Genetics and the future production of eggs.

16-04-2014 News from the sector

The genetic companies dedicated to the production and improvement of products for the poultry industry - mainly for the industry of eggs - at a world scale have successfully used the variation existing inside and between the pure genetic lines. On one side, the genetic variation existing inside pure populations have been exploited by means of a complex selection process as well as carefully implemented in order to guarantee the constant genetic improvement of the elite or pedigree lines. 

On the other side, the systematic crossing between pure lines have identified the best combinations  in order to maximize the outcome of the layers (fathers and  mothers) and this way guarantee the production of superior commercial lines. This continuous selection implementation on the top of the multiplication pyramid and the constant search for better combination of lines through crossing has allowed the industry to have available some commercial products producing more eggs at a higher quality and at a reduced cost. 

All of this has contributed to the biological and economic efficiency of the egg production worldwide. That is why; the production of eggs continues to grow mainly in the most problematic areas worldwide (under developed and developing countries). The improvements of the egg production industry during the last 75 years have been remarkable. Progress is not the only aspect responsible for genetic improvement, but there is no doubt, that the production with more efficient animals has generated some pressure on other fields facilitating a better productivity rate: animal health, management, environment and infrastructure, and mainly, the nutritional and feeding improvements regarding the poultry.  

The poultry genetic potential is inalienable, is present and can be used as long as the poultry can be offered the adequate conditions for their maximum biological potential. With the implementation of increasingly sophisticated quantitative methods and a higher integration of the enormous quantity of DNA molecular information available today, the selection process has experienced a true revolution. This has happened thanks to the development of methodologies combining the phenotype information (what we continuously measure of the poultry, as production of eggs, their quality, consumption of feed, feed conversion in egg mass, resistance to diseases, etc…) with the genotype information in an optimal way. Three of these methods, whose implementation have revolutionized the poultry genetics, including assisted selection for molecular makers, where we use the association between the genotype for DNA markers (whose effect is not known) as well as some other interesting features, also assisted selection for genes, it operates in a similar way but in this case,  we take advantage of the cause – effect relationship between the gen and the phenotypic expression desired, more recently, the genomic selection where we use a large number of markers in a combined way (from dozens to hundreds of thousands) with the phenotypic information so as to maximize the response to the selection as well as to optimize the selection programs. 

The genomic selection has revolutionized the genetic improvement field   of animals and plants, fowls are not an exception. Therefore, the future of genetic improvement within the egg production industry may still experience better years to come. This is good news considering the context of a growing human population, which continues to require higher quantities of animal protein sources, higher quality and higher accessibility and feasibility. Eggs will have, no doubt about it, a key role in feeding the world during the next 50 years, and well beyond.