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Protocol for breeding free-range meaties

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by stoneunhenged, Oct 2, 2011.

  1. stoneunhenged

    stoneunhenged Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Assume that you've chosen a particular breed of meat bird (not a hybrid) and over time want to develop an improved strain of the breed specifically for free-range meat production. In other words, you want to apply some scientific rigor to selecting breeding stock over many generations. Which variables would you measure and how often? How would you design the breeding program?
     
  2. kfacres

    kfacres Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I've already discussed my "ideal" cross in 3 other posts..

    the biggest thing you need to do. is have time, and lots of chicks to choose from.

    with enough time and genetic selection, you can turn the leghorn into a meaty breed.

    instead of butchering the biggest and the best out of each hatch, you'll have to retain them.. keep back the top 5% to breed with, and keep you genetics late and great.

    variables? depends on what you want? lean to fat ration? meat to gain? quickness of gain? feed efficincy?

    honestly, in a free range, meat production, zero input type situation.... you'd better off going with turkeys or pekin ducks...

    or just try not to reinvent the wheel and stick with Cornish X.
     
  3. stoneunhenged

    stoneunhenged Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm not interested in raising hybrids.

    I should have been more detailed in my explanation. This will not be a zero-input operation. Birds will have access to milled feed but will be on pasture during the day. It's really day-ranging and not unlimited free-ranging.
     
  4. kfacres

    kfacres Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:My ideal cross mating system isn't a hybrid either. It's a system based on taking advantage of several aspects of pro/ cons or different styles of chicken and then making use of hybrid vigor to result in a final product.
     
  5. Rare Feathers Farm

    Rare Feathers Farm Overrun With Chickens

    Paul--I would select for fast-growing (not too fast), small combs, sturdy legs and something that isn't too large that it cannot breed naturally...something that wouldn't die because it's too fat and/or stupid to get into the shade or find water. [​IMG] Oh and easy to pluck.

    I am not sure how to go about this without cross-breeding a few different breeds and working from there. I have often thought about creating something like this for my own use....

    My needs:

    Small, frost-bite-resistant comb
    Ability to range during the day (would be locked in a coop at night)
    Ability to breed naturally & have decent fertility, despite size
    Lay eggs fairly well (well enough to incubate and hatch out more)
    Light skin, easy to pluck

    I'm not sure if that's all you were asking or if I just ended up thinking out loud? [​IMG]
     
  6. Tracydr

    Tracydr Chillin' With My Peeps

    If you're cross-mating, you're either producing a new breed or hybrid. OP says she's not interested in hybrids. Does that include home produced hybrids? Does she want purebreds? Heritage breeds? Mutts? Cross-breeds are going to have hybrid vigor but until the F4 generation or greater, you can't count on their offspring to breed true.
    First, need to understand if she wants a purebred line or wants to breed her own hybrid line?
     
  7. Rare Feathers Farm

    Rare Feathers Farm Overrun With Chickens

    Quote:He says he's not interested in hybrids--so my guess would be that he wants to take an existing breed and improve upon it?
     
  8. kfacres

    kfacres Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Doesn't this all involve some sort of cross breeding, which is like making a hybrid? Isn't a partial definition of a hybrid, something that doesn't necessary breed true due to hybrid vigor?
     
  9. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

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    This is what I'd do.

    I'd choose the breed of chicken that seemed to me to be the closest already to what I wanted. Then I'd keep some detailed records. I'd make a list of my criteria I was aiming for.

    If I wanted fast growth, I'd keep the birds that grew the fastest for my breeders. If I wanted lots of eggs, I'd keep the hens that laid the most eggs for my breeders. If I wanted a heavy breasts, I would chose the birds with the largest fullest breast muscles for my breeders.

    I'd keep track of feed conversion because the end cost of the meat matters enough that I'd like to bring it to the table for as low a cost as possible.

    Since I'd be working towards keepers, I would cull anything with health issues or temperament issues. No excuses accepted. Also, my experience has been that the calm birds are the ones with the best feed conversion.

    I'd be constantly checking other breeders with my breed and if I saw a bird that was closer to what I wanted, I'd buy it and add it to my flock.

    I have discovered I am breeding Pekin ducks, rather by accident. They were substituted for what I did order.

    It turns out they are very nice ducks, grow extremely fast, dress out well, and have excellent temperaments. So I saved the drake and 2 ducks that grew the biggest. The extra large drake is also the best temperament in the whole group. The 2 ducks are quite nice natured. None of them have had any health issues. I am waiting to see how well they lay, although egg laying isn't really on my criteria for the Pekin.

    This drake I saved weighed 9 pounds at 7 1/2 weeks of age. He has a rather pronounced breast (for a duck).

    So next year, I hatch some ducklings and most will go into the freezer and the very fastest growing ducks with the best temperament will be retained for the breeding flock, as long as they don't ever have any health or leg issues.

    My goal is a very fast growing, heavy Pekin with excellent feed conversion, nice temperaments, and extra large breast meat. It's an easy project because so many other people have been working at it for such a long time that I can get excellent breeding stock.

    Converting an established breed of chicken into a meat producing machine will take you a lot longer. But with selective breeding with poultry, you can gain ground very quickly. Just make your list of what you want the birds to do and breed towards it, try to get closer with every generation. Also, stay aware of excuse making and rationalization. You can kill your breeding program if you aren't tough about your selections.
     
  10. stoneunhenged

    stoneunhenged Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for all the good answers. A little more detail might help.

    I'm using a college student intern who is a biology major to raise American Bresse chickens in a manner similar to the traditional French method. We need to develop a protocol for choosing breeders to retain from the flock. So, I'm interested in developing a detailed protocol for evaluating breeding stock. I can think of a number of factors --weight gain rates, feed conversion efficiency, leg color, predator awareness, etc.-- but am seeking opinions about all the variables that should be measured, the frequency at which those measurements should occur, and the best method by which the variables should be measured like feed conversion efficiency.
     

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