Bad Genetics?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by aggieterpkatie, Jun 2, 2010.

  1. aggieterpkatie

    aggieterpkatie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here is an exerpt from Robert Plamondon's Poultry and Rural Living Newsletter dated May 17, 2010.

    I thought it was interesting, and I thought I'd share in case you haven't read it. THere are always debates on this forum about cornish x vs. FR and other meat breeds. Much of it is geared towards layers, but the concepts are the same for meat breeds.

    Bad Genetics?
    When we started out with grass-fed eggs, we bought into the idea that modern hybrids were no good for free-range production – old-fashioned breeds would work better under old-fashioned conditions, and hybrids were only good for confinement; they'd been ruined for anything else.

    Then we got a bunch of chickens from Oregon State University. Some of them were New Hampshire Reds, from a strain that had been used primarily for egg production through the Seventies. The rest were commercial White Leghorns – modern hybrids. All were kept under the same conditions on the same pasture. Let the side-by-side testing begin!

    As it turned out, the White Leghorns laid rings around the New Hampshire Reds. They laid better in the summer. They laid better in the winter. They laid better when young. They laid better when old. And their eggs tasted just as good.

    Later we tried many, many other breeds, and the results were always the same: modern hybrids are better, even under seriously old-fashioned conditions like ours. Far from being tainted by the needs of commercial confinement, the modern hybrids are ideal for free-range flocks.

    The same is true of meat birds, only more so. When we were getting started, there were a lot of claims that hybrid broilers were basically impossible to raise to slaughter age – they'd been ruined by the confinement guys and just keeled over and died if you looked at them funny. “Bad genetics,” they said.

    After a while, we figured out that a lot of the “bad genetics” looked a lot like chilling in the brooder house, or coccidiosis, or heat prostration. (These are issues we saw ourselves; other farmers added “bad genetics that look like malnutrition” to the list). But we discovered an amazing thing – if we took steps against coccidiosis, for example, all the cases of “bad genetics that look like coccidiosis” vanished!

    (The trick with chickens in general, and broilers in particular, is to do an excellent job in the brooder house. I wrote my book, Success With Baby Chicks, to make this easy for you.)

    So why all the talk about bad genetics? It comes down to “blame the victim.” There's a belief that everything that's done on factory farms is wrong. If such farms use White Leghorns, then White Leghorns must be bad. One might just as easily conclude that, since factory farmers breathe oxygen, oxygen must be bad! You can see how beliefs like this will give you a self-imposed learning disability.

    A practical person would find out what the conventional farmers do, and adopt their better practices and ignore the impractical ones. The snag is that alternative farming has a strong appeal to impractical people. Worse, much of what is written about it is dumbed down for an audience of consumers, and is about as useful as a guide to farming as a Little Golden Book. And it promotes a black-and-white, us-versus-them, good-versus-evil mindset, where the very concept that you could learn something from a conventional farmer is met with gasps of horror. Pretty sad, really. If you're wise, you'll learn from anybody. You can't help it!

    As it turns out, White Leghorns have always been considered to be an excellent free-range chicken, as well as doing unusually well in confinement. Milo Hastings discussed this in The Dollar Hen a hundred years ago. The idea that brown-egg birds do better under farm conditions is a superstition.

    Fortunately, we never believed that “tainted genes” stuff, and when we went down a politically correct rathole, we usually emerged pretty quickly. But there are plenty of people who are still struggling with these unhelpful beliefs.

    Speaking of genes, it turns out that genetics are not quite so cut-and-dried as they seem, especially for humans. While on the one hand, you can claim that the differences between a human and a chicken are genetic differences, on the other hand, even identical twins, with identical genes, aren't all that identical. They become more and more different over time. If this is true of identical twins, imagine how different we can be from our parents! Not only lifestyle, but attitude has a huge effect on whether our good genes do us any good our our bad genes do us any harm, and over time, the cumulative effect is enormous. So if you've been glooming and dooming about problems that run in your family, stop right now! It's probably more under your control than you think. Most things are.​
     
  2. uhuh555

    uhuh555 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve been saying that for years. Our Cornish x (3000 to 6000 per year) total losses over the past 5 years is lower than some on this forum have with 100 birds. This is due to proper nutrition; brooder conditions to include moisture, air circulation and temperature control the first 3 weeks of their lives. It's the same with our turkeys.

    So many try to get by with cheap; this is great if it doesn't come with losses due to death, reduced weights or excessive feed consumption which leads to higher feed costs. Small steps in the begining will build a good foundation which to build on.

    In short, seek solutions instead of placing blame.

    Thank you for posting this.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2010
  3. Bossroo

    Bossroo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    AMEN !!! and thank you for posting this newsletter. Our environment is changing everyday... those that don't think and then adapt are the biggest naysayers to anything new. In Nature any animal and species that doesn't adapt to any change in it's environment dies from starvation or predation and eventually goes extinct.
     
  4. Red Maple Farms

    Red Maple Farms Wish Granted

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    I must be ignorant. I thought people were objecting to the battery cage farming techniques used with leghorns rather than the leghorns themselves.
     
  5. ChikeeMomma

    ChikeeMomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 29, 2009
    Mid Michigan
    Agreed -- I love me some Cornish Xs! And my Isa Browns (also, a layer hybrid, right?) are wonderful free rangers and great egg producers.
     
