Livestock breeding for sustainability to mitigate global warming, with the emphasis on developing countries

Author: M.M. Scholtz, A. Maiwashe, F.W.C. Neser, A. Theunissen, W.J. Olivier, M.C. Mokolobate & J. Hendriks
Year: 2013
Issue: 3
Volume: 43
Page: 269 - 281

Global warming is predicted to have a profound effect on livestock production in developing countries. An improved understanding of the adaptation of livestock to such changing production environments is thus important, but the measurement of adaptation is complex and difficult. Proxy-indicators for adaptation, such as reproductive and production traits, however, can be used. Livestock industries have a responsibility to reduce the release of greenhouse gases (i.e. the carbon footprint) and water use (i.e. the water footprint). An effective way of decreasing the carbon and water footprints from livestock is to reduce livestock numbers and increase the production per animal. Increased production generates less greenhouse gas emissions per unit of livestock product. Proper definition of breeding objectives and trait definition is essential in implementing efficient breeding systems to cope with climate change. Sophisticated statistical models continue to support animal breeding and improvement, especially with respect to production traits. Traits linked to fertility and survival are still problematic and appropriate genetic technology to properly characterize these traits needs to be developed. Gene or marker-assisted selection may play an important role in selection for disease and parasite resistance or tolerance, since it is generally difficult to measure these traits directly. Strategies that utilize breeding values derived from genomic analyses may speed up the process of breeding animals with higher and more efficient production and that are adapted to the changing environments as a result of global warming. However, both genetic and epigenetic controls influence genetic expression and should be taken into account when formulating breeding programmes. Subsistence farmers keep livestock for multiple purposes and the formulation of breeding objectives/strategies will have to consider these dynamics.

Keywords: breeding objectives, epigenetics, genomics, production systems, quantitative breeding, residual efficiency traits
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