Genetic resistance to natural helminth infections in two chicken layer lines
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Groups of Lohmann Brown (LB) and Lohmann Selected Leghorn (LSL) hens were reared under helminth-free conditions and kept afterwards together in a free range system. Mortality rate, body weight development, laying performance and faecal egg counts (FEC) were recorded during a 12 month laying period. At the end of the laying period, 246 LSL and 197 LB hens were necropsied and worms counted following the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (W.A.A.V.P.) guidelines. In addition adult Heterakis gallinarum and Ascaridia galli were sexed and measured for length. Significant (P<0.01) differences were observed in mortality rates between LSL and LB animals (12.9 vs. 5.7%). LSL hens showed significantly (P<0.05) higher FEC when compared with LB hens at almost all dates of monitoring. Almost all animals became infected with at least one helminth species. The most prevalent species were H. gallinarum, Capillaria spp. and A. galli. LB hens showed a significantly (P<0.05) higher average number of adult H. gallinarum, Capillaria spp. and tapeworms when compared with LSL animals. However, number of adult A. galli was in tendency lower in these animals. In total, LB had a significantly (P<0.05) higher worm burden than LSL (192.3 vs. 94.3). The estimated heritabilities for total worm burden were 0.23 (SE±0.12) in LSL and 0.75 (SE±0.21) in LB, respectively. The number of all different helminth species were positively correlated. The sex ratio of H. gallinarum and A. galli and the average worm lengths were not significantly (P>0.05) different between the genotypes. There was no significant phenotypic correlation between body weight and worm burden in LSL, whereas it was the case in LB (r=0.17, P<0.05). Based on the estimated heritabilities it is possible to select for helminth resistance in both genotypes.
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