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Poultry Brooding’s Next Shake Up: The Exploitation of Genomics
Here’s a fearless forecast on what’s brewing for poultry breeders and broiler raisers.

The poultry industry is now on the threshold of a new scientific expansion in genetic improvement through molecular breeding. Established breeding practices, inspired by quantitative genetics, treat the animal as a black box with an imprecise number of genes that dictate its varied characteristics.

The 1980s significantly mark this technological timeline, where, slowly but surely, this black box was opened. The first major development that changed the surface of poultry breeding was the discovery of genetic markers. Genetic markers that shape the most widely used category were small anonymous repeat sequences of DNA called micro satellites that are scattered across the entire genome and can be used as landmarks to create a map of the genome.

Fundamentally, these experiments calculated the co-inheritance of genetic markers that contained difference of traits of interest. Hence, scientists were able to localize the sources of significant amounts of genetic variability to a certain region of a chromosome, called a Quantitative Trait Locus. The first study of this type was done on Hybro birds and was reported by Van Kaam et al. (1998).

Previous mapping exercises in poultry breeding research have greatly improved by using markers and major genes, and may be much more accurately localized by a relatively minute set of markers. In fact, this may be mapped down to such narrow genomic areas that a few markers can be safely operated for additional selection for the major genes involved without the need to bring back the linkage phase on a regular basis.

More recently, a new whole genome marker approach is bit by bit becoming a practical choice. First proposed by Meuwissen et al. (2001), its rationale is that the genetic value of an individual animal can be acquired by assessing the effects of all genes or chromosomal positions at once. To achieve this, a required number of genetic markers should be met; that is of the order of magnitude of the number of genes and these would have to be assayed in all breeder candidates. The computational problems to carry out all the resulting data are not trivial, but the latest technical developments do bring Meuwissen’s visionary option within reach, making this a colossal effort.

G.A.A. Albers, A.P. Rattink and A.L.J. Vereijken of the Breeding Research Centre in Euribrid, Nutreco, Netherlands expect that over the near term, a growing number of major genes being directly selected for in poultry breeding programs worldwide will be seen. They also see aspects of genome-wide marker coverage applied for selected purposes. Taken together, they foresee that within ten years from now selection procedures based on genomic information will be a necessary part of every poultry breeding program.

Albers, Rattnik and Vereijken deem such assortment procedures could well turn into the core of the breeding program. After all, the genome is the central part of genetic variability, the livelihood of breeding companies.

A further speculation Would be that, if indeed the core of the selection program changes over time, the structure of the program, which is very much connected to the selection system, will also change. This will increase genetic progress. Maintenance costs of the program may also provide means of specifically directing the flow of genes to poultry production companies.

With that, molecular breeding techniques will sooner or later influence the functioning relationship between breeding companies and production companies. Thus, molecular breeding technology contains all aspects of what is called a breakthrough development.

The assembly of the chicken genome is indeed a major step towards the full elucidation of all gene structures of the chicken that has. so far, been made. The black box, on the other hand, will not be fully opened until the full trail is taken-from gene structure through gene function, gene expression, protein interactions, biochemical and signalling pathways, to cellular function and cell-cell communication towards a full awareness of how phenotypic performance of the chicken is regulated.

Although fully achieving it today is still impossible, through current and future research efforts in proteomics, metabolomics and all the other “-omics” areas, knowledge of this entire field will intensify exponentially as new technologies present themselves on hand. As a result, it is safe to predict that over the coming years many remote pathways from gene structure to phenotype will be understood. Once such knowledge is available, its exploitation through directed manipulation of gene structure and function is a natural next step.

For directed gene management to be feasible, there will also be a need for effective and efficient technology for genetic modification of birds. This has proven to be a major hurdle in avian systems and particularly the delivery of a transgene or gene construct to an avian embryo is much more complicated than in a mammalian system (Mozdziak and Petitte, 2004).

However, perseverance for more than 20 years in this area by several research groups (reviewed by Naito, 2003) has created definite progress and recently breakthrough-like successes have been claimed by at least two academic-private partnerships (Zhu et al., 2005, Viragen, 2006). Although current transgenics are focusing on applications in the pharmaceutical domain, these achievements do open the way to exploitation in poultry breeding for agricultural purposes.

However, this will take a lot of time. Firstly, much more knowledge on gene action in the chicken is needed to come up with a sound proposal for genetic modification of a chicken for agricultural use. Secondly, genetic modification systems for the chicken still need major improvements. After these two steps have been taken, the establishment of a genetically modified breed, from idea to introduction, takes at least another five years. Therefore, we expect the first genetically modified chicken with commercial potential in agricultural production to be on the market in 15 to 20 years from now.

Egg Summit Presents 2008 Outlook of the Philippine Layer Industry
With rising feed costs, high inflation rate and low farm gate prices, experts say there ought to be a paradigm shift to alleviate the status of the egg industry.

In the recently concluded 2nd Egg Summit held at the Department of Agriculture’s main office early last month, Robina Farms’ William Lim challenged the participants who came to the event to aim for a better and more viable egg industry by way of acquiring a paradigm shift. “A different mind set is what we need in order to address the issues of the industry,” Lim emphatically said.

