• Genetic and economic benefits of foreign sire contributions to a domestic sheep industry; including an Ireland-New Zealand case study

      Fetherstone, Nicola; Hely, Fiona S; McHugh, Noirín; McGovern, Fiona M; Amer, Peter R; European Union; n°772787 (Biomed Central, 2021-01-06)
      Background Importation of foreign genetics is a widely used genetic improvement strategy. However, even if the foreign genetic merit is currently greater than the domestic genetic merit, differences in foreign and domestic trends mean that the long-term competitiveness of an importation strategy cannot be guaranteed. Gene flow models are used to quantify the impact that a specific subpopulation, such as foreign genetics, can have over time on the genetic or economic benefit of a domestic industry. Methods We used a deterministic recursive gene flow model to predict the commercial performance of lambs born across various subpopulations. Numerous breeding strategies were evaluated by varying market share, proportions of rams selected for mating, genetic trend, superiority of foreign genetics over domestic genetics and frequency of importation. Specifically, an Ireland-New Zealand case study was simulated to quantify the potential gain that could be made by using foreign sire contributions (New Zealand) in a domestic sheep industry (Ireland). Results Genetic and economic gains were generated from alternative breeding strategies. The ‘base scenario’ (i.e. representing the current industry) predicted an average genetic merit value of €2.51 for lambs born and an annualised cumulative benefit of €45 million (m) after 20 years. Maximum genetic (€9.45 for lambs born) and economic (annualised cumulative benefit of €180 m after 20 years) benefits were achieved by implementing the ‘PRO-intense-market scenario’ which involved shifting market share away from conservative domestic breeders and reducing the proportion of rams that were selected for mating by progressive domestic breeders from the top 40% to the top 20%, without the use of any foreign genetics. The ‘PROFOR scenario’, which considered the use of foreign and progressive domestic genetics, predicted an average genetic merit value of €7.37 for lambs born and an annualised cumulative benefit of €144 m, after 20 years. Conclusions Our results demonstrate that there is opportunity for a domestic industry to increase industry benefits without the use of foreign genetics but through an attempt to shift the market share away from conservative domestic breeders towards progressive domestic breeders. However, the importation and use of progressive foreign genetics may be an effective method to trigger a change in behaviour of conservative domestic breeders towards the use of progressive genetics.