Layer breeding company Hendrix Genetics says it is well on target to deliver a 500 egg bird at 100 weeks, thanks to the introduction of a new “SNP chip” to help analyse its birds’ genetic make-up.

The new computer chip harbours some 60.000 SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) markers and allows the company to perform a DNA evaluation of all breeding birds . This information is then combined with established natural selection techniques, to speed up genetic improvement.

“Do not be confused,” said R&D director Gerard Albers. “Genomic selection has nothing to do with artificial cutting and pasting parts of the chicken’s DNA. We try to understand the genetic characteristics of our breeding stock and scientifically combine the favourite traits by natural replication.”

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It is four years since the first SNP chip was introduced. The new “medium density” version is custom made for the firm’s ISA range of layers, so is more suited to their specific genetic make-up.

Hendrix says this allows for better identification of genetic variations within a flock. Birds can then be selected for the specific traits the industry is looking for.

“Here we are not restricted to traditional traits like egg numbers, egg size, feed conversion ratio and daily gain. We can now also select for issues like social ability, leg weakness, keel bone strength, susceptibility to specific diseases, and so on.”

Dr Albers said the performance and accuracy of the new SNP chip has increased by 25-33%, depending on the genetic line tested, with positive results from evaluating the first batch of 576 samples.

“These are stimulating results and allow us to speed up our mission to deliver chickens that are capable of laying 500 first-quality eggs per hen housed at 100 weeks of age,” he told Poultry World.