It was a few years ago when the egg sector first heard about the mission of ISA – the Layer Business Unit of Hendrix Genetics – “Breeding layers capable of producing 500 first quality eggs by 2020.” Only five years from the announced date, field results from commercial layer farms show that goal has been met. Some flock performances are already reaching that target.
Hendrix Genetics layers are widely-recognized for their excellent persistency. This is especially remarkable in Dekalb White birds: achieving peaks of 97% is not exceptional, production often remains above 90% for more than 45 weeks; there are flocks laying at 93% at 70 weeks of age. Total egg number per hen housed can easily exceed standards by 20 eggs at 90 weeks of age, with 27 kg of egg-mass produced, accounting for an egg output of almost 16 times the hen body weight. Around 2020 the Dekalb parent stock will produce about 120 day old chicks and the commercial layers will produce about 500 first quality eggs in a production cycle of 100 weeks without molting. There are already flocks who reach 500 eggs in aviary systems.
Genetics has a significant impact on achieving these levels of performance, but management, nutrition and flock health are also important in allowing birds to express the maximum of their genetic potential.
Key points for reaching these good results include an excellent rearing period, focused on attaining strong, early growth to ensure later egg production and shell quality; and obtaining a pullet flock uniformity of 85% at 16 weeks of age.
After transfer, the period until 35 weeks of age is also of utmost importance in securing optimum performance: achieving quick, steady growth until adult body weight is reached, leading to robustness and improved ability to cope with eventual stress and challenges.
Nutrition also plays a major role in obtaining these impressive figures, not only in total egg number per hen housed, but also in egg mass and feed conversion rate. Diets that are properly adjusted to observed feed intake should be used, paying special attention to mineral (Ca/P) content to maximize first quality eggs and ensure skeletal integrity: total eggshell weight produced by one hen in a 90 weeks cycle exceeds 1.7 times its own body weight. Amino acid levels adapted to produce egg-mass are essential to avoiding the risk of mild deficiencies that can decrease egg size or sometimes negatively affect feather cover in highly productive flocks.
Feedback from the field shows that the breeding program of Hendrix Genetics is a success for longer production cycles and efficient layers, providing suitable housing, health conditions, management and nutrition for egg producers.