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Growth Rate of Ascites-Resistant Versus Ascites-Susceptible Broilers in Commercial and Experimental Lines

Druyan, S., Hadad, Y., Cahaner, A.
Poultry science 2008 v.87 no.5 pp. 904-911
broiler chickens, genetic merit, animal growth, breed differences, oxygen requirement, ascites, genetic correlation, oxygen consumption, health status, liveweight gain, disease resistance, breeding lines, disease incidence
The high growth rate (GR) of contemporary broilers is driven by high rate of feed intake and metabolism. Because of the consequent high oxygen demand, especially when coupled with exposure to high altitude or low temperatures, some broilers fail to regulate oxygen supply and develop the ascites syndrome (AS), which leads to mortality and economic losses. Because of the association between high GR, oxygen demand, and AS, it has been suggested that AS is induced by high GR. If true, further GR enhancement should be avoided because it will increase the proportion of AS-susceptible individuals in contemporary stocks. An alternative hypothesis claims that AS is associated with high actual GR only because the latter increases oxygen demand and that there are genetically AS-resistant broilers that do not develop AS, even when exhibiting high GR. These hypotheses were tested in trials in the years 2002 and 2006, with broilers differing in potential GR: contemporary fast-growing commercial lines and an experimental line derived from commercial broilers in 1986, and (in 2002 only) divergently selected AS-susceptible and AS-resistant lines. A protocol of high-challenge ascites-inducing conditions (AIC) from d 19 was used to distinguish between AS-susceptible and AS-resistant individuals and to determine their GR up to this age. The difference in AS incidence between the divergent lines (93.9 vs. 9.5%) was not explained by the 5% difference in their GR, thus indicating a lack of genetic correlation. In the broiler lines, AS incidence was 31 and 47% in 2002 and 2006, respectively, and 32% in the 1986 slow-growing line. Most broilers that remained healthy under the high-challenge AIC exhibited the same early GR and BW as those that later developed AS. These results, and the relatively high incidence of AS in the slow-growing line, indicate that there is very little, if any, direct genetic association between AS and genetic differences in potential GR, and suggest that AS-resistant broilers can be selected for higher GR and remain healthy even under AIC.