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Genetic improvement of laying hens viability using survival analysis


The survival of about eight generations of a large strain of laying hens was analysed separating the rearing period (RP) from the production period (PP), after hens were housed. For RP (respectively PP), 97.8% (resp., 94.1% ) of the 109 160 (resp., 100 665) female records were censored after 106 days (resp., 313 days) on the average. A Cox proportional hazards model stratified by flock (= season) and including a hatch-within-flock (HWF) fixed effect seemed to reasonably fit the RP data. For PP, this model could be further simplified to a non-stratified Weibull model. The extension of these models to sire-dam frailty (mixed) models permitted the estimation of the sire genetic variances at 0.261 ± 0.026 and 0.088 ± 0.010 for RP and PP, respectively. Heritabilities on the log scale were equal to 0.48 and 0.19. Non-additive genetic effects could not be detected. Selection was simulated by evaluating all sires and dams, after excluding all records from the last generation. Then, actual parents of this last generation were distributed into four groups according to their own pedigree index. Raw survivor curves of the progeny of extreme parental groups substantially differed (e.g., by 1.7% at 300 days for PP), suggesting that selection based on solutions from the frailty models could be efficient, despite the very large proportion of censored records.

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Correspondence to Vincent Ducrocq.

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Ducrocq, V., Besbes, B. & Protais, M. Genetic improvement of laying hens viability using survival analysis. Genet Sel Evol 32, 23 (2000).

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  • survival analysis
  • viability
  • laying hens
  • selection