The Russian poultry industry has always been reliant on relatively expensive imports of breeding stock. Now that the new Russian broiler crossbreed Smena-9 is expected to be patented by the end of 2021, it hopes the end of foreign dependency is in sight. In ten years’ time Smena-9 could conquer the entire Russian market.
The path to the first Russian poultry crossbreed has not been without bumps along the way. The Smena-9 birds follow Smena-8 and Smena-7, both lines that were bred over the past few years and which should have been on a par with imported breeding stock. However, neither line has made it to state registration, let alone commercial introduction. “Smena-9 is superior to the previous lines in almost all production parameters,” says Dmitry Efimov, director of the All-Russian Research and Technological Institute of Poultry Breeding of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The most recent crossbreed has already proven its effectiveness in field trials when compared to Ross 308. Poultry meat from Smena-9’s broilers promises to have better taste and health properties and the birds come at half the price compared to imported birds. “We bred our birds with improved product characteristics in mind. Egg production per breeder is 168 units. Live broiler weight on day 35 is 2,262g, which is 152g more than its predecessor, Smena-8,” Efimov told Veterinary and Life, the Russian State veterinary body Rosselhoznadzor’s official publication. “The broiler productivity index has leaped from 315 to 385 points. The average daily weight gain of the new crossbreed is 63.5g. Abdominal fat content was reduced from 1.4% to 1.2%. However, it is the taste that is likely to be Smena-9’s main competitive advantage”.
According to Efimov it is the focus on harmonious bird development that makes all the difference in terms of taste. “From the outset of product development, we wanted not only to increase the birds’ ability to form pectoral muscles, but also their leg muscles and wings. We tried to make the bird larger and focus not only on the growth of the pectoral muscles.” Efimov adds: “It is important to understand that the taste depends on genetics. Our cross has its roots in genetic lines that guarantee delicious meat. For many years we have been conducting tastings and this fact has been noted by many who have tried our meat, even though the birds were on the same diet as the current birds.”
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That said, the scientists involved in the Smena programme have developed specific feed recommendations for their broilers, as different producers these days may have different goals. “Not all broiler production uses the same feed. We see feed that contains less protein, for instance, in organic production. In these conditions broilers will not gain weight as quickly, so a specific set of guidelines is needed,” Efimov says.
The results of the feed trials look promising…
As noted by Albert Davleyev, president of the Russian consulting agency Agrifood Strategies, the feed trials’ results look promising. “During the initial trial period it is important that the new crossbreed is tested at multiple production sites throughout the country to ensure the widest possible range of results. So far, the productivity index of the new breed is above 300 points and its key performance indicators are basically comparable to the Ross 308 and Cobb 500”. According to Davleyev, the new crossbreed’s conversion ratio ranges between 1.6 and 1.85, and the livability ratio is 92-98%, which are both good results.
The cost of Smena-9 eggs should be lower than that of foreign ones since production is funded by the state, he reports. But: “Timing is critical,” Davleyev stresses, explaining that tests and the nationwide introduction of a new breed will take several years. The risk is that its performance parameters may become outdated by the time it is launched on an industrial scale given that other genetic companies are also constantly improving their breeds.
Based on the success of the field trials, Smena-9 is attracting a lot of attention from Russian producers. According to Efimov, Russian scientists have placed the Smena-9 breed on several broiler farms in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Sverdlovsk Oblast and the Adygea Republic for production trials. The tests were done in commercial poultry houses and on standard feed rations to compare Smena-9 with Ross 308 birds. All the Russian poultry farms taking part in the field trials reported positive production performances of the new crossbreed. “We have been contacted by several dozen companies already. They were all keen to have our birds but we are not yet ready to hatch and deliver in large volumes. You have to understand that we are scientists. Our objective is to develop a crossbreed. It’s like a book, we have written it, and the next task is to duplicate it. Someone else needs to turn on the printing press,” Efimov effuses.
The researcher envisages a bright future for Smena-9. “In theory, all Russian poultry farms could switch to the new crossbreed in 7-10 years. But the more important task in the short term is to get production up to speed, raising it to 15% of Russian broiler production by 2025. We are very hopeful that the market will be in our favour, especially because Smena-9 is 25-50% cheaper than the imported crossbreeds”.
And Efimov is even considering an international debut. “It speaks for itself that we will be using our crossbreed in the Russian territory but I also see prospects to export the breeding stock. Efimov believes Smena-9 could be successful in Kazakhstan, where poultry farmers are struggling to ramp up production. Alongside this, there are bright prospects for selling the new crossbreed to Belarus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and other countries primarily in the post-Soviet region. “My dream is to become completely independent of imported breeding stock – in both chicken and turkey meat and egg production. I want our country to achieve a breakthrough in this direction so that we do not have to kowtow to foreign countries to get their [breeding] products,” says Efimov.
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When asked directly by Poultry World, the scientists declined to specify when and at what price the new crossbreed would emerge on the global market. National production of the Smena-9 bird is likely to expand soon. Scientists produced 179,000 hatching eggs at the Smena breeding and genetic centre in 2020. Dmitry Vosnesensky, agricultural minister of Moscow Oblast indicated that the regional authorities are considering the reconstruction of poultry houses in the village of Toporkovo for the new crossbreed production. That would involve a fivefold increase in hatching egg production at one site.
A state subsidy will also be provided to build a new breeding farm in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Galina Bobyleva, general director of the Russian Union of Poultry Farmers Rosptitsesoyuz, said in April 2020. Russian poultry farmers are keen to work with the crossbreeds of Russian origin but the numbers available are still insufficient. As soon as they become available, Russia will begin to switch to Smena-9, says Bobyleva.
Russian analysts have underscored that the domestically-produced crossbreed will lead to a more predictable cost structure for Russian poultry farms. As the Russian poultry industry is almost completely dependent on imported genetic material at the moment and because all contracts are in euros, currency exchange rates make life difficult. In 2019, Aviagen controlled 45% of the genetic material market in Russia, with two breeds: Ross 308 and Ross 708. CobbVantress reportedly accounted for 35% of the market with Cobb 500 and Cobb 700, with a significant share held by Hubbard.
“The production performance of the domestic crossbreed Smena-9 is comparable to that of the Cobb and the Ross breeds which currently dominate the Russian market. Switching to a domestic crossbreed could help Russian producers stabilise production costs which would therefore make them less dependent on exchange rates,” says Andrey Dalnov, director of the Russian leading bank Rosselhozbank’s analytical department. Dalnov believes that the Russian crossbreed would also help to improve the epizootic situation. He noted that the risks of spreading dangerous diseases, including bird flu, are relatively higher with imported foreign genetic material.