S1020: Enhancing Reproductive Efficiency of Poultry (S285)
Statement of Issues and JustificationThe emergence of the US poultry industry during the last half of the 20th century depended upon the following variables: animals characterized by high fecundity, increased performance gained by genetic selection, effective disease prevention, availability of cost-effective feedstuffs, as well as technical advances affecting egg incubation, processing plant operation, and cold storage. Likewise, the success of the US poultry industry is affected by consumer behavior, which in turn is affected by factors such as product cost, health awareness, product diversity, and changing preferences. Most recently, the US poultry industry has become part of a global agribusiness. In summary, the vitality of the contemporary US poultry industry is a function of multiple factors, and many of these are not technical in nature. Nonetheless, applied science has shown remarkable results. Perhaps the best illustration of this assertion is commercial poultry breeding as practiced over the course of decades. The outcome has been enhanced meat production in record time with improved feed efficiency and greater product uniformity. And yet, this success story is not without problems. For example, the genetic gain realized in turkey growth and body conformation inadvertently resulted in birds that do not mate effectively. This problem has been overcome by use of artificial insemination. Reproductive efficiency in meat-type chickens has also declined as advances in growth have been realized. However, in this case, the setback has not been overcome by application of a simple technology. In fact, this possibility seems unlikely as compromised reproductive efficiency in meat-type chickens appears to stem from a combination of factors that affect gamete production as well as behavior.
As implied above, a commercial poultry industry could never have developed apart from species that produce numerous offspring. Consequently, even though the past and present success of the US poultry industry depends upon many variables, reproduction remains foundational. However, as explained above, genetic selection for growth has compromised reproduction. The proposed project will build upon the success of a previous regional project directed solely at enhancing the reproductive efficiency of turkeys. A change in scope was necessary for several reasons. First, the number of US poultry scientists with expertise in reproduction has declined in the past decade. This is particularly true for those who work with turkeys. Second, the completion of the chicken genome project affords an unprecedented opportunity to understand reproduction at its most fundamental level: the gene. Nonetheless, though dependent upon genes, reproduction is a process. The collective expertise of scientists involved in this project should facilitate understanding reproductive processes, e.g. photoperiodism, gamete production, or sperm cell function, in terms of the genes that underlie these processes. The third reason a change in scope was warranted is because chicken is the primary type of poultry meat consumed within the US. A multistate effort is warranted for the purpose of synergy. It is noteworthy that not a single person within this group has a perspective or expertise equivalent to that of the group. This is highly significant because the collective expertise includes knowledge of state-of-the-art research methods, the structure and dynamics of both the primary and secondary breeder industries within the US, the value of technology transfer, and the operation and impact of the US Extension Service. Thus, the collective impact will necessarily be greater than that of any individual. It should also be noted that this group is primarily composed of senior scientists who have an established track record of collaboration, which includes publication of peer-reviewed research, grant writing, and development of novel research tools. In summary, the proposed project affords a powerful assembly of expertise that addresses a fundamental and pressing problem in a major US agribusiness.
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