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Published on Dec. 30, 2020

Hendrix Genetics is supporting HenTrack

We are pleased to announce that Hendrix Genetics Layers will support HenTrack, an innovative research project led by Dr. Michael Toscano, the Group Leader of the Center of proper Housing of Poultry and Rabbits (ZTHZ). HenTrack will focus on improving the breeding of laying hens by using innovative tracking and data analysis strategies. Breeding for improved animal welfare whilst improving sustainable egg production at the same time!

The project, referred to as HenTrack, will utilize 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 behavioral patterns of individual laying hens that nonetheless are very different between hens (see here). Most critically, the patterns appear to be linked to basic biological processes (e.g., the epigenome, see here) and associate with conditions relevant to animal welfare (e.g. bone injury, see here). 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 (the wintergarden and range). 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 our own team of laying hen geneticists, in small family groups and more focused observations. The effort will yield laying hens that perform well in all housing conditions, including barn and cage-free like those more and more typical of European and North American egg producers. The current focus will be on the Dekalb White laying hens, one of our breeds of laying hens that is quickly gaining market share across the globe, especially in markets that are moving away from cage housing, as the Dekalb White laying hens are recognized for their docile behavior, and premium performance in cage-free housing systems. The research team hopes that this effort will expand to other breeds and future breeding efforts. During the past decade we have established a strong research collaboration with Dr. Toscano and his experienced and motivated team at the ZTHZ and we are looking forward to collaborate on this HenTrack project together.

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'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'.

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Jeroen Visscher
Director Research and Development Hendrix Genetics Layers

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