WP1: Novel traits to improve resource use efficiency

The main objective of WP1 is to understand the genetic basis of the complex trait “feed efficiency” in small ruminants.

With this aim in mind, tasks have been divided into four different groups:

  1. identification and characterization of novel phenotypes related to feed efficiency;
  2. analysis of the genetic determinism of feed efficiency;
  3. genetic correlations between phenotypes and production traits;
  4. quantification of the extent of genotype-by-environment (GxE) interactions for feed efficiency.

Within WP1, there are 11 partners articulated in six working groups, from six different countries, that will contribute to the fulfilment of the objectives. During this first period, the first year, the partners have started to measure feed efficiency and biomarkers in the experimental populations.

These populations comprise milk ewes (Assaf, Lacaune, Chios, Frizarta), meat/wool ewes (Romaine, Texel, Norwegian white, Merino and Corriedale), and milk goats (Alpina and Saanen). Residual feed intake (RFI), which is the primary measure of feed efficiency, will be calculated after measuring individual feed intake and productive traits (milk yield, weight gain…) in the experimental populations.

Concerning novel biomarkers, these include metabolites linked to feed efficiency, analysis of rumen metagenome for deciphering its role in feed efficiency, measurement of greenhouse gases emissions in animals with different degree of efficiency, and gene expression analysis in various tissues.

In the coming years, the most promising predictors of feed efficiency will be validated in commercial farms to identify future phenotypes for improving feed efficiency in small ruminants by genetic means.

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