A 1% increase in water conversion for broilers could save more than 1.9 million gallons of water.
Researchers at the University of Arkansas are working to improve the sustainability of the poultry industry through the genetic selection of more water-efficient broilers.
“Water scarcity is becoming a bigger issue in certain parts of the country. Some poultry growers on well water have had to drill deeper to get enough water to cool their houses,” explained Walter Bottje, professor of poultry science, Division of Agriculture, University of Arkansas.
Bottje is the project director of a multi-institutional U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant that includes the water efficiency selection project led by Sara Orlowski, a geneticist at the University of Arkansas.
Two-thirds of the global population experience water scarcity at least one month each year, a number that is expected to grow as the world’s population continues to grow, according to a 2018 report from the United Nations.
Just a one percent increase in water conversion ratio within the poultry industry could save more than 1.9 million gallons of water annually, according to Orlowski.
Now in its fourth generation of genetic selection for water intake, the water-efficiency selection project is focused on the divergent breeding of broilers for both higher and lower water efficiency. So far, breeding for water efficiency has revealed no negative impacts on feed conversion.
The researchers plan to evaluate future generations of water-efficient broilers for any impact on gut health and integrity, changes in breast meat yields, or any other physiological differences.
The multi-institution project focuses on poultry water and nutrient efficiency
The study is a part of a five-year multi-institution project to improve the efficiency of water and nutrient use in the poultry industry.
For example, another group of researchers from the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station and the University of Tennesee developed a low-pressure sprinkler technology for cooling that lowers heat stress while resulting in a water savings of up to 67% compared to other cooling approaches.
The multi-institution comprehensive project, which includes research, teaching, and extension components, brings together researchers from the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Cornell University, and five other Universities.