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Evaluation of Growth Rate, Body Weight, Heart Rate, and Blood Parameters as Potential Indicators for Selection Against Susceptibility to the Ascites Syndrome in Young Broilers

Druyan, S., Shlosberg, A., Cahaner, A.
Poultry science 2007 v.86 no.4 pp. 621-629
heart rate, animal growth, blood gases, broiler breeders, body weight, ascites, biomarkers, genetic correlation, poultry diseases, hematocrit, hemoglobin, liveweight gain, heritability, selection criteria, artificial selection
The continuous selection for rapid growth has been accompanied by an increasing occurrence of ascites syndrome (AS), which develops in broilers failing to supply the increasing demand for O2 in their bodies. Moderate heritability has been reported for AS in broiler populations, suggesting that selection against AS is feasible. However, direct selection based on AS mortality requires exposure of candidate birds to AS-inducing conditions (AIC), which hinder selection for performance traits. Noninvasive indicators of AS, expressed under standard husbandry, may facilitate the integration of selection against AS into breeding programs. This study was designed to look for differences in heart rate, hematocrit, O2 saturation of hemoglobin in arterial blood (SaO2), BW, and weight gain, all measured at early ages under standard brooding conditions, between birds that later developed AS and those that remained healthy under AIC, and to estimate the heritability of these AS-related parameters and their genetic correlation with the tendency of broilers to develop AS. The experimental population was derived from a broiler dam line. Male progeny of 34 half-sib sire families were reared under standard brooding conditions to 19 d of age, then under an AIC protocol consisting of housing in individual cages, cool air high-speed ventilation, and growth enhancement using high-energy pelleted feed and 23 h/d of light. Birds were necropsied upon mortality or at the end of the trials and were recorded as being susceptible, with manifestations of AS (SUS), or resistant and healthy (RES). About 44% developed AS, confirming the efficacy of the novel AIC protocol. The SUS and RES chicks did not differ in BW and weight gain up to 19 d of age, suggesting that there was no association between AS susceptibility and rapid early growth. The SUS chicks exhibited lower SaO2 and heart rate than the RES chicks. Moderate heritability was estimated for all traits, but only SaO2 exhibited consistently significant genetic correlation (-0.5) with AS, suggesting that it may serve as an early indicator for selection against AS, albeit with a limited efficacy.