Representing the egg breeders’ group, Lim presented a comprehensive outlook of the Philippine layer industry for the year in front of around a hundred people, most of whom were members of egg cooperatives all over the country. Describing the whole industry as a “boom-bust” cycle, Lim went back four years ago and explained how the egg industry suffered as a result of the bird flu which hit most parts of the Southeast Asian countries.

In 2005, however, Lim said there was an oversupply of table eggs and layer chicks and as a result, local breeders and farms cut back on their production. Consequently, prices of eggs commanded a good price between 2006 and 2007 as a result of the cutback and a lot of farms expanded their production capacity. By 2006, layer population was reported to he between 23 and 24 million.

Last year, a new batch of Day-Old-Pullets (DOP) players entered the market and mad, an unprecedented growth in the of parent stock (PS) importation. By that time, layer population was estimated to be between 29 and 30 million.

But things started to dwindle in the early part of this year when egg consumption dipped right after the Christmas holiday. Rising feed costs due to bio-fuels. a shortfall in grain production (SMB rose to P30), high inflation rate of 11.4 - brought about by high oil and rice prices consequently resulted to low farm -late prices of eggs which ranged between P4.00 and P4.50 per piece. Exacerbating this problem is the fact that the Philippines is still recorded as having the lowest per capita consumption of eggs in Asia (73 eggs or 3.5 kgs, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics).

Given this scenario, Lim presented recommendations to the egg industry players as to what ought to be done to address and alleviate the situation. To wit: he suggested cutting on PS layer importation to avert oversupply of DOP; called on DOP suppliers to cull breeders in order to reduce DOP volume for 2008; cut excess production of layer farms and increase egg price simultaneously and adopt new egg marketing ideas.

In order to implement the abovementioned recommendations, Lim further suggested that stakeholders should play an active role in solving the problem, create a forum that will allow PS layer breeders to oversee importation and rationalize DOP production, and to form a body that will look after the interests of the egg industry. This body, in turn, will strengthen the cooperation among DOP suppliers, layer farms, egg processors, egg product importers and stakeholders, support the National Egg Board, provide market intelligence and update statistics of the egg industry and provide protocol for best farm practices.

Moreover, Lim said this governing body will also explore export opportunities for eggs, egg products and DOPs, conduct market promotion activities to increase egg per capita consumption and organize the Integrators Egg Conference Philippines (which will affiliate with the International Egg Commission (IEC) to broaden egg marketing activities.

The 2nd Egg Summit also paved the way for the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines’ Party List Representative Nicanor Briones to donate P500,000 as his pledge to the cause of the egg industry. Present during the donation ceremony were DA Asst. Secretary Salvador Salacup, National Federation of Egg Producers of the Philippines President Gregorio San Diego Jr., Director Divinio Catbagan of the DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry and other government and private sector leaders who were heavily supportive of the development of our local egg industry.

What Went Wrong with the Old Sasso?… Now Comes Sunshine Chicken
It used to be that the Sasso chicken from France was very popular with a lot of local growers, especially the smaller raisers that included backyard raisers and hobbyists. Of course, the Sasso also appealed to those with commercial intentions.

In the first several years, many raisers praised the plump body of the bird, its fast growth, its sturdiness and of course its taste that resembles that of the native chicken. The big difference, however, is that the Sasso meat is more tender.

In the past few years, however, many of the growers have become disgruntled. Their chickens did not grow as fast and as big as before. One municipality in Pangasinan dispersed thousands of Sasso chicks several years ago. The intention was to improve the chickens the small farmers were growing. The recipients are not really impressed now. An expatriate and his Filipino wife in Abra used to have a commercial operation raising Sasso chicken in their resort and selling dressed birds as well as liver pate and other processed chicken meat. They have slowed down in their business as the latest chicks they obtained, according to them, did not perform as well as they used to do.
Eventually, the other year, the usual Sasso chicks were no longer available in the market. What could be the reason?

Dr. Rey Itchon who used to sell Sasso chicks in Isabela explained that replacement of parent stocks was not done regularly. He explained that the first generation chickens that were sold in the beginning should not have been used as breeders to produce chicks for sale or for growing. Many of the farmers who bought Sasso had the wrong notion that if they bought the birds, they could breed them and produce the
chicks which they can sell as chicks or grow for meat.

That’s a big mistake, according to Dr. Itchon, a veterinarian. That’s because the second or third generations after the F1 or first generation will not perform as well as the Fl. The breed degenerates and the birds may not grow uniformly. Many of them would be runts, and, therefore, not economically viable to raise, especially with the present high cost of feeds.

Fortunately for the lovers of free-range chickens, the Sasso type is here once more and with a program to regularly import parent stocks for the production of F 1 birds for meat production as well as for egg production.

