Unintended consequences of selection for increased production on the health and welfare of livestock

van Marle-Köster, Este; Visser, Carina

Modern farming technologies, including quantitative selection and breeding methods in farm animal species, resulted in increased production and efficiency. Selection for increased output in both intensive and extensive production systems has trade-offs and negative outcomes, often more pronounced in intensive systems. Animal welfare and health are often adversely affected and this influences sustainable production. The relative importance of animal welfare differs among developed and developing countries due to the level of economic development, food security and education, as well as religious and cultural practices which presents challenges for sound scientific research. Due to breeding goals in the past set on growth performance, traits such as fertility, welfare and health have been neglected. Fertility is the single most important trait in all livestock species. Reduced fertility and lameness, claw health and mastitis results in unnecessary culling and reduced longevity. Selection pressure for growth accompanied with inbreeding has resulted in a number of genetic defects in beef, sheep and pigs. This review demonstrated the importance of inclusion of animal welfare concepts into breeding objectives and selection strategies. Accurate phenotyping of welfare traits is a limiting factor in the implementation of mitigating strategies, which include diagnostic testing, control of inbreeding and genomic selection.



van Marle-Köster, Este / Visser, Carina: Unintended consequences of selection for increased production on the health and welfare of livestock. 2021. Copernicus Publications.


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Rechteinhaber: Este van Marle-Köster

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