Process Management

News last update:6 Aug 2012

Number of native livestock breeds declining

The number of strong native livestock breeds across developing countries is declining, as they are increasingly replaced by 'western breeds'. However, farm experts believe that this is not a sustainable solution and are therefore calling to create gene banks to save these valuable breeds.

Valuable breeds are disappearing at an alarming rate," Carlos Seré of the International Livestock Research Institute said at meeting convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Interlaken, Switzerland. Native breeds are increasingly being supplanted by high-yield Western farm animals, which may be less well able to adapt to their new environment in times of drought or disease, found a joint report by Seré's institute and the FAO on the diversity of farm animals in 169 countries.

Problems on the long term
The black and white Holstein-Friesian dairy cow has high milk yields, and is now found in 128 countries and all of the world's regions. Fast egg-laying white leghorn chickens and quick-growing large white pigs are other examples of high-yield stock.

These breeds offer high volumes of meat, milk and eggs. But the researchers warn that the growing reliance on a handful of farm animal species is causing the loss on average of one livestock breed every month in developing countries. And over the longer term, the imported breeds may not cope with unpredictable environmental change or outbreaks of indigenous disease.

Gene banks
Seré is calling for the creation of gene banks to store semen, eggs and embryos of farm animals. Seré says such gene banks have been set up in Europe, the US, China, India and parts of Latin America, but are absent from Africa. But gene banks are just one step needed to better manage farm animals in developing countries, Seré says. The other steps he suggests are:
• Encouraging farmers to maintain a diversity of breeds
• Making it easier for farm animals to cross national borders with their owners
• Generate "landscape genomics", which help predict which breeds are best suited to different environments around the globe

Source: NewScientist

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