Towards resilient livestock systems : a resource allocation approach to combine selection and management within the herd environment

Abstract : Selecting those animals that have the greatest level of production, with little regard for other traits, has historically worked well in a favorable environment (i.e. nutrient-rich diet, low pathogen load, thermo-neutrality). However, for numerous reasons (economic, climatic, ecological) farmers will find it increasingly difficult, and indeed may actively choose not, to provide such favorable conditions in their herd environment. Selecting animals that match the future herd environments thus becomes as important as managing the herd environment to match the selected genotypes. To better identify constraints and opportunities to apply these two options, we propose, for the first time, in this thesis an animal model integrating the effects of selection and management. This model integrates resource allocation between life-functions resource as heritable traits. It enables simulating short-term performance and long-term selection response resulting from the transmission of allocation traits between generations. The model was applied to the dairy goat and focused on the management of extended lactation (EL) for a part of the herd (management practice based on keeping females in lactation without a new reproductive cycle). Both selection and management were assumed to influence the way every animal allocates its resource between functions. We aimed to assess the significance of this assumption for a better understanding of the development of genotype-environment interactions (G × E) over the long-term. In a herd subject to variations in the feeding level, different selection strategies aiming at improving milk production and longevity were simulated. In agreement with the resource allocation theory, the selection responses show improving production and survival has to face a trade-off between these two traits. However, this trade-off is alleviated when selection is combined with some proportion of EL in the herd. Such a synergistic effect between selection and management results from a complex interaction between the individual dynamic performance during EL and the herd turnover. Thereby, the innate capacity of goats to extend their lactation might be promoted to enhance herd resilience.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 12:51:17 PM
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Frédéric Douhard. Towards resilient livestock systems : a resource allocation approach to combine selection and management within the herd environment. Animal biology. AgroParisTech, 2013. English. ⟨NNT : 2013AGPT0064⟩. ⟨pastel-00986412⟩

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