Links Between Traits Of Interest And Breeding Practices: Several Pathways For Farmers’ Decision Making Processes
Published 2019 · Biology
Abstract Assessing farmers’ preferences for animal traits is increasingly used in studies of the implementation of breeding programs, to make sure breeding objectives fit farmers’ expectations. However, these studies have a major limitation: it is difficult to identify the links between farmers’ traits of interest (TOI) and the farmers’ decision making process for the management of flock performance through replacement, culling, purchase of breeding animals and choice of the breeds or their crosses. A comprehensive approach to farmers’ preferences was applied through 81 semi-structured interviews with dairy sheep farmers in Corsica (France, n = 39) and Thessaly (Greece, n = 42). In each region, TOIs were identified as traits motivating the use of a given farming practice and listed and quantified according to this definition. Milk yield, milk persistence, udder conformation and sensitivity to diseases including mastitis were major TOIs in both regions. Improvement of flock performance for a TOI was obtained through the use of this TOI or a correlated TOI as a replacement criterion or other breeding practices such as culling and the use of breed(s). The role of the internal replacement process in the improvement of flock performance varied according to the genetic context of the area (purebred farming, coexistence of several breeds and crossbred animals) and the TOI considered. The findings of this study should help better define priorities for breeding objectives in local breeding schemes. The results provided new insights into the categories of variables to be taken into consideration in studies on farmers’ preferences for TOIs.