a giant in 20th century poultry genetics. Sadly, in 2006, the poultry industry,
particularly the breeding sector, lost a good advisor and friend. Randall Knight
Remembering Dr R.K Cole, people
a giant in 20th century poultry genetics Sadly, in 2006, the poultry industry, particularly the breeding sector, lost a good advisor and friend. Randall Knight Cole, known to all as Randy, has been much admired throughout his dedicated career in the poultry industry. By Peter Hunton, George Ansah and David Caveny*
andy developed an interest in poultry at an early age while growing up in Connecticut and Massachusetts. His interests were intensified when he joined the 4H Club, also taking a part time job on a local poultry farm. After graduating from high school in 1929, he continued to work another year at the poultry farm, but by this time he had decided that he would become an agriculturalist. He enrolled at Massachusetts Agricultural College and majored in Poultry Husbandry. Following his graduation in 1934, Randy had difficulty in finding employment due to the economic depression. He eventually secured a position as a laboratory assistant to Dr Erwin Jungherr at the Connecticut Agricultural College in Storrs. Jungherr specialised in bacteriology and was in charge of necropsies, which primarily involved poultry. Randy became a jack-of-alltrades in the laboratory, performing work in the line of bacteriology, taking care of the laboratory animals (rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens) and helping with necropsies, stating in his memoir that he learnt the procedure for necropsies from Dr Jungherr and never made any alterations to it throughout his entire career. He took Jungherr’s course in poultry diseases and also learned to keep accurate records and to participate in extension meetings dealing with poultry diseases and necropsies. In 1935, Professor F.B. Hutt was looking to fill the position of Instructor in the Poultry Science Department at Cornell University. Randy applied for the position and was appointed, thus beginning one of the key partnerships in poultry genetics of the 20th century. Under Hutt’s influence, Randy became interested in the role of genetics and its effect on diseases and defects in the chickens he was working with. He earned his MS and PhD Degrees in animal genetics.
The Cornell C, K and S lines
Hutt had already begun work on genetic resistance to diseases prior to Cole’s arrival. Lines C and K (susceptible to
the “Avian Leukosis Complex”) and line S (resistant) were developed by selective exposure to tumour material (even though at this point, the viruses causing Lymphoid Leukosis and Marek’s disease had not been specifically identified). Birds were injected with tumour material but were later brooded adjacent to adult birds. The lines were selected not only for disease resistance, but also for economic traits. In 1962, after some 25 generations, all three lines were grown under exposure to ventilation air from adult flocks to ensure exposure to Marek’s disease. Following this, mortality in C and K lines increased from 1.54% to 2.93%, and in the S line, from 44% to 64%. Subsequent crosses between the C and K lines demonstrated excellent performance and considerable hybrid vigour; however, the lines were never used commercially. Cole and Hutt also studied resistance to other diseases, such as Newcastle disease and fowl typhoid caused by infection with Salmonella gallinarum. During his career, Randy published many papers dealing with lethal or semi-lethal mutations and other genes behaving strictly according to the Mendelian theory, including the “talpid” lethal, sex-linked paroxysm, imperfect albinism, ametapodia, congenital loco and autosomal dwarfism.
Randy was always available for consultation with the industry while working at the Cornell faculty, performing many necropsies on chickens brought into the laboratory and advised owners appropriately. He spoke at industry meetings and performed an important extension role for the Poultry Science Department. Cole’s most important role, however, was as consulting geneticist for Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms in Cambridge, Ontario. Beginning in 1956, Randy developed a pedigree breeding programme for the main Shaver Breeding lines involved in the production of their Shaver 288 layer. With the obvious
WORLD POULTRY - Vol. 23 No 1. 2007
Randy Cole has played a major role in the success of the Shaver 288 layer.
success of his work with Hutt at Cornell, Cole was well placed to work with these important commercial lines. Shaver’s staff conducted all of the pedigree mating, egg collection and hatching, but the make-up of the breeding groups was a joint effort between Cole and company president, Donald McQ. Shaver. In the early years, all of the egg production records were summarised manually. Randy would drive from Ithaca in his Volkswagen Beetle on a Friday afternoon and spend the weekend selecting breeding candidates by visual inspection of the summarised records. Computer analysis was later used to summarise records, but the selection process remained a hands-on operation involving both Cole and Shaver. This collaboration created considerable commercial success. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, Shaver enjoyed repeated success in Random Sample Tests and consistent increases in sales around the world. Although Dr Cole took formal retirement in 1973 when he became 60, he maintained a presence at Cornell University as Professor Emeritus until 2005.
*Peter Hunton is a retired Poultry Geneticist, George Ansah is Geneticist for Hendrix Genetics and David Caveny operates a Poultry Breeding Farm in Arizona. All were personal friends of Randy Cole. n