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Projects and activities | 14 October 2019

OPTIBOV - Genetic characterization of cattle populations for optimized performance in African ecosystems

A large variety of local indigenous and commercial cattle breeds has been produced as a result of domestication and selection. This variety ensures the capability and adaptability of livestock to fulfill its role in food production under different circumstances, now and in the future. Local breeds exhibit unique adaptive features to harsh environments, which can be useful for adjusting mainstream breeds to climate change. Simply transferring high producing commercial animals to the African continent, will not be the solution due to low performance and even low survival under these harsh environments (ecosystems). The aim of this project is to identify markers for the (positive) adaptation traits as well as the (negative) traits to be improved by studying bovine population from 6 different regions across the world from north to south in Europe and Africa. In order to investigate genetic mechanisms underlying a trait it is important to make sure the correct phenotype(s) is (are) collected uniformly for the animal. We will use the Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations recommendations for phenotyping animals to create the basic phenotype trait list and include preferences of local breeders. Another important goal is to collect animal biological material and to measure phenotypes on the animals of the selected breeds very accurately. For each individual animal, the ecotype where this animal is living needs to be described with clear reproducible settings. To analyze the architecture of the genetic material we use whole genome sequencing to detect the variants present within an animal. With this information we will study inbreeding in detail and more specifically, study regions in the genome, which have been under natural (environmental adaptation) as well as artificial (human mediated) selection. An important deliverable of the project is a new genotyping assay specific for African cattle breeds which will include markers associated with specific traits.

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