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A Plea to Implement Robustness into a Breeding Goal: Poultry as an Example

The combination of breeding for increased production and the intensification of housing conditions have resulted in increased occurrence of behavioral, physiological, and immunological disorders. These disorders affect health and welfare of production animals negatively. For future livestock systems, it is important to consider how to manage and breed production animals. In this paper, we will focus on selective breeding of laying hens. Selective breeding should not only be defined in terms of production, but should also include traits related to animal health and welfare. For this we like to introduce the concept of robustness. The concept of robustness includes individual traits of an animal that are relevant for health and welfare. Improving robustness by selective breeding will increase (or restore) the ability of animals to interact successfully with the environment and thereby to make them more able to adapt to an appropriate husbandry system. Application of robustness into a breeding goal will result in animals with improved health and welfare without affecting their integrity. Therefore, in order to be ethically acceptable, selective breeding in animal production should accept robustness as a breeding goal.

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28 October 2010


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