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Improving the efficiency of feed utilization in poultry by selection. 2. Genetic parameters of excretion traits and correlations with anatomy of the gastro-intestinal tract and digestive efficiency

Hugues de Verdal1, Agnès Narcy1, Denis Bastianelli2, Hervé Chapuis3, Nathalie Même1, Séverine Urvoix1, Elisabeth Le Bihan-Duval1 and Sandrine Mignon-Grasteau1*

Author Affiliations

1 INRA, UR83 Recherches Avicoles, F-37380, Nouzilly, France

2 CIRAD, UMR SELMET, 34398 Montpellier cedex 5, France

3 SYSAAF, UR83 Recherches Avicoles, F-37380, Nouzilly, France

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BMC Genetics 2011, 12:71  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-12-71

Published: 17 August 2011



Poultry production has been widely criticized for its negative environmental impact related to the quantity of manure produced and to its nitrogen and phosphorus content. In this study, we investigated which traits related to excretion could be used to select chickens for lower environmental pollution.

The genetic parameters of several excretion traits were estimated on 630 chickens originating from 2 chicken lines divergently selected on apparent metabolisable energy corrected for zero nitrogen (AMEn) at constant body weight. The quantity of excreta relative to feed consumption (CDUDM), the nitrogen and phosphorus excreted, the nitrogen to phosphorus ratio and the water content of excreta were measured, and the consequences of such selection on performance and gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) characteristics estimated. The genetic correlations between excretion, GIT and performance traits were established.


Heritability estimates were high for CDUDM and the nitrogen excretion rate (0.30 and 0.29, respectively). The other excretion measurements showed low to moderate heritability estimates, ranging from 0.10 for excreta water content to 0.22 for the phosphorus excretion rate. Except for the excreta water content, the CDUDM was highly correlated with the excretion traits, ranging from -0.64 to -1.00. The genetic correlations between AMEn or CDUDM and the GIT characteristics were very similar and showed that a decrease in chicken excretion involves an increase in weight of the upper part of the GIT, and a decrease in the weight of the small intestine.


In order to limit the environmental impact of chicken production, AMEn and CDUDM seem to be more suitable criteria to include in selection schemes than feed efficiency traits.