A new partnership is now producing the Sunshine chicks using parent stocks imported from the Sasso company in France. One partner is Rey Ramos, an experienced hand in the poultry business. He is in charge of breeding and hatching the Sunshine chicks in his farm in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija. The first batch of breeders consisting of 1,500 females and 250 males are the ones producing at least 5,000 chicks per week now. A second batch of over 2,200 females are in the growing house and are expected to produce eggs for hatching shortly. Every six months, a new batch of parent stocks will be imported to ensure a stable supply of quality chicks for meat or egg production. Rey and Sandy Itchon are the partners in charge of marketing while a finance man takes charge of the financials.

The Sunshine chicken is not only for meat production. It is also a good layer. In fact Jocelyn Velonza and David Oman (a British) are partners in producing Sunshine eggs which sell for a minimum of P7 to P10 each. They now produce over a thousand eggs every day which are sold in Metro Manila, particularly in the upscale specialty food stores and restaurants.

According to Rey and Sandy Itchon, the Sunshine chicken is becoming increasingly popular in many parts of the country. There are now many growers in Cebu, Mindanao and of course in many places in Luzon. The Itchons have a stocking area in Fairview, Quezon City. Stocks are also available at the AANI Weekend Market at the FTI Complex in Taguig City, and at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.

There are specialty food products from Sunshine chickens that are in their planning stage. One is the production of capons for a special niche market. Another is the production of chicken sausage ala Alaminos longanisa. Alaminos, Pangasinan is where Sandy Itchon has her own roots. And the town is famous for its special longanisa. One of her dreams is to come up with that unique chicken longanisa using the tender Sunshine chicken meat.

He Grows His Chickens For A Special Market
The key to a profitable farming project is often found in creating a niche market for one’s product. Just like Michael “TJ” Gonzalez of Brgy. Concepcion, Baliuag, Bulacan. He has found a lucrative market for chickens that are raised the natural farming way, i.e., without the use of antibiotics, fishmeal and blood meal in the feeds.

About a year ago, he came to know of people who were looking for such poultry meat. They were the relatives of cancer patients as well as parents of autistic children in Metro Manila. Most of the buyers come from exclusive villages who can afford to pay higher prices for special products that they need.

Sensing the opportunity to produce such chickens which he knew nobody was producing then for that special market, he started on April 28, 2007 by just buying 20 chicks of the now increasingly becoming popular Solraya Sunshine chicken of Dr. Rey and Sandy Itchon. He paid a high price of P55 pesos per chick because that was something very new and the supply was very limited.
He raised the chickens by feeding mostly with sweepings from their rice store, corn, palay and some leafy greens available in his barangay. He estimated that the cost of production, including the cost of chicks, was P 130 per head after raising them for two months. By that time the chickens had attained a weight of 1.2 to 1.3 kilos. And he was able to sell the birds at P220 per kilo.

He saw the profit potential of chickens that are raised the natural farming way because the first buyers had asked for more. Word spread among families with cancer patients who also wanted a steady supply of TJ’s chickens. He soon ordered more chicks to raise through his special way. Today, he is ordering 600 to 700 chicks every three weeks so he could meet the requirements of his fast-increasing clientele.

And he has also become more efficient in raising his chickens. Today, he could raise his birds to two kilos in just 50 days. He is fortunate to have known of a commercial feedmill that manufactures feeds without antibiotics, fishmeal and blood meal. The chickens are raised in an enclosure where they have a shed to stay in during the night and in the hotter part of the day. But they also have a space outside where they forage on insects, grass and other vegetation. They are fed only once a day with commercial ration.

TJ raises his batches of chickens in different places. His first batch was raised in a lot near where he lives. He has another batch being raised in another property far from his residence, near the family’s rice paddies. When we visited the place, the chicks were still too small to be released on the range. Once they are big enough to forage on grasses and insects, Michael said he will release the chickens to the ricefields to look for their indigenous feed.

It is an all-in all-out system that he follows. It means that all the birds in one batch have to be marketed first before new stock is introduced. In fact, he has to make the place vacant for about two months to give time for the grass to grow.

TJ says he finds the Sunshine chicken highly suitable for producing his naturally farmed poultry: They are very sturdy, he said, and they are also fast growing. Another important characteristic is that they taste like the native chicken.

One time, he related, his poultry farm was inundated because of continuous heavy rains. The birds were swimming in the water when he rescued them to be placed in a safer place. Fortunateh. there was no mortality. They are really sturdy, he said.

To meet the steady demand of his growing customers, TJ is opening a new location for growing additional birds in Brgy. Matangtubig, also in Baliuag. It is important that his growing places are found in different places to safeguard against possible contamination in case of any disease outbreak.

At this time, he sells some of his dressed chickens to people who resell them to other customers. His price is maintained at P190 per kilo. The resellers, on the other hand, sell them at as much as P280 per kilo.

Michael studied computer science in one of the well known schools in Metro Manila. Being proficient in the use of the computer, he has been able to dig useful information through the internet.

He and his wife run a profitable rice store right in their barangay. He is of course very happy that he also discovered a profitable niche market for chicken sans antibiotics.

that's not only a good news for farmers or people who are interested to venture into that kind of business but it also seems to be interesting and sounds really profitable. im also interested to start a small backyard poultry there in any way for people like me who is interested to start that kind of business? hope to hear from you, sir? thanks!


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