April 01, 2007

 

 New method could lead to less aggressive production animals - April 1, 2007

 
 

A new statistical method of determining genetic traits that influence social interactions among animals could provide for more productive livestock.

Scientists from the United States, the Netherlands, and England designed equations to choose animals that are more congenial in groups. William Muir, PhD, a geneticist at the Purdue University Department of Animal Sciences, said the new method is a tool that could contribute to animal well-being and to securing the world's future food supply—including possibly permitting the domestication of additional species.

"There is an inherited part of the associations among animals that has profound effects on performance," Dr. Muir said. "It's called competition. Animals compete for food, space, territory, and mates."

The new statistical method allows for the design of selective breeding programs to reduce competitive interactions in livestock. The tool also helps predict how social interactions affect the natural evolution of species.

Dr. Muir and his colleagues wrote about the method and its effectiveness in two papers in the January issue of the journal Genetics. In the first paper, the authors explain the tool they developed to determine heritable traits that contribute to interactions among individual animals and groups. The second paper applies the tool to a flock of chickens.