Selection for 'environmental fit' from existing domesticated species
The selection of farm animals through breeding for human benefit has a very long history. In more recent times the practice of animal breeding has become highly sophisticated and the speed of change in ‘production traits’ such as rate of growth and milk yield has correspondingly increased dramatically. This narrow focus on production traits led to a number of well-documented examples of ‘unfavourable’ correlated responses such as negative fertility and health issues in high-yielding dairy cattle, with concerns that animal breeding is inherently antagonistic to animal welfare. In this paper the authors explore some of the questions surrounding breeding and welfare and, specifically, how to conceptualise and improve the ‘fit’ between the selected animal and the environment, or system, in which the animal is reared and managed. The authors conclude that there is a need for a better understanding of genotype × environment effects on health and welfare traits in order to inform the development of breeding programmes that lead to improved environmental fit in animals. They also see the need for the development of valid traits for assessing health and welfare, greater consideration of early life effects that can also potentially affect environmental fit and a need to consider the impacts of climate change on breeding programmes.
Journal Title/Title of Proceedings
Revue Scientifique et Technique de L'OIE