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									                        Breeding a Broiler for the Indian Market

                                         G. L. JAIN

               Venco Research and Breeding Farm Ltd., Pune, 411025, India.

ABSTRACT India grows 800 million broilers annually. The broiler industry is expected to
grow at the rate of ten per cent per annum. Broilers are grown in open sided houses under
sub-optimal hygienic conditions with low energy feeds (2800 to 2850 Kcal/kg). Almost 95
% broilers are sold on live weight basis. There is very little deboning done (0.2%) and breast
meat yield is of no relevance at present. There is no concept of white meat and dark meat.
Broiler farmer and hatcheryman are two separate entities owned by different owners. The
product to be marketed in India must be well balanced. It should excel in both broiler and
breeder traits so that both the hatcheryman and the broiler farmer make money independently.
Commercial broiler breeding in India started more than two decades ago. It was carried out
in the environment and husbandry practices in which the final products (broiler and breeders)
have to perform. The number of traits considered and the economic weightage attached to
different traits in a breeding program are in tune with the market requirements. In the
random sample tests conducted by the Government of India, the indigenously bred broilers, in
general, have out performed those based on imported GP’s in broiler traits. Indigenously
bred broiler breeders lay, in general, more eggs and even have better hatchability than those
breeders produced from imported GP stocks. The superior performance of indigenously bred
broiler breeds is further proved from the fact that over 80% market share is enjoyed by these
breeders inspite of four major imported GP based breeds available in the country.

                            (Key words: breeding, broiler, India)


    Domestication of poultry is said to have started in Indian subcontinent. The earliest
record of poultry dates back to around 3200 BC in India. However, the establishment of
franchisee hatcheries of International poultry breeding companies gave momentum to
commercial poultry farming in sixties. Annual broiler production in 1970 was 4 million only.
After three decades, annual broiler production reached 800 million (Table1). Thus broiler
farming became the fastest growing sector of Indian Agriculture. However, inspite of such
growth, per capita consumption of broiler still remains less than one kg. In India, large
population does not eat beef or pork due to religious reasons. The sources of meat are mutton
and chicken. Grazing pastures for sheep and goat are becoming scarce, resulting in gradual
reduction in mutton production. Remaining alternative is chicken. Therefore, in future also,
the broiler production is expected to grow at 10 % per annum.
               TABLE 1. Annual broiler production in India

               Year                           Broiler Production

               1970                                    4
               1980                                   30
               1985                                   75
               1990                                  200
               1995                                  400
               2000                                  800

Inspite of 800 million per annum production, Indian broiler industry has some distinct
features, which are different from most of the other major broiler growing countries of the
world. These differences are as follows:

A      Climatic Conditions And Husbandry Practices

    1. Variation in Temperature. There is a considerable variation in temperature and
       humidity between seasons and between day and night within seasons. The
       temperature would vary from as low as 40C in winter nights to as high as 470C in
       summer days with daily temperature fluctuation of 150C to 300C between day and

    2. Open Sided Houses. Approximately 95% of broilers are grown in open sided houses.
       The temperature in these houses may vary from 100C in winter nights to 400C in
       summer days. The broiler farmer and breeder flock owners do not install environment
       control devices due to (a) high capital cost, (b) high cost of electricity, (c) frequent
       break down of power supply in villages where almost all the farms are located and (d)
       availability of cheap labor.

    3. Flock Size. The flock sizes vary from as small as 200 broilers to 25,000 broilers per

    4. Non availability of High-energy Ration. Due to religious reasons, use of beef tallow
       in animal feed is banned. Inclusion of vegetable oils is not cost effective. Therefore, a
       typical Indian broiler ration would have only 2800 to 2850 Kcal/kg of feed compared
       to 3100 to 3200 Kcal/kg of feed used in other countries. Similarly, broiler breeder
       ration would have 2600 Kcal/kg or even less.

