“We are achieving progress in all lines faster than has ever been seen before,” noted Dr. Danny Lubritz, research and development director for Hy-Line International, in a recent discussion regarding Hy-Line’s intensified efforts in genetic selections. “We are making significant strategic changes in the Hy-Line breeding program to accelerate the rate of genetic progress.”
Hy-Line’s team of geneticists is making the genetic engine more powerful and more efficient. In fact, the recent pure line selections have documented a considerably higher response than achieved in previous years. “We have narrowed the scope of genetic traits we analyze and, ultimately, use to select the next pure line generations, with the goal to achieve increased egg numbers, persistency, shell strength, egg weight and feed efficiency”, they explained.
“We are putting more selection pressure on increased egg numbers and shell strength while not overlooking other key traits,” said Dr. Lubritz while noting a major improvement in the most recent generation. “Our layers must be productive, yet balanced.”
Genetic progress is a function of selection intensity, accuracy, genetic variance within the lines and generation interval between selections. Because genetic progress is expressed as a fraction in this equation, anything to increase the numerator will increase genetic progress. Anything to decrease the denominator will increase genetic progress. “Additionally, we now deliver superior genetics to the customer sooner,” said Dr. Lubritz.
Hy-Line increased its selection intensity by increasing the elite population. The expansion of the Dr. Dennis Casey Farm allows Hy-Line to place more pedigree birds from which to identify top performing individuals to keep as breeders of the next generation. Selection intensity will be amplified even more when Hy-Line’s third research farm is completed in 2019.
Accuracy increased by applying genomics to all commercial lines. Genomic (DNA) data,combined with pedigree data and phenotypes, provide us with the ability to make precise selections. Rather than selecting a family of males based solely on the performance of their sisters, Hy-Line directly identifies elite individual males through genetic values and genotypes. This ensures Hy-Line selects genetically superior males to sire the next generation of pure line birds.
Hy-Line discovered untapped opportunity to gain egg numbers beyond 60 weeks by extending the single-cycle lay data to 90 weeks. This increased genetic variance allows selections for birds with the highest rate of persistency late into lay.
Genomics allows us to shorten the generation interval and more rapidly accrue genetic progress. We collect blood samples from all male chicks at a day-of-age in the hatchery. Then we isolate DNA from their blood and have it genotyped. Individual genotypes and genomic breeding values are available to us within 12 weeks-of-age. This means we now make more frequent selections and use pedigree males at 25 weeks-of-age instead of waiting to 55 weeks-of-age. The compilation of these improvements, combined with local technical service and sales support and an excellent network of distributors, secures Hy-Line’s commanding presence as a world leader in layer genetics for our customers for years to come.