An Australasian Perspective on the Role of Reproductive Technologies in World Food Production
Industries based on small ruminants are major contributors to world food supply but, in extensive grazing systems, reproductive technology is not directly relevant to most enterprises. More important is the need to respond to demand in high-profit export markets for products that are ‘clean, green and ethical’ (CGE). This combination of issues led to the concept of CGE management of reproduction that is based on scientific evidence but does not require complex technology. Nutrition is the major challenge because we are limited primarily to the grazing of forages and pastures, but responding to this challenge opens up opportunities–new forages can supply energy and protein whilst improving animal health and welfare, and reducing carbon emissions. A second major factor is the need for accurate coordination of nutritional inputs with reproductive events to ensure that the metabolic signals are appropriate. To control of the timing of reproduction, we need to move beyond simply managing the presence of the male and seek more precision. Our ultimate CGE package is thus based on manipulation of male socio-sexual signals as well as nutrition, in combination with greater use of ultrasound and birth-site management to prevent neonatal mortality. Finally, genetics is critical in the development of the CGE package.
It would be difficult to incorporate the entire package in one hit–adaptations are needed to cover variations in genotype and the geographical and socio-economic environment, and some concepts need research and development. Therefore, we have suggested staged introduction of the elements of the package.
CGE management can be simple and cost-effective, and improve productivity whilst safeguarding the future of the industries in society and the marketplace. Reproductive technology might not be used by many farmers but it will be an essential tool for realizing the vision because it underpins the acceleration of genetic progress in otherwise tardy grazing industries. Finally, we suggest that the socio-economic drivers and the scientific principles of CGE management are also applicable to smallholders in developing economies.
KeywordsRuminants Australasia Australia New Zealand New Guinea CGE management Animal production Reproductive technology
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