    5. Sub-optimal Hygienic Standards. Since most of the flock sizes are small and a
       village may have a number of such small farms, the desired quarantine and hygienic
       standards are seldom maintained.
B      Market Requirements

    1. Almost 95 % broilers are sold on live weight basis and of the remaining 5 %, most are
       dressed and sold as fresh chilled.

    2. There is no concept of white meat and dark meat and therefore there is no premium
       on breast or breast meat.

    3. The broiler producer and hatcheryman are two separate entities owned by different
       owners. Thus, there are two distinct profit centers viz.: (a) the hatcheryman who owns
       the parent breeder and hatchery, and supplies the day-old broiler chicks to broiler
       farmers and (b) the broiler farmer who grows the broilers and sells to wholesalers and
       retailers. Both of these should independently make money.


    It has been shown that heat stress has a strong negative effect on broiler growth and feed
efficiency (Cahaner and Leenstra, 1992). The heat stress is more pronounced in fast growing
commercial broilers, than in non-selected meat-type lines with respect to decrease in body
weight gain, increase in mortality and feed conversion ratio. (Washburn et al., 1992; Eberhart
and Washburn, 1993).

Genotype Environment Interaction

   A number of authors have reported stock by location interaction for certain traits like egg
production and mortality in layers and feed conversion and livability in broilers (Hartmann,
1990). Marks and Huston (1973) observed that Japanese quail selected for increased four-
week body weight were less tolerant to heat stress at 450C than unselected control line. In an
extensive study, El.Gendy and Washburn (1992) have shown that it is possible to select for
heat tolerance in broiler stocks by selecting for body weight under heat stress. In an
interesting experiment Cahaner et al. (1996) grew offsprings of fast growing (selected)
parents and normal (average) growing parents in temperate environment and in high ambient
temperature environment. Their results indicated that the genetic advantage of the fast
growing group, obtained by a within-line selection similar to the breeding procedure used by
commercial breeders in temperate climate, could not be expressed under heat stress
conditions. In other words, experimental selection on body weight was very successful for
temperate environment, but less effective for hot environments.

   Another experiment conducted in Turkey, Cahaner et al. (1996) showed that summer
weight gain between 4 to 7 weeks was lower than the spring weight gain by 29 % in males
and 22 % in females. Further analysis of data showed significant season by sire interaction,
indicating the presence of GXE interaction resulting from the variation in the magnitude of
heat induced growth depression among sire families. They further observed that GXE
interaction completely masked the genetic differences between sires, as evident from non-
significant sire effect in the ANOVA of their offsprings performance data from both seasons.

  The above cited studies clearly show that genotype environment interaction does exist.
Stocks selected in a given environment may not perform as well in another environment,
which is significantly different from the former.

    World’s leading primary broiler breeding companies are located in North America and
Europe. These breeding companies keep, evaluate and select their elite stock in temperate
climate with optimally controlled facilities. Realizing that genotype environment interaction
does exist, these companies, while marketing their product world wide, advise and some
times even insist to the broiler farmers and breeder owners to modify the climate by housing
design and installing specific devices to control temperature, humidity and air flow. This
advise is given in order to provide conditions in the broiler / breeder houses which represent
nearly the same environment in which the birds have been selected. For the broiler farmers,
with small farms in developing countries like India, this is an expensive proposition and most
of the time impracticable due to high cost of electricity and frequent power breakdowns.
Moreover, the depressed broiler growth due to high temperature cannot be completely
alleviated by such measures (Cahaner and Leenstra, 1992).

   Some primary breeding companies are now embarking upon selection under simulated
climatic stress. Such approach could be helpful when the stress is of a simple mono-factorial
nature. That is to assume that in hot climate, the temperature is high and does not vary all
through 24 hours of the day and night and that the humidity remains same throughout.
However, in practice, not only the temperature and humidity varies between day and night
and between different days, but the interaction of temperature and humidity with other
specific environmental factors (housing, feeding and watering systems, feed etc.) also varies
(Cahaner, 1996). This makes the whole problem too complicated to be able to replicate.

