Duck genetics: a road towards new selection criteria?

Similar to others species, breeding goals for ducks have primarily focused on production traits like growth, feeding efficiency, specific muscle weight or laying performance.

But professionals’ demands in this sector also include the potential for improved characteristics relating to animal behaviour, such as reduced brooding, nervousness, pecking, aggressiveness, or wing flapping during the fattening phase for mule duck.

Up until now these traits were overlooked by breeders because they were too difficult to objectively measure throughout an individual’s life using traditional techniques.

In direct connection with the ever-decreasing size and cost of electronic components, Grimaud Frères Sélection, a longstanding actor in the sector, has launched an innovative research program taking these new expectations into account.

The company has implemented indoor geolocalisation technology in its Muscovy and Pekin duck pure lines livestock buildings.

Each subject is outfitted with an “active” sensor that emits a radio signal at regular intervals. This signal is then received by several antennas arranged around the building, which allows the position of the sensor to be found in the facilities. It is accurate to within around thirty centimeters.

The amount of positional information gathered provides unprecedented opportunities in establishing new selection criteria:

  • The daily distance travelled by a subject The time by day spent to the feeders and drinkers
  • The number of “back and forths”
  • The number of dyadic interactions for each ducks
  • Sudden accelerations

All of these criteria are now integrated into all Grimaud Frères Sélection’s breeding programs for pure line. The aim of these new traits is to establish more or less direct links with the behavior traits that clients would like to correct (aggressiveness, nervousness), maintain (mobility), or improve (docility).

These ongoing innovations demonstrate that research towards improved livestock comfort and animal welfare is changing the landscape with regard to what is traditionally considered “performance”, even at the genetic level.

Guillaume Le Mignon

Poultry Selection and Research Manager, Grimaud Frères

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