Theo Meuwissen

Strategy building in farm animal practices – a look into the future

Theo Meuwissen, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway

In animal breeding the challenges broad about by climate change are directly addressed by managing the genetic resources required to adapt to the environmental changes and by investigating the resilience of genotypes to environmental changes in terms of genotype by environmental interactions and reaction norms. Animal breeding practices aim at: (1) foreseeing climatic changes and their effects on agro-ecosystems and livestock production and predicting future needs with respect to animal genetic resources, resulting in new breeding goals. (2) To study genotype-by-environment (GxE) interactions on fertility, longevity and milk production using multitrait models and reaction norm models over gradients of geographical location, intensity management and herd sizes. The multitrait models may be unsuccessful when the environment cannot be accurately classified, and the reaction norm models require an accurate continuous parameter grading the environment. (3) To assess accuracy of alternative molecular genetic diversity measures reflecting the potential of a population to adapt to environmental changes. (4) To study a variety of breeding strategies to bring-about the required adaptations in the event of climate change. Due to future climate changes, shortage of food/feed, water, energy and land, the future will demand very fast (genetic) adaptation of livestock. Novel animal breeding strategies are needed to achieve this rapid genetic adaptation, which are mainly based on animal genetic resources that can facilitate genetic change by breed substitution or crossbreeding, and genomic selection, and a combination of both, which is called genomic introgression.