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Egg weights in laying hens can be increased by a new approach to analyse and target birds with specific genes for selected breeding, suggests a study.

Eggs typically weigh 50-70g – depending mainly on the age of the hen and its genotype. Weight is a highly heritable trait, meaning variance between hens is largely a direct result of genetics – and hugely important when it comes to profitability.

Experts from biological insights company Synomics analysed data from more than 1,000 laying hens. Researchers then singled out and examined the genetic information regulating traits which govern egg weight.

‘Missing link’

Findings were then converted  into an industry-standard genetic evaluation model, making it easier to select the best birds. In this case, it meant the accuracy of the genetic predictions made increased by 49%.

Synomics said its technique was the “missing link” between the huge amounts of raw data held by farmers and scientists – and the company’s own research and develop team. They were able to interpret the data quickly, highlighting areas of interest.

A hen can have upwards of 20,000 genes – so being able to narrow down the search to a mere 122 that could hold the key to a heavier egg has a big impact on the speed of subsequent research and development.

Faster benefits

Assessing genetic information like this makes it easier to identify crops or animals that are healthier, more disease resistant, or deliver higher yields, says Synomics.  Scientists can then help improve productivity market more rapidly and at less expense.

Synomics chief executive Peter Kristensen said the business had developed its own platform to enable animal and crop scientists and producers to get a better understanding of what drives key production traits and innovate accordingly.

“We are giving scientists, farmers and food producers the ability to learn more about the animals they breed and the crops that they grow with insights they have not been previously able to liberate from the data they already hold.”

For more on pig & poultry farming, read “Pig industry posts further reductions in antibiotics