a1 INRA, UMR1313 Animal Genetics and Integrative Biology, 78350 Jouy en Josas, France
a2 Institut de l'Elevage, UMR1313 Animal Genetics and Integrative Biology, 78350 Jouy en Josas, France
Cattle production faces new challenges regarding sustainability with its three pillars – economic, societal and environmental. The following three main factors will drive dairy cattle selection in the future: (1) During a long period, intensive selection for enhanced productivity has deteriorated most functional traits, some reaching a critical point and needing to be restored. This is especially the case for the Holstein breed and for female fertility, mastitis resistance, longevity and metabolic diseases. (2) Genomic selection offers two new opportunities: as the potential genetic gain can be almost doubled, more traits can be efficiently selected; phenotype recording can be decoupled from selection and limited to several thousand animals. (3) Additional information from other traits can be used, either from existing traditional recording systems at the farm level or from the recent and rapid development of new technologies and precision farming. Milk composition (i.e. mainly fatty acids) should be adapted to better meet human nutritional requirements. Fatty acids can be measured through a new interpretation of the usual medium infrared spectra. Milk composition can also provide additional information about reproduction and health. Modern milk recorders also provide new information, that is, on milking speed or on the shape of milking curves. Electronic devices measuring physiological or activity parameters can predict physiological status like estrus or diseases, and can record behavioral traits. Slaughterhouse data may permit effective selection on carcass traits. Efficient observatories should be set up for early detection of new emerging genetic defects. In the near future, social acceptance of cattle production could depend on its capacity to decrease its ecological footprint. The first solution consists in increasing survival and longevity to reduce replacement needs and the number of nonproductive animals. At the individual level, selection on rumen activity may lead to decreased methane production and concomitantly to improved feed efficiency. A major effort should be dedicated to this new field of research and particularly to rumen flora metagenomics. Low input in cattle production is very important and tomorrow's cow will need to adapt to a less intensive production environment, particularly lower feed quality and limited care. Finally, global climate change will increase pathogen pressure, thus more accurate predictors for disease resistance will be required.
(Received March 10 2011)
(Accepted November 07 2011)
(Online publication January 17 2012)