From January 2012, the EU-wide cage ban for layers will come into practice. This demands a different management approach, specifically for aviary systems, as the behaviour of layers plays a part. Specific selection, such as for nest acceptance, oviposition time and duration of stay in the nest, are important traits for avoiding floor eggs.
In order to meet consumer preferences, breeding goals are constantly being readjusted. A number of different aspects concerning laying performance, egg quality, feed efficiency as well as the health and behaviour of laying hens are considered in the breeding programme of Lohmann Tierzucht (LTZ).
For continuous improvement, more than twenty characteristics are included in the selection index, which is the basis of every breeding programme. In the overall selection index, each characteristic is weighted in relation to market requirements and exactly defined to meet those needs. In recent years, egg producer’s demands for good nesting behaviour, especially nest acceptance, have grown, but until now it has been difficult to record the necessary individual bird information.
In order to obtain these data, LTZ developed a completely new testing system together with the Weihenstephan State Research Centre in Freising, Germany. The so-called “Weihenstephan Funnel Nest Box” (FNB), enables hen specific data recording in a non-cage environment. Based on these data, specific selection on nesting behaviour can be carried out.
An extensive article on this selection programme is published in the nr 8 edition of World Poultry, which will appear this month.