|Genetics and incubation|
50th Anniversary of Zootecnica International
Genetics and incubation
The history of chickens and laying hens is lost in the mists of time. Even the ancient Romans were involved in crossing breeds and talked about incubating eggs. We can be sure to find the term 'poultry' in the dictionaries published in the early decades of the last century.
The Americans followed by the Dutch were the first to embrace the concept of poultry as an industry. In the 1950's poultry rearing began to be seen by them as a 'stand alone' activity and not just an adjunct to general farming.
The history of poultry breeding and selection is fascinating and rich with anecdotes regarding genetics and those involved as they strove to bring eggs and poultry meat to the table of the masses. In the late 50's the average per capita consumption of chicken and turkey meat was below 2 kilos. As we know for many years consumption has increased more than tenfold.
The factors that have contributed to this growth in the poultry industry are primarily the reduction in the growing cycle, rapid evolution in the field of genetics, incubation, feeding, veterinary science and overall technological advancement.
Genetics has been at the forefront of this rapid evolution being the point of reference for quantifying potential improvements. In the 1950's it took 12 weeks for a chicken to reach slaughter weight whereas today this weight is achieved in less than 6 weeks.
The history of poultry genetics is primarily a story involving individual families in Holland and the United States which in the 1940's could be numbered in the hundreds. In the 70's the primary breeding companies with worldwide distribution stood at twenty whereas today poultry genetics rest in the hands of only 3 companies (one German, one Dutch, one French).
Closely related to genetics, incubation systems are also of fundamental importance for the future of poultry breeding. Equally the history of incubation like that of genetics has been a very interesting one and their evolution could be classed as amazing.
The first incubators were made of wood and if one was to display them alongside today's fully computerized models it would be like comparing the motor cars of the early 1900's with one of the latest Formula 1 racing cars.
Zootecnica International is pleased to recall its 50th Anniversary by offering readers historical information from those companies who have over the years contributed to the evolution of the poultry industry. This history is not only significant when seen from a technical viewpoint but also of equal importance from a human and social aspect.
There can be no auspicious future unless there are historical roots.