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Review: Towards the agroecological management of ruminants, pigs and poultry through the development of sustainable breeding programmes. II. Breeding strategies

  • F. Phocas (a1), C. Belloc (a2), J. Bidanel (a3), L. Delaby (a4), J. Y. Dourmad (a4), B. Dumont (a5), P. Ezanno (a2), L. Fortun-Lamothe (a6), G. Foucras (a7), B. Frappat (a8), E. González-García (a9), D. Hazard (a6), C. Larzul (a6), S. Lubac (a10), S. Mignon-Grasteau (a11), C. R. Moreno (a6), M. Tixier-Boichard (a1) and M. Brochard (a8)...

Abstract

Agroecology uses ecological processes and local resources rather than chemical inputs to develop productive and resilient livestock and crop production systems. In this context, breeding innovations are necessary to obtain animals that are both productive and adapted to a broad range of local contexts and diversity of systems. Breeding strategies to promote agroecological systems are similar for different animal species. However, current practices differ regarding the breeding of ruminants, pigs and poultry. Ruminant breeding is still an open system where farmers continue to choose their own breeds and strategies. Conversely, pig and poultry breeding is more or less the exclusive domain of international breeding companies which supply farmers with hybrid animals. Innovations in breeding strategies must therefore be adapted to the different species. In developed countries, reorienting current breeding programmes seems to be more effective than developing programmes dedicated to agroecological systems that will struggle to be really effective because of the small size of the populations currently concerned by such systems. Particular attention needs to be paid to determining the respective usefulness of cross-breeding v. straight breeding strategies of well-adapted local breeds. While cross-breeding may offer some immediate benefits in terms of improving certain traits that enable the animals to adapt well to local environmental conditions, it may be difficult to sustain these benefits in the longer term and could also induce an important loss of genetic diversity if the initial pure-bred populations are no longer produced. As well as supporting the value of within-breed diversity, we must preserve between-breed diversity in order to maintain numerous options for adaptation to a variety of production environments and contexts. This may involve specific public policies to maintain and characterize local breeds (in terms of both phenotypes and genotypes), which could be used more effectively if they benefited from the scientific and technical resources currently available for more common breeds. Last but not least, public policies need to enable improved information concerning the genetic resources and breeding tools available for the agroecological management of livestock production systems, and facilitate its assimilation by farmers and farm technicians.

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