8th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production

by 5m Editor
3 October 2006, at 9:38am

BRAZIL - The 8th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production brings together researchers from around the world in the area of animal breeding and genetics. The site of the congress was Belo Horizonte, Brazil. These congresses are held every four years and include participants from every continent.

The focus of the congress, as implied in the title is the application of genetics to livestock production. The program included all aspects of animal breeding, namely biological, statistical, agricultural, social and economic and the research presented highlights the most recent scientific advances in the field.

In addition to topics on specific species, including swine, dairy, beef, sheep, goat, poultry, horse, fish and shell fish breeding, there were presentations specific to reproduction, lactation, growth, meat quality, feed intake and efficiency, disease resistance, adaptation to tropical environments and behaviour.

Enhancements in genetic tools and methods was another area of major interest as researchers reported on new developments in areas such as molecular genetics (gene discovery, marker and gene assisted selection, Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) detection and mapping), statistical genetics, bioinformatics and statistical genomics, data analysis techniques and new software. Other topics included the design and evaluation of breeding programs and breeding objectives and the utilization and management of animal and breed genetic resources. As you can imagine it was a meeting full of many diverse and important aspects to animal breeding.

Pig breeding was forefront at the congress with many excellent presentations. There was a large increase in the amount of reported research in the molecular genetics area compared to the previous congress. Presentations on detection and effects of QTL, candidate and major genes on all aspects of pig reproduction, production, disease resistance, and carcass and meat quality were evident throughout the congress. There were several reports of the evaluation of genes and markers in more than one population indicating potential opportunity for their use.

Another related area, with a significant number of presentations was methods and experiences of using markers in breeding programs. To date most applications have involved only one or a few markers in the breeding programs. While not all examples have been totally successful, technological advances allowing for simultaneous evaluation of thousands or tens of thousands of markers and genes will provide unique opportunities.

There were several presentations on how to handle and analyse these large quantities of molecular data. Clearly advances in this area will find their way in to commercial pig breeding programs and I expect they will be a major focus of presentations at the next world congress.

There were several excellent presentations on optimization of breeding programs to ensure maximum genetic response over time. Balancing the many significant factors affecting genetic response has always been a challenge for breeding programs. Advancements in theory and software applications are moving this area to a point were decision-making software can be a great aid in actual selection of mating pairs.

Piglet survival was an area that also received a lot of attention, especially analysis methods of piglet survival data to produce EBVs.

There were also some reports on preliminary analysis and data to examine sow longevity or productivity. This trait usually requires the use of crossbred and multiplier unit records to get accurate data on actual length of productive life for sows. Accurate data recording is key to accurate evaluation of this trait. While increased data recording often entails more investment at the breeding end it seems clear that advances in this area will pay commercial economic dividends if sows remain in the herd and productive to later ages.

The genetic component of disease resistance and immunological response was an area with a significant increased presence compared to the last congress. Research results were still mostly at the early stages from an application point of view. However it is clear that there is a significant research interest in this area and I expect that there will be some major advances in four years time at the next congress.

The World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production provides a tremendous forum for the exchange of research and development ideas and information dealing with the genetics of animal production. Genesus believes that commitment to research and development is a major factor in the success of pig breeding companies. Genesus continues to make major commitments to research and development and regards this as an important cornerstone in our future success.

Written by: R.A. Kemp, PhD, P.Ag. - Geneticist, Genesus Genetics

5m Editor