Biotechnology in Animal Production

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Erhardt, Georg
Weimann, Christina
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Biotechnology has been part of human culture for a very long time. Farm animals of today ensure food and agriculture production and have mainly developed over thousands of years of domestication. They are the result of selection on the basis of phenotypic parameters by humans and adaptation to different environments and environmental challenges and represent genetically distinct species and breeds of different purposes within species. While breeding with the definition of breeds and herd-books started in most species about 100 years ago, the consequent use of biotechnology began about 50 years ago with the introduction of artificial insemination. Major fields of biotechnology applied to animal production are further reproductive techniques, marker assisted selection including detection of deleterious alleles, genomic selection, and conservation of genetic resources. Artificial insemination and embryo transfer are important methods used in animal breeding, especially in cattle production to multiply the population of animals at a rapid rate. Both techniques are essential to improve the genetics of animals by having a high impact on selection intensity and accuracy and are usually implemented in breeding programs all over the world. Supporting methods such as embryo splitting/sexing, semen sexing, cloning and in vitro maturation have improved the efficiency of artificial insemination and embryo transfer, while transgenic farm animals do not exist on farm level. The implementation of molecular genetic methods in animal breeding resulted in remarkable advances over the last two decades in the identification of chromosomal regions and loci affecting economically important traits in livestock production. Basis for this were the advances in the availability of whole genome sequences and the identification of genetic variation on a large scale within international research projects. Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping technology (SNP-Chip) has, in the meantime, enabled profiling animals for thousands of marker loci in a single analysis. This amount of information in combination with phenotypic records of the breeding organizations and with reproductive technologies supports high input breeding with a dramatic increase in the level of productivity. While this technology is already successfully used in breeding programs of breeds/species where the economic environment supports high input breeding, the situation for local breeds/species with at the moment less importance is difficult as they lack at the necessary infrastructure especially in developing countries and are declining in number. On the other hand, biotechnology is an effective tool that allows the characterization and conservation of animal genetic resources at risk of loss of genetic diversity.
Biotechnology,Animal ,Production