Breeding for resilience in dairy cattle
Olubunmi Ayobami Duduyemi
McGill University, Department of Animal Science, MacDonald Campus, Canada
Breeding is critical in the production of good animal protein source for the world's rising population. Recently, emphasis has shifted from mostly improving on production qualities; to sustainability, health, and welfare characteristics. Animal breeding produces permanent effects, but it takes significant investments and long-term commitment to satisfy diverse consumer needs, boost food chain efficiency, lower environmental footprint, limit antibiotic usage, and contribute to food safety and better animal health and wellbeing. Rising challenges to agricultural environments and climate change uncertainties pose a danger to the productive efficacy and wellbeing of livestock around the world, hence, including resilience in the selection goal of dairy cattle is quite desirable. As a result, the underlying genetic mechanisms that enable resilience are likely to become an important part of the breeding programme itself, putting a premium on the animal's ability to remain unaffected by changing production conditions or quickly revert to undepressed levels of productivity and health. Incorporating resilience as a selection tool into an existing breeding programme would incur additional measurement costs, and any increased returns would be contingent on the genetic relationship between the new criterion and existing breeding objectives. This can be accomplished by determining the genetic relevance of resiliency as well as its correlations with critical production traits. The rate of genetic progress can be evaluated by analysing the production system across varied settings using resilience indicators such as milk yield fluctuations, heat tolerance, temperament and resilience to diseases. The challenge has been the use of high quality phenotypes for defining productive, healthy, feed-efficient cows with lower environmental burdens. With increasing changes in production environments, such as climate-related instability and uncertainty, a resilience paradigm based on the rate of progress made, which is determined by the amount of available genetic variation and the intensity of selection that can be applied (expressed in economic units), will boost long-term productivity. Therefore, an effective selection strategy can make any genetic improvement programme aimed at increasing the resilience of dairy cattle without diverting the breeding goal away from productivity and profitability.
Keywords: Breeding, dairy cattle, resilience
Contact Address: Olubunmi Ayobami Duduyemi, McGill University, Department of Animal Science, MacDonald Campus, 21111 Lakeshore Road, Sainte Anne De Bellevue, H9X 3V9 Montreal, Canada, e-mail: bunmid2000yahoo.com