MAY 17 – 18, 2016 AT POLAR, MEDIA PLAZA, JAARBEURS UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS
Poultry Summit Europe 2016
The possible origin of stress susceptibility in commercial poultry
By Challenge Chief Maarten Th. Frankenhuis DVM PhD
The red junglefowl (Gallus gallus), native to Southern Asia, is thought to be ancestral to the domestic chicken, with some hybridization with the grey junglefowl. The red junglefowl was first domesticated at least five thousand years ago and is now globally kept as a very productive food source of both meat and eggs. In the wild the red junglefowl is confronted with numerous stressors like temperature fluctuations, predators, hunting, human disturbance, parasites, shortage of food etc.
It may therefore be expected that in its original habitat, during its evolutionary past, the species was adapted to various stressors.
For a potential prey like the red junglefowl, a matching stress response is a prerequisite for a proper answer to sudden changes in the environment or life-threatening events. As an animal interacts with its environment, it invariably encounters stressful conditions such as extreme temperatures, drought, UV exposure and harmful xenobiotics. During the domestication process it may be expected that the birds that were the least stress-susceptible and the most tame were used for breeding the next generation.
During the millennia following early domestication, birds were selected on production parameters not important to survival in the wild. The domesticated birds were kept in husbandry conditions that were absolutely less stressful than living in the wild: no predators, low density of birds, adequate food and water supply, and opportunities to display natural behaviour like dustbathing, scratching, mating, etc. But in the last century domesticated poultry were suddenly confronted with many new stressors; birds were kept in high densities in large flocks with little elbow-room in unnatural housing systems. New pathogens emerged and birds often suffered from too high temperatures. Also, the one-sided selection on production parameters such as growth rate, feed conversion rate, egg production and egg quality, percentage breast meat, etc., must have caused an inadequate response to stressors that used to be important for survival in the wild.
Summarizing: it may be expected that millennia of selection and extensive poultry production in relative safe conditions in the course of the domestication process resulted in increased stress susceptibility, a condition that now has deleterious effects on modern poultry that suddenly and unpreparedly had to deal with numerous new stressors.
Maarten Th. Frankenhuis DVM PhD is one of the challenge chiefs at Poultry Summit Europe. Join him at this conference-only VIV event, focussing on the theme “A world without antibiotics?”. Apply to be a delegate by filling out the form below.
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