   The other alternative is to breed the chicken in the climate in which they have to perform.
This approach has been recommended by Cahaner (1990), Hartmann (1990), and Mukherjee
(1992). Singh (1992) observed that as compared to an U.S. bred broiler line, its counter part
that had been selected in India for 10 generations exhibited better adaptation to the local

                           BROILER BREEDING IN INDIA

  Commercial Broiler breeding in India started more than two decades ago. Later, a few GP
import based companies in private sector took up primary breeding. Initially all the
companies who ventured into primary breeding, imported pure lines from abroad. Some of
them out right purchased the pure lines while others set up joint ventures with pure line
suppliers. These companies created necessary infrastructure to take up the breeding program.
To the best of knowledge of this author, most of these companies did not provide
environmentally controlled houses and they used low energy rations as could be produced in
India, without adding fat (Singh, 1992). In one company with which this author is associated
since the inception, all the pedigree broiler brooding - growing houses and pedigree breeder
houses are open sided, subjected to vagaries of nature, wherein the temperature varied from
100C in winter nights to over 400C in summer days. Only fans are provided in summers in
growing and breeding houses. This practice is continuing for the last 20 years. In fact the
philosophy here is that if the bird cannot survive and perform in this relatively moderate
climate, it does not deserve to be selected as breeder for next generation. Most parts of India
experience much harsher summer than Pune, where this project is located. The feed provided
to the pure line stock is more or less the same as used by commercial broiler farmer and
breeders. The broiler ration would have 2800 to 2850 Kcal/kg compared to 3100 to 3200
Kcal/kg and the breeder ration contains, only 2600 Kcal/kg compared to 2900 Kcal/kg used
in western countries. Besides, the ingredients in the rations are not just the corn-soya; other
ingredients like sunflower cake, broken rice, rice polishing, peanut meal etc are used in
formulating least cost ration. These treatments to the pure line stocks over the years have
helped these stocks to acclimatize and adapt to Indian type of climate and feeding conditions
(Singh, 1992).

Breeding for Indian Market Requirement

    For a geneticist incharge of a breeding program, the main objective would be to reduce
the cost of production of the end product, which the producer sells to its customers. As
mentioned earlier, in India there are two end products sold by two different owners. The live
broiler producer is interested in reducing the cost of producing one kg live broiler, which he
sells to his customers. Similarly, the hatchery owner is interested in minimizing the cost of
production of one-day-old broiler chick, which he sells to broiler producers.

   In early days of the development of broiler industry in US and other countries, the
conditions were similar to current conditions in India. National broiler council of USA has
given good illustration of the shift in the form in which the broilers have been sold in USA
over the years (Ewart, 1993). In 1962, 80% of broilers were sold as whole chicken, which
reduced to 20 % in 1992. Further processing of chicken increased from 2% in 1962 to 35% in
1992. The percentage of processed chicken must have increased further in the last 8 years.

    Today, broiler companies in North America, Europe and other major broiler producing
countries are fully vertically integrated. They own breeders, hatchery, broilers, feed mills,
processing plants, further processing and further further processing plants; with only one
profit center. The shift in the form of chicken produced in USA and Europe and the
emergence of vertical integration has driven the broiler genetic industry in those countries to
shift the emphasis from yield of one form to yield of the other form i.e. from whole chicken
to portion to meat yield. Even in the meat yield, these companies want more breast meat
(white meat) yield and not the leg or thigh meat (dark meat). This is because the breast meat
is sold at $ 4.0 per kg and the leg meat is sold at $2.0 per kg. Therefore, the objective of the
geneticist incharge of USA or European broiler breeding program would be to reduce the cost
of the end product of broiler integration i.e. to produce the saleable meat (white meat) at the
least cost.
   In this scenario of complete integration where one owner owns the breeder, the hatchery,
the broiler and the processing plant, any shortfall in one trait, say number of chicks per
breeder can be compensated with improvement in another trait, say breast meat yield.

