Raising autonomous animals

Autonomous animals are equipped to take better care of themselves and each other. They can better withstand the challenges and disruptions of illness, more easily manage different housing environments or quality standards. Raising self-sustaining animals has many social, economic and environmental benefits.

Animal welfare is one of the main priorities. Animals kept in the animal protein industry should always receive proper care and management. Different cultivated species have different needs and their natural behavior requires specific treatments and housing systems. Around the world, we see differences in husbandry and housing systems, climate and disease challenges, and more. While taking care of animals, you can easily select the most self-sufficient animals. With sound science and results backed by data, we select animals that show results on specific traits related to resilience and self-reliance.

For example, pigs show great differences when it comes to being self-sufficient. While some sows need a lot of intervention, others take care of themselves and their offspring naturally. Within each new generation, while choosing the best of the best, we have a herd that gains from being self-sufficient. Sows that give birth to their offspring alone without the help of foster mothers. Sows that have enough milk and wean uniform piglets into strong, thriving pigs, without the need for feed additions, churning due to weight and health differences. We can think of a few other social, economic and environmental issues to address.

Being self-sufficient is not only profitable, the environment improves due to the reduction in waste generation and the resources needed. Animals that can withstand disease, climate change, and need fewer treatments to prevent or overcome disease make a safe and secure food supply that much more attractive.

Socially – animals that can take care of themselves, require little or no intervention, can cope better with different housing and husbandry challenges and thrive in their provided habitat. This greatly increases their level of animal welfare. Poultry, for example, should be able to display their natural behavior, while being less aggressive towards each other and showing fewer signs of stress in their environment.

Each new generation of chickens copes with the global food challenge a little better. Helping small farmers, producers and consumers around the world. According to Bill Gates: “Anyone who lives in extreme poverty is better off if he has chickens”. And we completely agree. Together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are investing in a project to support African smallholder farmers with dual purpose chickens. Provide meat and eggs to their surroundings. With access to better genetics, people can build better livelihoods and provide more food for their community. This is only possible with poultry that survive harsh conditions and lower biosecurity standards. The same breeds must also thrive in other parts of the world. Make autonomy even more important and stimulating.

Aquatic species are also catching up. Where before growth and survival mattered only to us, today we can improve social, economic and environmental impact by choosing the best of the best without handling them or pulling them out of the water too often. Using genetic markers, sensor technology and tags, the best families can be selected, ensuring that each new generation progresses and has a more lasting impact.

Environmental adjustment

To survive, everyone depends on their habitat. What the environment provides makes survival more or less difficult. Within the animal protein industry, there are a multitude of housing systems and regional differences in the standards supplied. Therefore, not all animals are suitable for every environment. If you take a closer look at laying hens for example, there are some breeds that thrive in an outdoor system, while others can’t stand alone for too long outdoors or in a large group. Specifics such as behavior, feathers and even color make a big difference. A white chicken on an African field is easily caught by surrounding wildlife. A naked neck chicken is much better suited to this same African field. It even tolerates heat much better.

When selecting autonomous animals, the experts at Hendrix Genetics look at a multitude of angles. We work with a global multi-species R&D team and several specialist teams per species. Features of selection and adaptation to local needs.

Trout are tested in sentinel groups to select the best families for colder waters, making them easier to adapt to certain markets. All over the world, people have differences in taste, which is why a breed of boar is mainly chosen for the quality of the meat or the level of intramuscular fat it displays. Nevertheless, while different parts of the world demand different adaptation and have different needs, characteristics such as: hardiness, the ability to grow even in the face of more difficult challenges, caring for one’s offspring and each other remain a high priority in our breeding programs.

Management of animals and workers

When it is difficult or expensive to attract good workers or if the housing standards are more difficult, you can choose a breed that is better suited to these challenges. Autonomous animals will add up if the standards of breeding and housing could benefit from an improvement. Adoptive mothers in pigs, choking or pecking behaviors, tail biting and accompanying treatments to prevent or resolve these situations are industry challenges that we also want to overcome. By breeding and selecting balanced animals that exhibit economically, socially and ecologically favorable characteristics, we are moving together towards a more sustainable future.

Hendrix Genetics