Submitted to: Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/20/2014
Publication Date: 7/15/2014
Citation: Blackburn, H.D., Plante, Y. 2014. North American animal breeding and production: meeting the needs of a changing landscape. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics. 131:247-248. Interpretive Summary: The North American animal breeding industry is robust and assists the livestock industry, as a whole, to increase production efficiency. Across species increased productivity has decreased the size of the national herd while increasing the quantity of product produced. In large measure the breeding industry has been successful due to its willingness to adapt new technologies, and thereby providing it with a global advantage. It has been estimated that over 50% of the globally exported bovine semen came from North America. As new challenges emerge the breeding industry has responded. By working toward potential solutions. For example in the case of climate change research as begun to explore genetic markers that may be useful in determining if selected animals have the ability to adjust to new environmental challenges. In addition to a willingness to adapt to new technologies North America has a wide variety of genetic resources which it can draw upon to further assist the livestock industry in meeting a changing landscape.
Technical Abstract: The North American livestock sector is economically mature; much of the increased demand for livestock products is driven by modest increases in human population and substitution of one species for another in response to commodity prices and consumer trends. Due to the mature market structure for livestock products, producers focus attention on approaches that can improve their production efficiency. Regionally from the 1970s to the present the inventory of dairy cattle has decreased while total milk production has increased largely due to genetic improvement. This same trend has been observed with beef cattle for both Canada and the U.S, which experienced a 13% and 32% decrease in cow numbers, with little change in total production levels over recent decades. The increased cow productivity has been made possible by selection for increased weaning and yearling weights which have been translated into increased dressed steer weights. Similar types of production efficiency gains have also been achieved with traits with lower heritability. For example, during the last decade the number of piglets born per litter has increased by about 10% for the region. A number of important factors will impact breeding and selection programs. The trend toward higher meat quality will likely continue to influence breeding decisions across species. But in addition, and particularly for ruminants, there is a growing awareness of a need to better match genotypes to the diverse production environments found in North America. There is now interest in increasing productivity and profitability through selecting for better animal health and decreased residual feed intake, both efforts contribute to environmental sustainability by reducing the environmental footprint of livestock production. North America has a broad array of genetic resources which have been used to develop populations capable of performing in diverse production settings. For example, of the top 10 international (or transboundary) cattle breeds identified by FAO, all are found in North America along with active breeder associations. The underlying success in using these resources has been the willingness of producers/breeders to incorporate new technologies that aid selection and to develop and evaluate new breed types, composites or synthetics to match their performance under different agro-ecosystems and to meet specific market niches. As a result, North American genetics have been widely exported through individual breeders or corporate breeding firms.