Broiler chicken breeds are raised majorly for their meat, which has a higher nutritional value than the plant protein sources. The quest for balanced and affordable protein make broiler rearing lucrative economically; aside from the highly nutritious meat gotten from broiler chickens, it also creates employment opportunities as a result of its quick return on investment and readiness to market within a short period.
Every farmer craves for the best breed of chickens to improve their production and income, hence, sourcing the best breeds of chickens becomes a necessity. Most farmers raising broiler, especially the beginners, often want to raise the best broiler chicken breed at their first production; why? To minimize the risk of poor performance in most cases.
This article is a guide to all poultry farmers, especially those with high interest in broiler production. In a bid to recommend the best broiler breed, I would explain the characteristics of the broiler strains, citing some research works that were carried out various institutions and recommend the best broiler in respect to your purpose of production. Read on!
There are several strains of broiler chicken breeds, such as Ross, Cobb, Arbor Acre, Marshall, Hubbard, and Anak. I would focus more on the 4 common breeds, namely:
- Ross 308/708
- Cobb 500/700
- Arbor Acre
As a profit-oriented broiler chicken farmer, your aim is to raise the best among all broiler breed strains to increase your profit in most cases. The broiler breeds are often characterized by the fast growth rate, resistance to diseases and infections, high feed conversion and excellent carcass quality.
The aforementioned qualities are genetically present in all the available broiler chicken strains but at varying degrees of expression. The fact is, all broiler chicken breeds are good and economical but they cannot satisfy all your market demands, hence, it is incumbent on you as a broiler farmer to select the best broiler strain with the purpose of your production in mind.
The growth and performance of broilers are influenced by various factors such as environment, feed, health condition, and sanitation. Do not be surprised, the proclaimed best broiler strain in a particular environment may turn to flop in another environment, hence, the nature of the environment where broilers are raised also help in their performance.
General Characteristics Of The Broiler Strains
1. Ross 308/708
The Ross broiler strains (308/708) are fast-growing broilers. The Ross 708 is a high yield broiler strain; it is an improvement on Ross 308, it is superior in all growth and performance parameters. Ross strains possess high body weight, good breast meat, excellent feed conversion, and lean meat.
2. Arbor Acre
Arbor acre is another fast-growing broiler strain, they are notable for their heavy feeding ability, good weight gains and good feed conversion
Cobb is undoubtedly most farmers’ choice. They are known for their muscular brisket and heavy carcass; they are hardy in nature with high feed conversion. They possess strong legs and bones and are tolerant to heat.
Marshall Broilers are known to be very tall and big. They have good body conformation and feed conversion.
These are the broiler strains to be reviewed in this article with reference to various research works. All these strains are usually ready for market at about 6-8 weeks.
Which Broiler Breed Is The Best: Ross, Marshall, Cobb & Arbor Acre?
Now to the business of the day. I would review the performance of these broiler strains with reference to various studies carried out on them at various institutions.
Performance of Cobb and Marshall broiler
A research carried out on feed utilization efficiency on Cobb and Marshall Broilers at Ladoke Akintola University, Oyo state Nigeria. This location falls under the derived savanna region of the country. The birds were kept under similar conditions and fed broiler starter diet containing 24% crude protein and metabolizable energy of 2900kcal/kg for 4 weeks and broiler finisher diet containing 21% crude protein and metabolizable energy of 2800kcal/kg for the next 4 weeks.
The Cobb strain showed superiority over the Marshall broilers in terms of all growth parameter at the end of the experiment. The Cobb strain had higher feed intake and feed conversion efficiency compared to the Marshall strain. At the end of 8 weeks, the Cobb and Marshall strain weighed 1.4 and 1.1kg respectively.
The Cobb birds were concluded to be more productive and profitable as they consumed more to add more weight, hence, increasing their life weight at market age.
Performance of Marshall, Hubbard and Arbor Acre
In another research carried out to evaluate the economic assessment of raising broilers at the Animal Breeding and Genetics Unit, Teaching and Research Farm of the Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria; the location falls under the derived savanna zone of the country. The broiler strains used were, Marshall, Hubbard and Arbor Acre. The birds were kept under the same conditions and fed broiler starter diet containing 22% CP and 3000Kcal/kg for 4 weeks and broiler finisher diet containing 20% CP and 3100Kcal/kg for the next 4 weeks.
At the end of the experiment, the Marshall strain was outstanding in all measures. It attained an average live weight of 2.10kg per bird at market age hence, the Marshall broiler was recommended as the most productive and profitable broiler strain for commercial production.
Another experiment was carried out to evaluate the carcass characteristics of these broiler strains, Marshall, Hubbard and Arbor Acre, for a period of 8 weeks at the same institution. The result of the study showed that the Marshall strain had superior carcass characteristics compared to others; it was observed that the strain possesses a faster growth rate as it recorded the highest body weight at market age.
Performance of Ross, Anak, and Marshall
A research was carried out to evaluate the growth performance of Ross, Anak, and Marshall broiler strains at the Poultry Unit Of Teaching And Research Farm Of the Ladoke Akintola University Of Technology, Oyo State, Nigeria. This institution falls under the derived savanna zone.
The broilers were raised under deep litter system and fed broiler starter diet containing 24% crude protein and 2800kcal/kg Metabolizable energy and a broiler finisher diet containing 21% Crude protein and 3000kcal/kg Metabolizable energy.
At the end of 8 weeks, it was recorded that the Ross broilers had the highest average live weight gain, followed by the Anak and Marshall gaining 2.5kg, 2.3kg and 2.1kg respectively. Hence, the Ross strain of broiler was recommended for farmers in this area as a very profitable strain with a fast growth rate.
Interestingly, a similar study was carried out using the same strains of broilers but at a different location. The comparative evaluation of the performance of Ross, Anak, and Marshall strains was carried out at the Poultry Unit of Teaching and Research Farm of the Department of Animal Health And Husbandry, Audu Bako College of Agriculture, Dambatta, Kano State Nigeria. This location falls under the semi-arid zone.
At the end of the study, it was observed that the Marshall breed was superior for growth, conformation and morphological traits to other breeds. Hence, it was then recommended for commercial purpose in this area.
Generally, all these broiler chicken breed strains are very productive and have a fast growth rate but, they are location and purpose-specific as indicated in the experiments carried out at different locations of the country. Among other strains, it has been adjudged that the Cobb, Ross, Arbor acre and Marshall are superior broiler strains.
Considering the market option, if you want to process your broiler chicken to barbecue or you are selling to stores for that production purpose or individuals that detests much fat in chicken, you should consider rearing broilers with lean meat, that is, broilers with a less fat deposit, why? Because the presence of high fat makes roasting difficult. Hence, broiler strains with lean meat like Ross and Cobb are preferred.
However, if you are processing into frozen chickens, consider rearing Ross 308/708 because of their carcass quality and huge breast meat. Also, you can consider any of Marshall, Ross, Cobb and Arbor Acre if you are raising your live weight broilers for the open market.
Aside from genetic factors, good management practices also play significant roles in the performance of broiler chicken. Quality feed, environmental conditions, and housing conditions are the external factors that determine the size and performance of broiler chickens.
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