Poultry sector set to soar
According to Dr Graeme Park , general manager of the Scottish poultry genetics business Aviagen, the Irish poultry sector is primed for further growth over the coming years.
He told AgriLand that, on a global basis, 60 billion broiler chickens will be processed for meat production in 2013. “This figure is currently rising at the rate of one billion birds per annum,” he added.
“And I see no reason why this trend should falter over the coming years. The growth of the middle classes in countries such as China will account for this increased demand with ease. I totally buy into the principle that the world’s population will increase by 50 per cent over the next 35 years, which will have a consequent knock on effect regarding the world’s food requirements.
“In Ireland the poultry sector has a home market plus an additional 60 million British consumers to target with high-quality poultrymeat products. And this figure rises to 400 million if the EU as a whole is taken into consideration.”
But Park went on to point out that there is no room for complacency. “The challenge remains that of producing chicken at the lowest possible price while, at the same time, getting the best possible price from the market place,” he stressed.
“Meeting these objectives will require ongoing research and development with the new technologies, such as genomics, playing a key role within the broiler breeder sector.
“Up to now the poultry industry has only been able to develop research programmes based solely on criteria, such as feed conversion ratios and daily liveweight gain, which can be objectively measured. Genomics, however, is a tool that allows us to develop breeding programmes based on the minutiae of birds’ DNA coding. As a consequence, we can now investigate criteria such as health and fertility traits within the various breeding lines in a very precise manner.
“In many ways this research is mirroring the work that has already been carried out in the cattle sector where genomics has been used to identify breeding bulls with high health and fertility traits.
“It currently takes around 35 days to bring a day-old chick through to final slaughter weight. I don’t think this period of time can be reduced much below this figure. However, the challenge of improving feed conversion rates remains of paramount significance for the broiler sector. It’s all about making best use of inputs.”