Hendrix Genetics Layers is supporting a new research project focussed on improving the breeding of laying hens. HenTrack is a research project led by D. Michael Toscano, the Group Leader of the Center of proper Housing of Poultry and Rabbits (ZTHZ) in Switzerland.
HenTrack will focus on improving the breeding of laying hens by using innovative tracking and data analysis strategies.
The HenTrack project will utilise the large-scale research facilities at The Aviforum in Zollikofen, Switzerland to conduct detailed, continuous observations of individual laying hens over the entire laying period. The ZTHZ has previously shown highly consistent behavioural patterns of individual laying hens.
Data generated by HenTrack will include information on how animals acclimate to standard commercial stressors such as dietary changes and vaccinations, as well as variation in use of their environment, including access to outdoor areas. Information collected at the Aviforum, using large groups, each consisting of 225 laying hens within a commercial aviary housing system, will be combined with traditional breeding evaluations conducted by a team of laying hen geneticists, in small family groups and more focused observations.
The current focus will be on the Dekalb White laying hens, a breed that is quickly gaining market share in markets that are moving away from caged housing, as the Dekalb White laying hens are recognised for their docile behaviour and performance in cage-free housing systems. The research team hopes that this effort will expand to other breeds and future breeding efforts.
“The HenTrack effort will make a remarkable difference in how we breed our animals in the near future, leading to improved animal welfare, healthier birds, and increased sustainability,” said Jeroen Visscher, Director Research and Development Hendrix Genetics Layers.