Knowledge for Development

Introduction of heat tolerance genes into Lohmann Brown for improved egg production under hot and humid environments in Ghana

Author: Julius Kofi Hagan, Department of Animal Science, School of Agriculture, University of Cape Coast, Ghana

Date: 28/03/2014


Dr Hagan  was awarded the third prize in the Young Professionals in Science competition. He commented that the most relevant result of his research was the development of chicken breeds that can be highly productive under the hot and humid environments of the tropics. ‘The breeds I have developed are able to produce optimally under heat stress conditions and thereby increase productivity of egg production and hence improve Africa’s food security.’ He told Knowledge for Development that the award is a confirmation that his research has an actual practical impact. ‘It opened doors to international collaboration, helped me to build a research network in my field and to get a promotion as a lecturer in my university. I hope that in five years time I will be an internationally recognised expert in local chicken production and that my work will have  a positive impact on food security.’  


Exotic poultry does not perform to its full genetic potential in Ghana’s tropical environment. The research undertaken in this breeding programme involved introducing two heat-tolerant genes – the naked neck (Na) and frizzle (F) traits – into chicken of the Lohman Brown, an imported bird of hybrid origin, to make them more productive in Ghana.   

The base population used in this experiment were off-springs of a cross from local heterozygous chicken male lines with Na and F genes with homozygous Lohmann Brown female lines for the normal alleles of the two genes. In order not to lose the high egg production traits in the offspring, the hybrids were successively backcrossed with the Lohmann Brown, generation after generation. After four generations, four different combinations of genes for feather distribution and morphology constituting four genetic groups were segregated.  

Results showed that Lohmann Brown layers with the naked-neck and frizzle traits were significantly superior in terms of age to full maturity, feed conversion ratio and egg weight compared with their siblings without these traits. Birds with a combination of the two traits laid eggs at significantly higher rates than their counterparts with a single trait, which in turn also laid at significantly higher rate than birds without any of the two traits. Incorporating heat tolerance genes into Lohmann Brown made them more adaptable to local climate without the need for expensive compensation methods such as fans, insulating pens, high energy diets and feed supplementation.  

The main output from this research work was the development of Lohmann Brown layers which were highly productive and adaptable under warm and humid environments in Ghana. The research findings have been disseminated at field days, workshops and seminars and have been made available to stakeholders including farmers, scientists, extension officers and policy makers. Five papers have been published and presented at both local and international conferences.