Originally Posted by gjensen
I think we get off track when we discuss the production characteristics of pure breeds. We tend to withdraw to one side or the other and throw rocks, figuratively speaking.
It is a simple matter of economics. These birds were replaced by better performing and more efficient birds. It is that simple. All of our pure breeds were. They were left behind even when they were at their highest possible point concerning production.
The laying trials mentioned here taught us a lot concerning production genetics and methods etc. It is true that some specialized strains were developed to perform admirably well. These dual purpose birds ran into a dead end though. They were too large too be as efficient as the lighter layers that ate less, and produced as much or more. At the same time they were smaller than their counterparts, and not particularly good dual purpose birds.
These guys doing these selections had the resources and facilities to trap nest, raise thousands of birds, test a lot of males every year, and keep extensive records. No hobbyist could do that, less they are quite wealthy, and do not have to work. There is no profit in it now.
The golden years of pure breed production is gone. The commercial sector that selected these high achieving birds moved on to more efficient birds. It was never hobbyists that achieved these kinds of success. It takes too much.
Now these breeds are in the hands of hobbyists. The commercial sector has no interest in them. As hobbyist or hobby farmers or small farmers, we have to decide what we want in our birds. They are a belonging of ours and we do as we please. The genetic resources are still there to find or create a strain that more closely fits our personal ideals. If someone does not like the exhibition circle, which I have a hard time understanding, those birds are at least a genetic resource. A resource that would not be there if that hobby did not exist.
Heck the hatcheries can be a genetic resource, and for many breeds . . .they might not be here if not for the hatcheries. The hatcheries are not all bad either. Though I will add that many of the birds sold as one breed or another are hardly that breed at all anymore.
I get the disappointment in that many of the breeds we admire are not as productive as they should be. It is just not anyone's fault. There is no one to blame. If you do not use it, you lose it. And then it makes no economic sense to get to a large enough scale to get them to the extreme numbers again. If that made economic sense, and as motivating a money is, it would be getting done. Then you still are taking away the dual purpose qualities of the larger breeds to do it. It is an inevitable result of developing laying strains.
If someone is interested in developing a strain to be whatever it is they want it to be, then go for it. It would be a life long challenge, and maybe a rewarding challenge.
I cannot help but notice that most of the complaining and pointing fingers is by those that are doing nothing. I hear this and that, and see no proof of it. Then I hear some of the exhibition breeders say their birds lay these numbers or this, and a lot of times they are full of it. Sometimes not of course. Very few people track their egg numbers, and most think their birds lay more than they really do.
If a large dual purpose strain is laying 200-220 large and extra large eggs per year . . . they are doing pretty darn good. Especially that they are not in the controlled settings that would be had in a commercial flock or when they were doing those laying trials. You can tease a few more eggs from any strain by manipulating the environment. By them living through the absence of cold snaps and artificial day lengths, etc. . . . there is a measurable difference.
Egg size matters to. 200 extra large eggs is not as far off 240 medium large to large eggs as it would seam. I think that especially matters with large dual purpose birds. For me nothing is worse than a 7 - 7.5 lb hen that lays medium sized eggs. It bugs me.
So maybe I am in the middle. I want to breed my birds to a standard and preserve or improve breed character, but I desire to see them perform relatively well. I guess for me at this point, I am looking at the whole bird. I am not necessarily blinded by a single point or another. There is a lot to consider when the whole bird is considered.
I do care about longevity, breed type, color (I like nice birds), breed character, fertility, hatchability, vigor, production etc.
There are 3 or 4 points that could be improved to dramatically change the production status of the better examples of the pure breeds. Point of lay is a killer for a lot of them. With no selection we have many supposed to be production breeds that start laying at 32 weeks instead of the 24 that they should. That is 8wks of lost production in the pullet year. That is a lot of eggs. Another is when they molt, how fast they molt, and how quick they are to return laying after a molt. You can tease out another month's worth of eggs from these birds. Then egg size, and I will not repeat that. Also many of these lines are line bred as they should to make improvements and fix improvements. A simple outcross to a related strain can make a big difference.
If someone took a well bred strain and did nothing but improve on these points while they maintained quality, they could turn a 160 egg per year strain into 200-220 egg strain. This is a big project on its own. Getting passed that requires a large scale effort.
Personally I am thankful that are well bred birds to access to have the opportunity to work with.
If I was solely interested in developing an egg laying breed or strain, I would use the commercial hybrids as a genetic resource. We have access to genetics that were never accessible before. There is a lot around to work with. Could be worse and have nothing to work with.
The opportunities to work on a variety of projects is there. My main project now is Catalanas, and fortunately they produce pretty well already. We do count eggs, but I do not have a good feel for each individual. Because my boys help me keep track, etc. We can make mistakes. So my numbers are not scientific. The hens probably average between 200-220 eggs. More on the higher side. One hen in particular is more around the 240-250 range.
I have not had them long enough to really make any bold statements. It is just a trend that I am seeing. I am also not running lights on them, and I am getting some weird molting this winter. I do not know what to make of that yet. After another year, I will be able to provide more than an educated guess.
What encourages me is that I am starting in a pretty good place. If they are at 200-220 for the average bird, and an example or two that I higher . . . then if I can improve by 20 more in a few years . . .I would be happy with a 240 egg average from thee birds.
This is a long rambling post, but this is an interesting topic for me. With the variety of resources, we can enjoy a variety of projects. I would like to here and see numbers and results. Things people do and have done. Successes and failures. We have a hard time getting passed opinions. I do not care what the project is or what is started with. The challenge, the genetics, and the methods interest me. Whether it be hybrids, hatchery birds, standard bred birds, bantams etc . . . I do not care. I like them all.