Breeding and Genetics Symposium I: How genomic selection has changed livestock breeding
Over the past decade, genomics has had tremendous impact on livestock breeding through genomic selection, which allows genetic gain based on available phenotypic records to be improved by leveraging information contained in a phenotype across all selection candidates at an early age, rather than only across close relatives. Apart from increasing and optimizing size and structure of training data, further improvement of genomic selection requires information on QTL, in order to reduce the ‘data noise’ that is created by uninformative SNPs. Gene editing provides additional opportunities by either creating new beneficial genetic variation with large effects (e.g. disease resistance) or by rapidly increasing the frequency of favorable QTL alleles. Epigenetic manipulation of embryos is another genomics technology on the horizon. Reproductive technologies will continue to impact livestock breeding, as technologies such as AI, ET, IVEP, and semen sexing have. Novel technologies are surrogate sire technology and in vitro meiosis. Other technology opportunities lie in the area of precision phenotyping and precision animal breeding. Driven by advances in high-throughput sensor technology, precision phenotyping allows for more data to be collected to evaluate genetic merit. The ability to capitalize on this data for genetic improvement requires enhanced knowledge of the biological mechanisms that underlie traits of interest. The combination of genomics, precision phenotypic, and knowledge (and ultimately modelling) of the underlying biological mechanisms and how these mechanisms are impacted by environment and its interaction with genetics will allow implementation of ‘precision animal breeding’. The latter involves more accurate prediction of the outcome of specific matings in a specific environment in terms of a comprehensive breeding goal that includes animal wellbeing and sustainability. Integrating detailed mechanistic models of animal performance in an environment into genetic evaluation methods that enable prediction of genetic merit for underlying biological traits will enable precision animal breeding.