Improving Animal Production & Welfare
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Programme Overview

This programme of research investigates the role of genetic, environmental and dietary factors on production-relevant traits with the aim of improving the performance, sustainability and welfare of farmed animals.

As the global population grows, there is a pressing need to increase the supply of safe nutritious food, while reducing the environmental impact of farming as well as improving animal welfare. Understanding the genetic basis of production-relevant traits in poultry, pigs, ruminants and aquatic species is key for the sustainable intensification of farming. In recent decades, animal breeders have achieved huge gains in productivity through selective breeding, but indigenous breeds in low- and middle- income countries have been subject of very limited, if any, research on genetic improvement.

This programme aims to export production-relevant traits from elite animals in the developed world and to import knowledge of how indigenous breeds in challenging environments are resilient to stressors. By analysing the genetic make-up of animals in populations (genotypes), their characteristics (phenotypes) and using computational tools to link them, researchers at The Roslin Institute are at the forefront of a farm animal genome revolution that will improve the precision of breeding and deliver further gains in productivity both in the UK and low- and middle- income countries.

A major aim of this research programme is to understand the interactions between the genetic make-up of animals and their environment. Animal behaviour studies that examine the impact of stress, season, husbandry and other factors on the welfare and performance of animals and their offspring have the potential to enhance the lives of managed animals and address societal concerns related to the welfare of intensively-reared livestock. The role of the microbiome, particularly in relation to gut health, energy retention and greenhouse gas emissions in ruminants will be investigated to dissect interactions between host genetics and gut microbiota composition and functions.

The programme provides valuable tools, expertise and knowledge to unlock the genetic potential of farmed animals and maximise the yield and quality of animals or their products while enhancing animal welfare in the UK and beyond.

Key contacts

Themes

The programme is split into two themes: