Breeding Focus on Resilience in Livestock and Fish

Published 24 November 2014

An international forum was hosted by the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU) and CSIRO Agriculture for industry and researchers to exchange ideas on genetic improvement of resilience in a number of livestock and aquatic species.

Associate Professor Susanne Hermesch from AGBU and Dr Sonja Dominik from CSIRO Agriculture in Armidale were the lead organisers of this event and also the editors of the associated book ‘Breeding Focus 2014 – Improving Resilience’ of the two-day workshop.

A/Professor Hermesch said this workshop was attended by key breeders, leading researchers and industry experts from Australia, New Zealand, France and Scotland to discuss important matters relating to resilience.

“During this workshop we have been looking at resilience in a number of different species, from pigs, sheep and cattle, to poultry, fish and shellfish,” Dr Dominik added.

A/Professor Hermesch and Dr Dominik define resilience as the ability of an organism to recover quickly from adverse events such as illness, change in environmental stressors or other, possibly unknown, antagonistic effects to the biological system.

Mathematical models for disease resilience have been developed by Dr Andrea Doeschl-Wilson from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute in Scotland. The results from these models provided guidance to breeders about improving procedures to record disease resilience on farms. This recording is essential for calculating estimates of animals’ genetic merit for resilience, which in turn allow breeders to breed more resilient animals.

Breeders from all industries were interested in learning more about the impact of current selection practices and the role of body reserves of cows and ewes on resilience.

These relevant topics were explored in three presentations delivered by Dr Mark Young from Beef and Sheep Genetics in New Zealand as well as Dr Sam Walkom and Dr Matt Wolcott both from AGBU, a joint venture between the University of New England and NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI).

Dr Alison Collins, a researcher at NSW DPI, described on-farm measures to monitor the health and immune status of pigs. Some of these on-farm measures may be used in breeding strategies for immune competence in livestock as was outlined by Dr Brad Hine from CSIRO in Armidale.

All participants were fascinated by the opportunities that exist in fish and shell fish breeding.

The colourful presentation by Professor Dean Jerry, James Cook University, highlighted breeding strategies for resilient barramundi in the face of global climate change. Dr Wayne O’Connor, also from NSW DPI, provided insight into breeding strategies to improve resilience of Sydney rock oysters. Dr Richard Taylor from CSIRO described a new test to quantify better handling resilience of Tasmanian Atlantic salmon that are affected by amoebic gill disease.

The book, Breeding Focus 2014 – Improving Resilience, is published by the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, UNE with support from the Pork CRC, and is available to purchase at the following link: