Genetics of animal health

Published on December 1, 2013   52 min

A selection of talks on Genetics & Epigenetics

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DONAGH BERRY: Hello. My name is Donagh Berry and I am an animals quantitative geneticist at Tegasc, Moorepark, in Ireland. I'm going to talk to you about the genetics of animal health.
With increasing world human population size and affluence, there is expected to be a large increase in the demand for food. To achieve this demand, animal health is fundamental. There's also increasing consumer concern, especially in the developed world, on food safety, especially when it comes to zoonotic diseases, which can be transmitted from animals to humans. And then finally, there's also increasing concern over animal health and welfare.
Genetics is particularly advantageous in that it is what we call cumulative and permanent. So in other words, we can introduce or introgress good genes into a population. And these can be built on with each generation. On the converse, however, if you introduce bad genes, they can be very difficult to breed out. So therefore, genetics must form part of an overall strategy to improve the animal health status of our world population.
I would argue that the heritability is probably one of the most misinterpreted statistics in quantitative genetics. The heritablity depicts the proportion of the field variation attributable to genetics. So in other words, if you went to a population of animals, what proportion of the differences or variation amongst those animals is actually due to differences in their genetic makeup? Now, a key point to remember about heritablity and variation is that a small proportion of a trait with lots of variation may actually exhibit more variation than a moderate proportion of a trait with little variation.