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Cattle production faces new challenges regarding sustainability with its three pillars – economic, societal and environmental. The following three main factors will drive dairy cattle selection in the future: (1) During a long period, intensive selection for enhanced productivity has deteriorated most functional traits, some reaching a critical point and needing to be restored. This is especially the case for the Holstein breed and for female fertility, mastitis resistance, longevity and metabolic diseases. (2) Genomic selection offers two new opportunities: as the potential genetic gain can be almost doubled, more traits can be efficiently selected; phenotype recording can be decoupled from selection and limited to several thousand animals. (3) Additional information from other traits can be used, either from existing traditional recording systems at the farm level or from the recent and rapid development of new technologies and precision farming. Milk composition (i.e. mainly fatty acids) should be adapted to better meet human nutritional requirements. Fatty acids can be measured through a new interpretation of the usual medium infrared spectra. Milk composition can also provide additional information about reproduction and health. Modern milk recorders also provide new information, that is, on milking speed or on the shape of milking curves. Electronic devices measuring physiological or activity parameters can predict physiological status like estrus or diseases, and can record behavioral traits. Slaughterhouse data may permit effective selection on carcass traits. Efficient observatories should be set up for early detection of new emerging genetic defects. In the near future, social acceptance of cattle production could depend on its capacity to decrease its ecological footprint. The first solution consists in increasing survival and longevity to reduce replacement needs and the number of nonproductive animals. At the individual level, selection on rumen activity may lead to decreased methane production and concomitantly to improved feed efficiency. A major effort should be dedicated to this new field of research and particularly to rumen flora metagenomics. Low input in cattle production is very important and tomorrow's cow will need to adapt to a less intensive production environment, particularly lower feed quality and limited care. Finally, global climate change will increase pathogen pressure, thus more accurate predictors for disease resistance will be required.
More robust cattle have the potential to increase farm profitability, improve animal welfare, reduce the contribution of ruminant livestock to greenhouse gas emissions and decrease the risk of food shortages in the face of increased variability in the farm environment. Breeding is a powerful tool for changing the robustness of cattle; however, insufficient recording of breeding goal traits and selection of animals at younger ages tend to favour genetic change in productivity traits relative to robustness traits. This paper has extended a previously proposed theory of artificial evolution to demonstrate, using deterministic simulation, how choice of breeding scheme design can be used as a tool to manipulate the direction of genetic progress, whereas the breeding goal remains focussed on the factors motivating individual farm decision makers. Particular focus was placed on the transition from progeny testing or mass selection to genomic selection breeding strategies. Transition to genomic selection from a breeding strategy where candidates are selected before records from progeny being available was shown to be highly likely to favour genetic progress in robustness traits relative to productivity traits. This was shown even with modest numbers of animals available for training and when heritability for robustness traits was only slightly lower than that for productivity traits. When transitioning from progeny testing to a genomic selection strategy without progeny testing, it was shown that there is a significant risk that robustness traits could become less influential in selection relative to productivity traits. Augmentations of training populations using genotyped cows and support for industry-wide improvements in phenotypic recording of robustness traits were put forward as investment opportunities for stakeholders wishing to facilitate the application of science on robust cattle into improved genetic selection schemes.
Pig breeders in the past have adopted their breeding goals according to the needs of the producers, processors and consumers and have made remarkable genetic improvements in the traits of interest. However, it is becoming more and more challenging to meet the market needs and expectations of consumers and in general of the citizens. In view of the current and future trends, the breeding goals have to include several additional traits and new phenotypes. These phenotypes include (a) vitality from birth to slaughter, (b) uniformity at different levels of production, (c) robustness, (d) welfare and health and (e) phenotypes to reduce carbon footprint. Advancements in management, genomics, statistical models and other technologies provide opportunities for recording these phenotypes. These new developments also provide opportunities for making effective use of the new phenotypes for faster genetic improvement to meet the newly adapted breeding goals.
Nutritional strategies to minimize Salmonella in food animal production are one of the key components in producing safer food. The current European approach is to use a farm-to-fork strategy, where each sector must implement measures to minimize and reduce Salmonella contamination. In the pre-harvest phase, this means that all available tools need to be used such as implementation of biosecurity measures, control of Salmonella infections in animals at the farm as well as in transport and trade, optimal housing and management including cleaning, disinfection procedures as well as efforts to achieve Salmonella-free feed production. This paper describes some nutritional strategies that could be used in farm control programmes in the major mono-gastric food production animals: poultry and pigs. Initially, it is important to prevent the introduction of Salmonella onto the farm through Salmonella-contaminated feed and this risk is reduced through heat treatment and the use of organic acids and their salts and formaldehyde. Microbiological sampling and monitoring for Salmonella in the feed mills is required to minimize the introduction of Salmonella via feed onto the farm. In addition, feed withdrawal may create a stressful situation in animals, resulting in an increase in Salmonella shedding. Physical feed characteristics such as coarse-ground meal to pigs can delay gastric emptying, thereby increasing the acidity of the gut and thus reducing the possible prevalence of Salmonella. Coarse-ground grains and access to litter have also been shown to decrease Salmonella shedding in poultry. The feed can also modify the gastro-intestinal tract microflora and influence the immune system, which can minimize Salmonella colonization and shedding. Feed additives, such as organic acids, short- and medium-chain fatty acids, probiotics, including competitive exclusion cultures, prebiotics and certain specific carbohydrates, such as mannan-based compounds, egg proteins, essential oils and bacteriophages, have the potential to reduce Salmonella levels when added to the feed. These nutritional strategies could be evaluated and used in farm control programmes.
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