Future applications of genomics in African livestock systems

  • What genetic or genomic applications have the most potential to positively impact on the rural poor in Africa – in the near future and longer term?


    Main themes discussed on this topic to-date are:

    The need for a holistic outlook on improving the performance of African livestock was stressed by many. Points raised here included:  the need for  supportive policy; the need for strong livestock product markets, as well as ability of livestock keepers to access these markers;  intervention package to address the various livestock production constraints (including on feed, health etc.); and means for farmers to access new technologies, such as public-private partnerships, amongst others.  In general, these issues are a subset of those commonly recognized by those working in the African livestock sectors.


    Of the potential applications of genomics / genetics in African livestock systems, the only one discussed in any detail was genomic selection.  Here discussion centered around

    1)Whether / how African livestock systems could capitalize on the opportunity of genomic selection, given current  system constraints.  Some example comments are:

    • “Genomic tools are not a silver bullet. …(for)  any livestock improvement effort to bear fruit requires that the basics need to be in place i.e. the conventional livestock recording systems which are not existent in most developing countries”
    • “Application of genomic tools is constrained by inefficient breeding programmes and policies in our African countries”
    • “Current genomic tools offer a ray of hope but the basic infrastructure for conventional animal performance recording are still necessary”

    2) How reference populations could be created – with the suggestion of using data from government institutions linked to data from (the often few) producers who record. The latter to assist in dealing with issues related to GxE

    3) An example was given of a project on Kenyan dairy cattle (mainly cross-bred) where genomic prediction was undertaken (using GBLUP and Bayes C) based on about 1000 animals with phenotypes (milk records) and genotypes, with resultant accuracies of 0.3 to 0.4.


    The need for recording schemes – with appropriate incentives for farmer engagement – was also a common theme. The only incentive explicitly discussed, however, was the use of records to help improve farm management decisions (seen as being more immediate than that related to generation of genetically improved animals). There was general agreement that farmers needed capacity building in recording, and that timely feedback (on the records) was important.






  1. David Steane August 23, 2016 Reply

    The summary appears to me to be right on the ball - don't try to run before you can walk. I am concerned that the genomic/phenotypic information is more likely to come from institutional herds not managed as the local population - this is likely to be less relevant under fuure management conditions given the effects of climate change on diet etc


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    • Karen Marshall - forum organiser August 23, 2016 Reply

      Thanks! Under the 'discuss-using' forum there has been discussion on linking institutional herd data with data from farmers, for the reasons you suggested. And also discussion on how we can help facilitate farmer recording, to strengthen farm data.


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