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Breeding Livestock for Climate Resilience

This research has the potential to allow for breeding and adaptation of livestock that are more resilient, and ultimately enable economically and environmentally sustainable production of food for the future.

Investigator(s)

Principal investigators: Bonnie Mallard, Angela Cánovas, Niel Karrow

Dr. Bonnie Mallard stands with cows at the Livestock Research Innovation Centre - Dairy Facility

Food from Thought Principal Investigator, Dr. Bonnie Mallard, stands with cows at the Livestock Research Innovation Centre - Dairy Facility

What challenge does "Breeding Livestock for Climate Resilience" address?

Climate change will negatively affect and be affected by ruminant production. Not all economically important livestock species are resilient enough to the changes we expect in the future. Neither are emissions as low as we believe is possible. The challenge is to increase resilience and reduce emissions.

How will this research address the challenge?

The project’s main goal is to identify genetic variation in livestock species (mainly beef and dairy cattle, and sheep) that is associated with increased resilience to extreme climactic conditions. The research will enable selection for genetic variation associated with pathogen resistance, heat/cold tolerance, and efficient production. In particular, the emphasis is on identifying genotypes that are immunologically adapted to withstand climate change and whether biomarkers could serve as predictors of resilience.

On the left, Arrell Food Institute Scholar Nasrin writes results from beef cow temperatures at the Elora Beef Research Station. On the right, Research Technician Marnie poses with a dairy cow at the Research & Innovation Centre – Dairy Facility.

On the left, Arrell Food Institute Scholar Nasrin writes results from beef cow temperatures at the Elora Beef Research Station. On the right, Research Technician Marnie poses with a dairy cow at the Research & Innovation Centre – Dairy Facility.

What impact will the project have on agriculture?

This research is aimed at finding strategies for managing the imminent, unavoidable and costly changes in the conditions affecting livestock production. These strategies will be adopted by producers because the research provides adaptive management solutions for the exact challenges they are facing. Impacts of this project include the following: 1) climate-adapted livestock management and breeding practices; 2) economic sustainability for producers; 3) food security; 4) reduced consumer price variability; 5) better outlook for animal welfare and health; 6) reduced antibiotic use with selection for pathogen resistance; and, 7) reduced methane emissions.

Other information

Collaborators and students: Alexandra Livernois – Postdoctoral Researcher; Shannon Cartwright – PhD student; Mohamed Boareki – PhD student; Nasrin Husseini – MSc student; Samantha Dixon – MSc student, Victoria Asselstine – MSc student.

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