
leave much to be desired,
but their development
is an
example
of voluntary
co-operation
between
the poultry
industry, scientists
and governments.
Apart from the difficulties
of ranking
stocks
accurately,
they do provide
a
wealth of factual information
on the performance
of fowls
and also on the success or otherwise of the breeding plans
of the large breeding organizations.
Any breeding plan suggested
by genetic research
must,
finally, be evaluated
in terms of its contribution
to food
production.
REFERENCES
ABPLANALP, H.; MARROU, L. F.; GOTO, E. 1962: Poult.
Sci., 41: 927.
ABPLANALP, H.; ME~TZIE, M. 1961: Brit. Poult. Sci.. 2: 71.
BOWM!IAN, J. C.; CHALLENDER, N. I. 1962: Anim.
Prod., 4: 294.
BOWMAN, J. C.; POWELL, J. C. 1962: Anim. Prod., 4: 319.
DICKERSON, G. 1960: Poult. Sci., 39: 1244 [Abstr.].
1961: Get-111 Plasm Resources.
Amer. Assoc. Adv. Sci. p. 161.
EASTWOOD, J. B. 1964: Pouft. Frnz. & Pucker, 152 (3919): 15.
GOODWIN, K.; DICKERSON, G. E.; LAMOREU~, W. F. 1960: Biometrical
Genetics.
Pergamon
Press, New York. p. 117.
GOWE, R. S.; ROBERTSON,A. ; LATTER, B. D. H. 1959: Poult. Sci., 38 : 462.
HJLL, J. F.; NORDSKOG, A. W. 1956: Poult. Sci., 35: 256.
HULL, P.; GOM~E, R. S.; SLEN, S. B.; CRAWFORD, R. D. 1963: Genet.

Ass.

Camb.,

4: 370.

HUNT, K. E.; CLARK, K. R. 1962: Poultry


& Eggs i.n Britain, 196162. Univ. of Oxford. Res. Inst. in Agric. Eton.
NORDSKOG, A. W. 1960: Poult. Sci., 29: 327.
1964: Worlds Pocclt. Sci. J., 20: 183.
NORDSKOG, A. W.; KEMPTHORNE, 0. 1960: Biometrical
Genetics.
Pergammon
Press, New York.
p. 159.
SKALLER, F. 1964: Proc. Australasian
Poult. Sci. Cotzv., Aust., p. 12.
STRAIN, J. H.; NORDSKOG, A. W. 1962(a):
Poult. Sci., 41: 1573.
~
1962(b):
Pouft. Sci., 41: 1892.
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