   The situation in India is different from above. Here, the complete shift from live broiler to
dressed broiler is going to take many years, if at all it does take place. Even today, out of
around 5% broilers sold as dressed, most are hand dressed. Processing of broilers by
automated mechanized plant is not more than 25,000 birds per day, which is less than 8
million (1%) per year. Indian consumer does not seem to accept blast-frozen birds. One
company spent millions of rupees to popularize frozen broiler with negligible impact. Indian
broiler market will remain live bird market for many years to come.

   As stated earlier, in India, there are two distinct profit centers. Here, the short fall in any
reproductive trait say egg production cannot be compensated with the improvement of the
broiler trait say feed conversion ratio, because of different ownership. Therefore, the
geneticist incharge of breeding program in India can not sacrifice hatchability or number of
eggs to gain extra body weight or feed conversion ratio.

   The number of traits that should be considered for selection and the relative emphasis that
the breeder places on each one of them are determined, firstly by the market need and
secondly by the underlying genetic parameters and hence rate of progress possible. The traits
to be considered for the selection and relative economic importance of each would be
different in US and in India, simply because the broilers are sold in different forms in these
countries. An increase of 1% breast meat yield could fetch approximately 8 cents additional
per broiler in USA and nil in India. Similarly, in India more money is saved per broiler by
improving feed conversion ratio than in USA, because feed rate in India is 20 to 21 cents per
kg compared to 15 to 16 cents per kg in USA.

    However, it must be remembered that the customer, whether a large integrator in USA or
a small farmer in India has a minimum acceptable level of each trait. For e.g. - an integrator
in USA would not like to see a reduction in hatchability by 20% to get 1% extra breast meat,
although value wise it may be the same. But, he would not mind sacrificing 5-10 eggs or 2-
3% hatchability to get extra breast meat as long as he makes more money at the end.

   In a broiler breeding program designed for Indian market, a geneticist has to consider
growth rate, livability, feed conversion ratio, conformation and leg quality, in addition to the
reproductive traits. For North American and European market, in addition to the traits
considered for Indian market, a geneticist has to give more emphasis on traits like carcass
yield, breast meat yield, fat percentage etc. Besides, he has to consider certain other traits like
plant condemnation, feather covering, meat color and texture etc.

   It does not take much knowledge of selection to realize that, as the number of traits
considered in a selection program increases, realized genetic gain per trait decreases. It is
seen that most of the high breast meat yield brands have relatively inferior egg production
and /or hatchability.
  The geneticist incharge of a breeding program in India has to keep in mind the variables
that affect the cost of production of one-day-old chick, as well as one kg of live broiler.
Major factors that affect the cost of production are:

a)     For one kg live broiler

1.     Age to reach market weight
2.     Feed conversion ratio
3.     Livability

b)     For one-day old chick

1.     Hen housed egg production
2.     Feed per egg
3.     Hatchability

    It is well known that there is a negative genetic correlation between the broiler traits that
are of interest to the broiler producer and the reproductive traits in which the hatcheryman is
interested. The decision of the broiler producer as to which brand of day-old broiler chick he
should buy, is not only governed by the price of day-old chick, but also by its expected
performance as broiler. Hence, he would choose a brand that produces for him one kg of live
weight at least cost. It is possible to increase the number of day-old chicks per parent housed
at the cost of broiler traits or improve broiler traits at the cost of breeder traits. But, in a
competitive market like India, where all major brands bred in other parts of the world are
available, a geneticist can not afford to be inferior in the broiler traits that are relevant to
Indian market and yet, he should have best breeder performance so that the hatchery/breeder
owner buys his product. The product to be marketed in India must be well balanced. It should
excel in both the broiler and breeder traits. In breeding business, it is not enough to be just
good. One has to be better than his competitor. It is like a race where everybody is running,
one has to run a step faster than his competitor to be the champion. Every breeder makes
genetic gain, the important point here is that one makes more genetic gain than competitor,
and that too, not at the cost of some other trait. Breeding in Indian environment and for the
Indian market requirement helps in achieving better performance in the traits that are relevant
for Indian market.

