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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Safeguarding Well-being of Food Producing Animals

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

Title: Methods to address poultry robustness and welfare issues through breeding and associated ethical considerations

Author
item Muir, W
item Cheng, Heng Wei
item Croney, C

Submitted to: Frontiers in Genetics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/16/2014
Publication Date: 11/26/2014
Citation: Muir, W.M., Cheng, H., Croney, C. 2014. Methods to address poultry robustness and welfare issues through breeding and associated ethical considerations. Frontiers in Genetics. DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2014.00407.

Interpretive Summary: As consumers and society in general become more aware of ethical and moral dilemmas associated with confined rearing systems, pressure is put on the animal and poultry industries to adopt alternative forms of housing. This presents challenges especially regarding managing competitive social interactions between animals. Selective breeding programs offer potential solutions by improving adaptation of the bird to existing and proposed production environments. Genomic selection, based on dense genetic markers, will allow for more rapid improvement of traits that are expensive or difficult to measure, or have a low heritability, such as pecking, cannibalism, robustness, mortality, leg score, bone strength, disease resistance, and thus has the potential to address many poultry welfare concerns. The information may be used by egg producers, as well as other farm animal producers, to aid in developing guidelines for improving animal welfare.

Technical Abstract: Management practices and rearing conditions employed for domestic animal production including laying hens are continusly changing based on ethical and scientific results. This presents challenges especially regarding managing competitive social interactions (social stress) between animals. Selective breeding programs offer potential solutions by improving adaptation of the bird to existing and proposed production environments. Recently developed selection programs to include social effects, known as associative or indirect genetic effects, have received much attention. Group, kin, multi-level and multi-trait selection including indirect genetic effects have all been shown to be highly effective in reducing mortality while increasing productivity of poultry layers and reduce or eliminate the need for beak trimming. Results from the studies have shown that multi-level selection increases robustness as indicated by the greater ability of birds to cope with stressors. The results indicate that kin selection is easy to implement and improve both productivity and well-being in laying hens.

Last Modified: 09/24/2017
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