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Possibilities for a specific breeding program for organic dairy production

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Organic dairy production differs from conventional dairy production in many aspects. However, breeding programs for the 2 production systems are the same in most countries. Breeding goals (BG) might be different for the 2 production systems and genotype × environment interaction may exist between organic and conventional dairy production, both of which have an effect on genetic gain in different breeding strategies. Other aspects also need to be considered, such as the application of multiple ovulation and embryo transfer (MOET), which is not allowed in organic dairy production. The general aim of this research was to assess different environment-specific breeding strategies for organic dairy production. The specific aim was to study differences in BG weights and include the effect of genotype × environment interaction, MOET, and the selection of breeding bulls from the conventional environment. Different scenarios were simulated. In the current scenario, the present-day situation for dairy production in Denmark was emulated as much as possible. The BG was based on a conventional dairy production system, MOET was applied in both environments, and conventional bulls could be selected as breeding bulls in the organic environment. Four alternative scenarios were simulated, all with a specific organic BG in the organic breeding program but differences in the usage of MOET and the selection of conventional bulls as breeding bulls. Implementation of a specific BG in organic dairy production slightly increased genetic gain in the aggregate genotype compared with the breeding program that is currently implemented in organic dairy production. Not using embryo transfer or only selecting breeding bulls from the organic environment decreased genetic gain in the aggregate genotype by as much as 24%. However, the use of embryo transfer is debatable because this is not allowed according to current regulations for organic dairy production. Assessing genetic gain on trait levels showed that a significant increase for functional traits was possible compared with the current breeding program in the organic environment without a decrease in genetic gain in the aggregate genotype. This difference on trait level was even more present when selection of conventional bulls as breeding bulls in the organic environment was not possible. This finding is very relevant when breeding for the desired cow in organic dairy production.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Pages (from-to)6332-6345
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

    Research areas

  • breeding strategy, dairy cow, genetic gain, organic production

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