   However, if all the products in the market originate from the breeding program conducted
in Western countries in their environment and according to their market requirements, one
would not be able to realize that there could be a better performance if the breeding program
is located in the local area and directed according to the local market requirements. This has
been amply seen in India, where indigenous breeding was started two decades ago. In the
random sample tests conducted by the Government of India, the indigenously bred broilers, in
general, have out performed those based on imported GP’s in broiler traits (Table 2). This
author has conducted a number of in-house tests and monitored the performance of the
various broiler breeds, both indigenous and imported GP based. In these tests also, the
indigenously bred birds have mostly out performed the imported ones. There is no official
test available on broiler breeder performance, but from the records available with the author,
supplied by various hatcheries in India, and the author’s own in-house tests, it is seen that
indigenously bred broiler breeders, in general, lay more eggs and even have better
hatchability than those breeders produced from imported GP stocks. The superior
performance of indigenously bred broiler breeds is further proved from the fact that over 80%
market share of 800 million broiler market of India is enjoyed by these breeders, inspite of
four major imported GP based breeds available in the country. In layers also, the indigenously
bred breeds have 90% share of the Indian market, inspite of some major international GP
based brands marketed in India. The results of random sample tests and the market share of
indigenously bred breeds, both broilers and layers, clearly show that breeding for a given
market area is more advantageous, provided the market size is big enough to support a
reasonably large size breeding program.


   From the above discussions, it can be easily said that a given breeding program could
produce the most profitable product for a given area, if

A)     It is carried out in the environment and husbandry practices in which the final
       products (broiler and breeders) have to perform,

B)     The economic weightage attached to different traits in a breeding program are in tune
       with the market requirements of the area in which the product is to be marketed,

C)     A full scale breeding program is under taken, as there are no shortcuts in commercial
       poultry breeding.
TABLE 2. Performance of different breeds in Random Sample Broiler
Tests conducted by Government of India

Year           Entry             Body Weight     Mort.    Feed conversion   Margin Over
                                                 Upto          ratio        Feed
                                                                            Cost (Rs)
                                6 wk     7 wk     7 wk     6 wk     7 wk     6 wk   7 wk

1994   Indigenous (Vencobb)     1.620    1.865     3.2     1.867    2.248   30.40   30.93
       Indigenous (Starbro)     1.638    1.943     9.6     1.967    2.196   29.63   32.80
       Imported (Hubbard)       1.478    1.717     3.6     1.907    2.262   27.33   28.32

1996   Indigenous (Anak)        1.795    2.125     8.0     1.90     2.09    25.01   27.03
       Imported (Avian)         1.700    1.995     6.3     1.97     2.21    23.83   24.78

1996   Indigenous (Vencobb)     1.656    2.182     1.2     1.998    2.052   33.35   43.49
       Indigenous (Anak)        1.725    2.125     2.8     1.906    2.095   36.00   41.64
       Indigenous (Anak)        1.631    2.057     4.0     2.033    2.143   32.39   39.51
       Imported (Arbor Acre)    1.629    2.000     1.2     2.010    2.188   31.48   36.54
       Imported (Avian)         1.630    1.995     2.4     1.872    2.077   34.46   39.38
       Imported (Arbor Acre )   1.742    1.984     2.8     1.838    2.171   37.29   37.68

1998   Indigenous (Vencobb)     1.798    2.352     0.8     1.799    1.904   44.21   55.60
       Imported (Arbor Acre )   1.407    1.980     1.2     2.057    2.033   31.62   44.58
       Imported (Arbor Acre )   1.504    2.014     1.6     1.987    2.066   34.72   44.77

1999   Indigenous (Vencobb)     1.850    2.205     1.6     1.741    1.889   44.77   55.90
       Imported (Hybro)         1.552    1.859     1.2     2.126    2.265   31.78   36.25

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