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Which animal breeding programs for agro-ecological livestock farming systems?

INRA Prod Anim 30(1) 31-46


1 GABI, AgroParisTech, INRA, Université Paris-Saclay, 78350, Jouy-en-Josas, France
2 BIOEPAR, INRA, Oniris, 44307, Nantes, France
3 IFIP - Institut du porc, La motte au Vicomte, 35650, Le Rheu, France
4 PEGASE, AgroCampus, INRA, 35590, Saint-Gilles, France
5 UMR1213 Herbivores, INRA, Vetagro Sup, 63122, Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France
6 GenPhySE, Université de Toulouse, INRA, INPT, INP-ENVT, 31320, Castanet Tolosan, France
7 IHAP, INRA, INPT, Université de Toulouse, INP- ENVT, 31076, Toulouse, France
8 Institut de l’Elevage, 149 rue de Bercy, 75595, Paris, France
9 SELMET, CIRAD, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro, 34000, Montpellier, France
10 Institut Technique de l’Aviculture, 23 rue Baldassini, 69364, Lyon, France
11 URA, INRA, 37380, Nouzilly, France


Agroecology uses natural processes and local resources rather than chemical inputs to ensure production while limiting the environmental footprint of agriculture. In this context, breeding innovations are necessary to obtain animals that are both productive and adapted to a broad range of local contexts. Whatever the animal sector, reorienting current breeding programmes seems to be more useful than developing programmes dedicated to agroecological systems that will struggle to be really effective in terms of costs and expected genetic progress. Breeding for robustness aims to promote individual adaptive capacities by considering various selection criteria including reproduction, health, and adaptation to rough feed resources, warm climate or fluctuating environmental conditions. It leads considering genotype-environment interactions in the prediction of breeding values. Animal performance should be evaluated in low-input systems in order to select those animals adapted to limiting conditions. Standardization of both animals and breeding conditions 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. There is thus not a single agroecological animal type, but animals with various profiles that meet the expectations of agroecology. As well as supporting the value of within-breed diversity, we must preserve between-breed diversity to maintain numerous options for adaptation to a variety of production environments and contexts. This may involve to phenotypically and genetically characterize local breeds. Last but not least, improved assimilation by farmers and farm technicians of available genetic resources and breeding tools is necessary.

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