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Review: Towards the agroecological management of ruminants, pigs and poultry through the development of sustainable breeding programmes: I-selection goals and criteria

  • 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 natural processes and local resources rather than chemical inputs to ensure production while limiting the environmental footprint of livestock and crop production systems. Selecting to achieve a maximization of target production criteria has long proved detrimental to fitness traits. However, since the 1990s, developments in animal breeding have also focussed on animal robustness by balancing production and functional traits within overall breeding goals. We discuss here how an agroecological perspective should further shift breeding goals towards functional traits rather than production traits. Breeding for robustness aims to promote individual adaptive capacities by considering diverse selection criteria which include reproduction, animal health and welfare, and adaptation to rough feed resources, a warm climate or fluctuating environmental conditions. It requires the consideration of genotype×environment interactions in the prediction of breeding values. Animal performance must be evaluated in low-input systems in order to select those animals that are adapted to limiting conditions, including feed and water availability, climate variations and diseases. Finally, we argue that there is no single agroecological animal type, but animals with a variety of profiles that can meet the expectations of agroecology. The standardization of both animals and breeding conditions indeed appears contradictory to the agroecological paradigm that calls for an adaptation of animals to local opportunities and constraints in weakly artificialized systems tied to their physical environment.

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