First genomics breeding programme for poultry

by Editor
Thursday, October 09, 2008

The first breeding program in the world to use an entire animal genome is beginning under the direction of university scientists and two of the largest international poultry breeding companies.

Purdue University animal sciences professor Bill Muir is project co-director for the multimillion dollar research effort to determine the viability of using whole genome DNA selection to improve the accuracy and efficiency of breeding methods.

The project will test a novel way to select poultry for traits that are difficult or costly to measure or are not highly hereditary. Traits of interest include bone density, productivity, animal well- being, feed efficiency, yield, egg quality, growth, robustness and disease resistance.

Muir is partnering with Hans Cheng of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the poultry breeding companies Hendrix Genetics in the Netherlands and Cobb-Vantress Inc. of Siloam Springs Ark.

This technique could be used on other species, but is being tested first on poultry due to their short gestation period. Every 23 weeks scientists will have data on new offspring to determine the effectiveness of the method.

The participating companies represent about half of the world's poultry industry. Cobb-Vantress supplies about 50 percent of the broilers internationally and Hendrix Genetics about the same for chickens used for egg production.

The USDA is providing $2.5 million for the research, with another $2.5 million match from the companies. The corporations also are supplying additional research resources, such as birds, facilities and labor to collect trait measures, making the true value of the effort in excess of $10 million.