Using animal genetics and livestock breeding for site-adapted animal husbandry

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A future challenge in animal production will be the more efficient use of resources, coupled with improved animal health and higher animal welfare. Achieving this will require in-depth surveys and analyses of informative phenotypes and the skillful combination of the same with genetic, genomic and metabolomic data. From this, a better understanding of biological processes in animals can be deduced, with the aim of optimised selection.

The focus here is on the development of new, improved breeding programmes to produce more efficient, more robust animals.  Maintaining the genetic diversity of local and international races will be a key task in the livestock sector of the future, in order to ensure the adaptability of livestock and long-term progress in breeding.

Scientific Objectives and Research Questions

  1. Data collection, measurement and recording of phenotypes for the purpose of establishing zootechnical measures in animal production: How can the recording of traits in animal breeding be made even more objective? Which auxiliary traits provide greater informative value for the optimisation of existing breeding programmes and the development of new ones with a view to fulfilling the expectations of future markets (including the environmentally sound and efficient use of resources, robust, long-lived healthy animals adapted to local conditions, the quality of products of animal origin)?
  2. Breeding methods and technological developments: How can molecular-biological data (‘omics’) and reproductive technologies be used with maximum possible efficiency in breeding programmes?
  3. Genetics of health traits: Involuntary cullings due to health problems lead to high losses in livestock production. How can health traits be measured objectively in a large number of animals? Which genes promote robustness and resilience? How can health traits be incorporated into breeding programmes, thereby contributing to the achievement of a resource-efficient and profitable animal production sector (e.g. longevity)?
  4. Genetic diversity: How can the genetic diversity of livestock populations be optimally recorded, described and preserved with a view to the long-term use of animal genetic resources? How important is cryoconservation in comparison to the in-situ conservation of breeds?
  5. Behavioural genetics:  Pleasant behaviour promotes accident-free keeping of, and working with, livestock. It makes herd management easier. Low stress promotes product quality. How can behaviour be objectively recorded? What is the genetic architecture of behavioural traits in farm animals? How can this information be profitably taken into account in breeding programmes? What relationships exist between behavioural, health and production traits?
  6. Immunogenetics of pollinators: How can the immune-system diversity of pollinators be preserved and promoted? How can adaptable, disease- and pest-tolerant pollinators be selected or naturally encouraged?