Africa / Article / ASSP / Dairying / Gender / ILRI / Kenya / Livestock / Presentation

African livestock records necessary

ILRIs Okeyo Mwai (right) and another participant at a quantitative animal genetics and breeding evaluation workshop, June 2013

Accurate record keeping of livestock details is necessary if Africa is to benefit from animal genetic improvement. For developing countries, investment in genetic improvement is worthwhile as results are accumulative and permanent, and have been shown to have one of the highest rate of returns over time. This was said by Dr Raphael Mrode, a Senior Geneticist, Animal & Veterinary Sciences, at the Scotland Rural College (SRUC), when he addressed a seminar in ILRIs Nairobi campus June 21, 2013.

Dr Mrode said while it is now possible to select the breeding values of animals and determine which ones are more economically viable, the success of that selection depends on how much information is available concerning the animal.

Countries like Australia and the United Kingdom had benefited immensely from high rates of genetic improvements for economically important traits such as milk production in the dairy sector and quality and quantity in the beef sector as a result of accurate genetic evaluations.

These rates of genetic progress have further been enhanced by recent developments in molecular biology which have resulted in the emergence of genotyping (the process of determining differences in the genetic make-up) technology for single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP- the most common type of genetic variation). Thus it is possible to compute genomic breeding values which are more accurate.

Success in genetic evaluation means that breeders can now help farmers to select livestock that is economically viable for specific geographic locations and specific market demands. Emphasizing the importance of males in the genomic selection process, Mrode said it will be important to genotype or acquire the genetic makeup of all males in a breed or at least store DNA samples of all males.

He sees regional application as likely to be most effective hence countries need to gather and share genomic information to allow for a larger reference group.

Mrode has published Linear models for the prediction of animal breeding values, currently undergoing its third revision. It is a standard text book for students of genetics the world over.

Born and bred to a humble family in Nigeria, Mrode’s life as a researcher is miles away from what he imagined in yester years. He worked hard at his studies but growing up with a youthful aspiration of running his own business like his contemporaries. After completing his first and Masters Degrees at the University if Ile Ife (now known as Obafemi Awolowo), he won a commonwealth scholarship to study for his PhD in animal breeding and genetics at Edinburgh University. That scholarship has been instrumental in opening up opportunities for his training and research and in becoming a, world renowned genetic scientist.

The last born in a family of 5 – 3 brothers and 2 sisters- has one lesson to anyone who wants to succeed in a task: remain committed to what you have to do. After graduation, he got an opportunity for a post-doc assignment in Canada then got a job in the United Kingdom.

Now he is a Senior geneticist, undertaking genetic evaluations for the United kingdom and is a member of the technical committee of the International Bull Evaluation services (INTERBULL). He specialized in animal breeding and genetics because “I loved mathematics and I hate abstract thinking. I am a logical thinker”.

The father of three reads a lot, watches football and enjoys power-walking for his exercise.

Please click here for the powerpoint presentation

Story by Jane Gitau

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