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Roslin climate goat genes.jpg The Roslin Institute.

Climate resilience of farm animals linked to genes

Breeding goats resilient to climate change could be aided by gene study.

Resilience to weather changes is partly due to genetics, with researchers in the U.K. finding that some goats are not affected by weather changes, being more resistant to climate change than others.

The study shows that resilience to weather changes, or lack of it, is partly due to genetics, according to an announcement from the Roslin Institute in Scotland.

The results could be used to further improve selective breeding, leading to enhanced sustainability and profitability of farms.

The study, by scientists at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Roslin Institute, looked at animal performance records together with weather data, such as average daily temperature and humidity as well as the genetic makeup of 10,620 goats from two U.K. dairy farms.

Individual animals respond differently to fluctuating weather conditions, and those differences are linked to their genes, the institute said.

"We developed novel ways to measure resilience to environmental changes and found that they have enough genetic potential to be used in breeding programs. We also analyzed the genetic makeup of goats and found several candidate genes that could be associated to these novel traits," said Dr. Enrique Sanchez Molano with the Roslin Institute.

SRUC professor Georgios Banos, who also holds an appointment with Roslin, added, "Climate is changing, bringing about increased weather volatility and farm animals have different capacities to cope with this change. Our study will enable us to continue selectively breeding for enhanced performance, such as high production and health, and at the same time breed for performance stability when external environmental conditions change."

European consortium

The study, published in the journal BMC Genetics, is part of the Horizon 2020 project iSAGE — a multimillion-pound, European Union-funded research project that SRUC is part of aimed at future-proofing the sheep and goat farming industry.

The iSAGE project, which runs until 2020, is a consortium involving 34 partners from the U.K., France, Finland, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey coordinated by the School of Veterinary Medicine at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

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