  6. Buster52

    Buster52 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:What a wonderfully ironic post.

    On the newsletter opinion piece in the OP...

    It is merely a series of straw men erected by the author for the sake of knocking them down in order to win an argument with nobody. There have been better thought out arguments here on both sides of the issue than those contained in this "article".
     
  7. aggieterpkatie

    aggieterpkatie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:What a wonderfully ironic post.

    On the newsletter opinion piece in the OP...

    It is merely a series of straw men erected by the author for the sake of knocking them down in order to win an argument with nobody. There have been better thought out arguments here on both sides of the issue than those contained in this "article".

    It's an opinion based newsletter. It's not a journal publication. [​IMG]
     
  8. KatyTheChickenLady

    KatyTheChickenLady Bird of A Different Feather

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    I agree with the writers opinions whole heartedly.
     
  9. dancingbear

    dancingbear Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't recall anybody saying leghorns or any other layer breed wouldn't be a good free-range bird. I do recall many who say they aren't a good dual-purpose bird. I agree with Red Maple, it's not the breeds, but the methods, that most people object to.

    The goal of most alternative methods of farming, whether it has to do with animals or plant crops, is seldom to get off cheap. It's almost always to produce food sustainably.

    Leghorns and many high production egg layer breeds are perfectly sustainable. They breed true, (Leghons are a heritage breed, BTW, not a hybrid) they're healthy, they can forage, not a thing wrong with them. You can also keep them a good deal longer than commercial egg outfits keep them, if you don't mind a slow down for molting once a year. There are even those who prefer leghorn roos for fryers. If this is what a person wants, I say, good for you, go for it.

    Hybrid layers wouldn't breed true, but since they are so light-weight, generally healthy birds just like Leghorns, I'm sure the resulting offspring would be perfectly good layers, and you could keep a flock going a long, long, time.

    Any flock would need an occasionally infusion of genes from another source, to avoid too much inbreeding. In most locations it wouldn't be terribly hard to find another person with suitable birds you could do some swapping with, from time to time.

    The same is not true of the Cornish X. If you were really careful, and really lucky, you might be able to keep them long enough to reproduce, and keep a strain going for awhile. Several BYCer's have tried this, with varying degrees of success. Some were unable to keep a roo long enough to breed, Most started losing the breeders at less than a year old. Once in a while somebody keeps a hen going for quite awhile, sometimes even a roo. These are not common, but it happens now and then. To do this successfully, you really have to pay attention to what's happening with these birds. Rarely, somebody has one or two that they don't do anything special with, and they seem to do just fine, at least for awhile. I don't know if anybody's kept one longer than 2 years, that's about the limit that I've heard of, most make it less than a year. But again, if this is what a person wants, good for you, go for it.

    With dual-purp breeds, it's not hard at all to raise enough meat, (not the most meat, or the fastest meat, but enough) and get enough eggs, (not necessarily the most eggs a hen could possibly lay on the least possible feed, but plenty, nonetheless) and have birds that free-range, forage well and can reproduce just fine with no assistance or special attention. This is what I prefer.

    I have no problem with anybody else doing something different. I do get tired of being told I'm an idiot (or unable to learn and adapt, I got news for you, I'm one of the most adaptable people you'll ever meet) for not going along with the standard commercial model as practiced by the CAFO's.

    Quote:This statement doesn't even make sense. In a debate about Cornish X vs. FR and other meat birds, why would "much of it be geared toward layers"?

    How can the concepts be the same for broilers and layers? One is sustainable, the other is not. One produces maximum eggs on the least feed possible, is skinny, and will live a long time if allowed to. The other is bred to grow as fast as possible, consuming massive amounts of feed in a very short time, and isn't even expected to survive past about 8 weeks, unless special care (exercise and restricted feed) is used. They aren't supposed to live long enough to breed. What works for leghorns will not work for Cornish X.

    This seems to me to be another case of people assuming something is correct, and is good info, just because it's in print, even if it's a self-published newsletter. Plenty of wrong info makes it into published books, too.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2010
  10. aggieterpkatie

    aggieterpkatie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:This statement doesn't even make sense. In a debate about Cornish X vs. FR and other meat birds, why would "much of it be geared toward layers"?

    How can the concepts be the same for broilers and layers? One is sustainable, the other is not. One produces maximum eggs on the least feed possible, is skinny, and will live a long time if allowed to. The other is bred to grow as fast as possible, consuming massive amounts of feed in a very short time, and isn't even expected to survive past about 8 weeks, unless special care (exercise and restricted feed) is used. They aren't supposed to live long enough to breed. What works for leghorns will not work for Cornish X.

    This seems to me to be another case of people assuming something is correct, and is good info, just because it's in print, even if it's a self-published newsletter. Plenty of wrong info makes it into published books, too.

    OK, chill out. When I said much of it is geared towards layers, I meant the newsletter I quoted was geared towards layers.

    The point is, many people assume that breeds used in the commercial industry WON'T be suitable for smaller scale sustainable production. People think if leghorns can survive being crammed in a cage and have feed in front of their face 24/7 then they obviously can't adapt to a free-range (as in actually pastured, not just cage free) system. Or if cornish live in small spaces and never have to forage for feed, then they can't forage. It's just not true.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2010

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