July 21, 2020

Monday Recap: Animal Breeding & Genetics Symposium 1

Animal Breeding & Genetics Symposium 1:

By Anne Zinn

animbreedOn the morning of July 20, 2020, the ASAS-CSAS-WSASAS Virtual Annual Meeting began with a variety of symposia, including the first symposium on Animal Breeding and Genetics, sponsored by CSAS. The session was chaired by Dr. Flavio Schenkel of the University of Guelph and began with the presentation of the Rockefeller Prentice Award in Animal Breeding and Genetics. The recipient of this award, Dr. Kenneth J. Sadler of Iowa State University opened the symposium by discussing the genetics of sow longevity as a key productivity indicator trait with economic and welfare importance for commercial swine farms. Following Dr. Sadler, Dr. Yachun Wang, professor in the College of Animal Science & Technology at the China Agricultural University, presented the results of a study analyzing the generic parameters of temperament and its correlation with population, reproduction, type, health, and longevity in Chinese Holstein. Results of the study suggest that a Bayesian threshold model is the recommended algorithm for analyzing temperament because of its increased accuracy, which can ultimately lead to increased fat and protein yields, a lower age at first calving, better resistance to udder diseases and a longer functional longevity.

Next, Dr. Mike Coffey of Scotland’s Rural College introduced the hashtag “#PhenotypeIsKing,” used to describe the changing face of phenotypes collection for use in national genetic and genomic evaluations, specifically in dairy cattle, and to offer possible new scenarios that may exist moving forward. Dr. Coffey explained that as genomic evaluation advances, the long-standing evaluation processes established in the industry are being disrupted; there is an imbalance between the low-cost genotypes and the high-cost phenotypes. This is, therefore, altering the balance of power between industry players and farmers, which can ultimately result in cherry-picking by new groups entering the industry. The domino effect leads to reduced sustainability of services valued by farmers. Dr. Coffey suggests this imbalance needs to be addressed as science advances. Nina Krattenmacher of Kiel University then continued to discuss the importance of accurate and comprehensive phenotypic data as it relates to increased challenges facing cattle breeding and management. With an increasing spectrum of traits relevant to breeding goals, technological developments will play a key role in understanding the biological background and genetic architecture of evolving traits. Krattenmacher concluded by emphasizing the importance of the development of universal guidelines for recording phenotypic data. 

After a short break, Raphael Mrode (International Livestock Research Institute), presented on phenomics and its potential impact on livestock development in low-income countries. Specifically, Mrode discussed how more data has been collected due to the technological advancements made in the use of information and communications technologies and how the use of these technologies has led to more sustainable data collection. With more data comes the need for trained scientists to interpret and transform which can lead to improved animal production systems. Mrode concluded that advancement and application of these new technologies will be critical in attracting youth into agriculture and ensuring sustainable systems for phenomics in developing countries. To emphasize Mrode’s point, attendees then heard from Carina Visser from the University of Pretoria in South Africa about how phenomics could potentially contribute to improved livelihood and food security in South Africa. Visser evaluated the use of precision phenotyping in the beef and dairy cattle industries of South Africa, and highlighted the challenges, limitations and possible impact of the technology; she explained that phenomics will provide emerging farmers, especially in resource-poor areas, the opportunity to participate in the agriculture economy, which would contribute to the country’s agriculture output and its gross domestic product. To conclude the session, Ricardo Ventura, professor at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, presented on the use of new technology for audio information retrieval to describe gait patterns in Brazilian horses. While there is more research to be done, initial findings of the study suggest that audio information retrieval can potentially be used in animal breeding programs to improve specific traits (in this study, specifically horse gait). 

The full recording of the Animal Breeding and Genetics Symposium 1 can be found on the ASAS-CSAS-WSASAS Virtual Annual Meeting website.