The development of effective ruminant breeding programmes in Ireland from science to practice
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CitationD.P. Berry, F.L. Dunne and N. McHugh et al. The development of effective ruminant breeding programmes in Ireland from science to practice. Irish Journal of Agricultural and Food Research. DOI: 10.15212/ijafr-2020-0149
AbstractA genetic improvement programme is a sustainable, cumulative and permanent approach to achieving year-on-year performance gains. Its success is predicated not only on an efficient and effective breeding programme but also on a vision of the traits of importance in the future. A single, industry-owned, centralised database for cattle and sheep has been the foundation for genetic improvement programmes in Ireland. While DNA information has been heralded as a breakthrough for accelerating genetic gain, the basic principles of a successful animal breeding programme still remain the same: (1) a pertinent breeding goal, (2) the appropriate breeding objective to deliver on the breeding goal, (3) an accurate genetic evaluation system, (4) an efficient and effective breeding scheme, and (5) a system to disseminate the elite germplasm to the end user; also of importance is a system for validating the underlying procedures and principles. The constituent traits and their relative emphasis within breeding objectives will continue to be contentious. Traits that will need to be considered more in future ruminant breeding objectives include environmental impact, product quality and animal well-being, including health; while not always explicitly included in Irish breeding objectives for cattle and sheep, indirect improvements for many are expected via the genetic improvement in traits like reproductive performance and survival as well as macro measures of quality such as milk fat and protein concentration and carcass merit. Crucial for the future sustainability of ruminant production systems is the co-evolution of management systems and breeding programmes so that the animal of the future is suited to the most sustainably efficient production system.
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