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Focus Area 2 Components



Focus Area 2A : 

Livestock production with global competitiveness: Breeding, physiology and management

Breeding / Genetics

Sustainable development of more productive and efficient livestock herds / flocks will be required to increase production.  This will involve both identification of immediate tactical management activities to improve production and productivity (output per unit of input) of current herds, as well as re-establishment of long-term strategic programmes of comparative evaluation and continued genetic improvement. 

In both cases, accurate and consistent decisions based on objective information and a thorough understanding of the key input-output relationships involved in livestock production will be required.  Recording performance is required to provide information for sound decision-making and to establish key input-output relationships.  It is also particularly important to provide the comprehensive and consistent information that is necessary to fairly compare indigenous exotic germplasm and to support long-term genetic improvement towards an appropriate bio-economic development objective.

Animal recording and Improvement

A national beef cattle and small stock database with information on appropriate production and reproduc-tion information, baseline performance information, traceability of products, to supply primary users with information needed for management decisions and the genetic improvement of their stock.
ii. Maintenance and enhancement of genetic variation.
Identification of genes or gene markers related to economically important traits or adaptation.
Develop and maintain a gene bank and supporting database to preserve genetic diversity and identification.
Genetic improvement

Properly developed selection criteria and breeding objectives to accelerate the selection response towards efficient and profitable beef cattle and small stock production.

Genomics, DNA Technology and Services.
Marker identification and detection for utilisation in the genetic improvement of animals.
Breeding to reduce the environmental impact
An effective way to reduce the carbon and water footprint from livestock is to reduce the livestock numbers and increase the production per animal, thereby improving their productivity. Increased productivity generates less GHG emission per unit of livestock product. Production efficiency can be improved through breeding and there is sufficient genetic variation in South Africa’s livestock genetic resources to facilitate breeding for improved production efficiency.

Breeding objectives/selection criteria that improve cow-calf efficiency.
ii. Alternative feedlot traits that will improve efficiency and reduce the environmental impact.
iii. Early-in-life indicator traits and selection criteria/ breeding  objectives to improve fertility in beef cows.
Reproduction efficiency
The overall goal is to improve reproduction efficiency of livestock.  Research will focus on improving reproductive performance of livestock through genetics, nutrition, health and management within the constraints of a particular environment.  Research advances and new bio-technologies will be developed to reduce losses due to reproduction problems in all species and maximise output of high quality products.

Research should be aimed to increase the understanding of the biological mechanism underlying normal growth and development of the musculoskeletal system, lactation, digestion, and nutrient metabolism.
i. Physiological processes contributing to efficiency differences among animals in terms of reproduction rate understood and quantified.
ii. Behavioural and physiological under-standing of climate-related effects such as heat stress on livestock reproductive efficiency and overall productivity.
iii. Reduced cost systems for managing replacement animals in the breeding herd established.
iv. Improved reproduction components and parameters for use in production prediction models.
v. Improved cryopreservation, sexing, and in vitro production of semen and embryos.
vi. Animal growth and development to improve cattle and small stock production and the control and manipulation of muscle growth, metabolism, and mammary function.
vii. Proper understanding of specific nutrient regulated biological responses.
Livestock genetic resources
South Africa’s diverse gene pool of indigenous and locally developed livestock breeds and strains of foreign origin should be protected and screened for more efficient commercial use.  These aims should be supplemented with biological criteria and economic variables (e.g. using deterministic and  stochastic models) to ensure viability and sustainability of new or smaller settlements and to manage risk in high turnover operations.
i. All livestock breeds and strains characterised in terms of scientific principles.
ii. Setting up of systems and models dealing with breeding plans for small populations of livestock species to counter inbreeding.

Setting of breeding objectives and proper gene flow planning, thereby securing commercialisation and utilisation of animal genetic resources.



Focus Area 2 B 

Livestock production with global competitiveness: Animal growth, nutrition and management

Nutrient intake and utilisation
The most efficient supplementation of nutrition for every production cycle must be established, since nutrition is the single most costly component in livestock production. 

