Breeding for resilience in poultry: dual purpose chickens
Resilience is the capacity of an animal to be minimally affected by external or internal negative agents or to rapidly recover from it. By choosing a more resilient breed of poultry, farmers can also reduce antimicrobial usage, obtaining both healthy and easier-to-manage flocks.
Improvement of resilience can be accomplished by different strategies. One strategy is to increase resilience by genetic selection in breeding programs. The advantage of genetic selection, in contrast to management improvements, is that it can be a longer-lasting solution. Furthermore, it can be done through adequate resilience-improving breeding programs. For example, dual-purpose breeds or local (traditional) breeds have shown to be more resilient than more conventional breeds.
Dual-purpose chickens can be used for the production of eggs and the cockerels for meat production, and like local (traditional) breeds they may be less susceptible to clinical disease and may recover from illness faster. On the production side, it is true that dual-purpose chickens tend to lay fewer eggs per year than the highly-selected breeds. However, there seems to be an increasing number of initiatives, including organic production, which allow farmers to market these differentiated quality products and provide them with added value.
In conclusion, choosing the right breed for resilience is a matter of good research and the choice should be fit for the particular production system. Nevertheless, it must be also considered that indicators for general resilience for poultry have not yet been defined clearly by researchers.