Pitfalls and opportunities of genetic and genomic evaluation in the Buffalo species: experiences from Italy
In the 18th century Sir Robert Bakewell introduced the two fundamental dogmas of modern breeding strategies: strict record-keeping and controlled mating. Species where controlled mating is limited or reduced lag behind in breeding success. Thanks to the iconic Mozzarella di Bufala Campana cheese, the economic interest in Buffalo breeding has steadily increased making the Italian Mediterranean Buffalo (IMB) one of the most important dairy species in the country. In the late 1990’s a first selection scheme based on a BLUP animal model was developed. The main breeding objectives were milk yield and kg of mozzarella. Approximately 18 male calves were raised in a bull station each year. In 2017 a new selection index, namely the IBMI, was introduced. New breeding objectives were identified, including milk contents, udder morphology and feet and legs. However, in IMB the use of artificial insemination is still moderate (around 30-40%) and it poses additional problems in developing an accurate BLUP evaluation. Apart from DNA testing, additional methodological approaches have been already implemented and others are on the way. The use of genetic groups in the BLUP evaluation to account for genetic differences among unknown parents has been recently introduced. This enhancement was based on the results obtained in a study conducted using 15 linear type traits from 7,714 buffalo cows. Moreover a first test on the feasibility of genomic selection using a ssGBLUP in IMB was developed. Results of this study, even if based on a small number of animals, showed that the inclusion of genotypes of females can improve breeding values accuracy in the IMB. New genotypes have been added and new runs have been added. Future data recording will include additional traits, related to health and milk quality.
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