Sub optimal nutrition causes production losses and increases disease susceptibility.  Research is required on nutrient intake and utilisation to improve livestock nutrition.
i. Chemical composition and availability of nutrients in current and potential feedstuffs and waste products.
ii. Methods to screen and study nutrient damage through treatment and anti-nutritional factors.
Nutritional requirements of ruminants.
iv. Waste products, e.g. bio-fuel residues as feeds sources, with specific emphasis on low input feeding systems.
v.  More efficient use of nutrients, especially for production functions.
vi. Usage of feed supplements, additives, prebiotics and biotherapeutics. 
vii. Optimising feed intake and digestive efficiency.
Manipulation of nutrition to reduce methane
Methane production by ruminants is one of the largest sources of anthropogenic methane and it will be an advantage if CH4 production can be reduced via nutritional approaches. There are many practices that are effective, but not appropriate for long term mitigation of CH4 emissions in ruminants. It is therefore necessary to develop long term strategies to suppress CH4 production, without detrimental effects on the performance of the animal.

i. Development of prediction models to estimate methane production from feed quality and nutritive characteristics.
ii. Use of feed additives (eg. Ionophores) and other methods to enhance propionate production in the rumen at the expense of methane as hydrogen acceptor.

DNA Technology and Services

DNA Markers can be used to select for economically important traits and disease resistance.  Here use can be made of Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs).  A QTL is a “locus that affects a measurable trait that shows continuous variation.  The measurable trait depends on the cumulative action of many genes”.  Marker assisted selection can accelerate genetic progress.  It is envisaged that disease resistance and other economically important traits can be identified using QTLs. 
DNA profiling can be used to confirm parentage, including  case  of  multi-sire  mating  in  beef  cattle  herds  and  is  a  powerful  instrument  in  the  identification  of  individual  animals.  The micro   satellites   used for the profiles should be standardized according to the International Society of Animal Genetics (ISAG); otherwise results between laboratories are not comparable. 
The establishment of DNA profiles is an accepted tool for use by the SAPS in stock theft cases and is generally accepted as evidence by the courts.

i. DNA technology established and expanded:
  • As a deterrent for stock theft. (e.g. Lid Cat);
  • For genetic detection (e.g. of species) and modification including GMO detection and services.
ii. Marker identification and QTL detection for utilization in the genetic improve-ment of animals.
iii. Studies on micro satellites as useful criteria for marker assisted selection for beef quality.

A systems approach to livestock production

A systems approach can be defined as the utilization of the principles of genetics, nutrition, physiology, genetic resources, range and forage management, product technology and economics to support practical and profitable animal production by integrating research into farming practice.  This will ensure a sustainable production enterprise through the best allocation of limited resources, and fulfils an important coordination function between the different disciplines of animal production. i. Studies of the whole enterprise and production cycle of animals.
ii. Understanding of species interaction (including wildlife) in the farming  enterprise.
iii. Studies on integrated crop/ animal production systems.
iv. Decision support systems to assess the impact of selection decisions on the efficiency of the production systems since many economic relevant traits interact, such as the use of sires that modify energy requirements (through altered weaning weight, mature weight, milk production, etc) will influence stocking rates.
Baseline information on GHG and carbon sequestration and the effect of climate change

CH4 results primarily from enteric fermentation of plant material in the digestive tract of animals and its emission is therefore the concern and responsibility of livestock farming. It is the responsibility of the livestock sector to understand the release of GHG (i.e. the carbon footprint) and water use (i.e. the water footprint) in order to ensure future sustainability.

Climate change is associated with changes in temperature, relative humidity, rainfall distribution in time and space, and changes in ecosystem, biome composition, woody species encroachment and alien plant invasion. The effect on food security should be understood.
i. Techniques to accurately measure GHG,  carbon sequestration and the water footprint.

A database of national and regional emission figures that should be regularly updated according to interna-tional (IPCC) specifications in order to evaluate carbon sequestration and the water footprint.
Effect of climate change on nutrition and food security in terms of food availability, stability of food supplies, access to food and food utilisation.
Herd management
Efficient livestock production encompasses a vast number of factors including biological, environmental, input, market and infrastructure elements.
Improved management techniques related to health, reproduction, selection, gene flow, economic and other market related aspects established.
Infrastructure equipment and practices for animal production
Sustainable animal production requires provision of cost effective, appropriate infrastructure and equipment to ensure an optimal environment for animal growth / production.  This includes systems to provide food and water. i. Design equipment and working methods to decrease the epidemic of stock theft, eg Animal identification systems that are cost effective, easy to use, robust, reliable and secure (eg RFID ear tags).
ii. Appropriate software systems for accessibility by industry and relevant institutions (eg SAPS) to expand management possibilities associated with animal identification, eg Systems that can monitor unauthorised movement of animals.

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