The productivity of developing country livestock production systems lags well behind that of the developed world. Addressing this issue is one important route to poverty alleviation, improved food security and environmental sustainability (because, generally, the lower the productivity of livestock systems the higher the environmental impact per unit of product). Low livestock productivity can be attributed to a number of inter-related factors including (depending on the system) high disease burdens and weak animal health-care systems, poor quality and insufficient animal feed, use of breed-types that are not optimal, and other social and economic constraints.
This poster, produced for the Tropentag 2014 conference, describes how the rapidly developing field of genomics can contribute to improved productivity in livestock production systems of developing countries. Particular focus is on the the use of genomics to identify genes or gene networks conferring disease resistance with the subsequent creation of new resistant breed-types by transgenic or genome editing approaches; and the use of genomics to better understand host-pathogen interactions and mechanisms of immunity for development of new vaccines and therapeutics.
This week, ILRI staff are participating in the Tropentag 2014 International Conference in Prague (17-19 September 2014). There is also a dedicated ‘ILRI@40’ side event on ‘Livestock-based options for sustainable food and nutritional security and healthy lives.’ See all the posters.
I am not fully convinced if these conclusions are all valid. Like you cannot grow all plants in all regions so you may not be able to use all kinds of cattle in all kinds of region. A higher disease burden and better veterinarian coverage in our “first” world may not be the only reason why we have higher livestock productivity. Maybe some of these diseases are endemic there and cannot be “edited” out of the genome. Maybe, like with Malaria, it may be more effective to target the vectors etc. So far, looking at the promises of the “green revolution” over forty years, I have heard many many promises come and go so I keep my fingers crossed.