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Genetic parameters of ascites-related traits in broilers: correlations with feed efficiency and carcase traits

Pakdel, A., Arendonk, J.A.M. van., Vereijken, A.L.J., Bovenhuis, H.
British poultry science 2005 v.46 no.1 pp. 43-53
broiler chickens, poultry diseases, ascites, animal genetics, cold stress, stress tolerance, feed conversion, genetic correlation, carcass characteristics, genotype-environment interaction, heritability, phenotype, heart ventricle, body weight, disease resistance, disease severity, growth traits, selection criteria
1. Pulmonary hypertension syndrome followed by ascites is a metabolic disorder in broilers that occurs more often in fast-growing birds and at cool temperatures. 2. Knowledge of the genetic relationships among ascites-related traits and performance traits like carcase traits or feed efficiency traits is required to design breeding programmes that aim to improve the degree of resistance to ascites syndrome as well as production traits. The objective of this study was to estimate these genetic correlations. 3. Three different experiments were set up to measure ascites-related traits (4202 birds), feed efficiency traits (2166 birds) and carcase traits (2036 birds). The birds in different experiments originated from the same group of parents, which enabled the estimation of genetic correlations among different traits. 4. The genetic correlation of body weight (BW) measured under normal conditions and in the carcase experiment with the ascites indicator trait of right ventricle to total ventricle ratio (RV:TV) measured under cold conditions was 0.30. The estimated genetic correlation indicated that single-trait selecting for BW leads to an increase in occurrence of the ascites syndrome but that there are realistic opportunities of multi-trait selection of birds for improved BW and resistance to ascites. 5. Weak but positive genetic relationships were found between feed efficiency and ascites-related traits suggesting that more efficient birds tend to be slightly more susceptible to ascites. 6. The relatively low genetic correlation between BW measured in the carcase or in the feed efficiency experiments and BW measured in the ascites experiment (0.49) showed considerable genotype by environment interaction. These results indicate that birds with high genetic potential for growth rate under normal temperature conditions have lower growth rate under cold-stress conditions due to ascites.