Beef cattle breeding policies and strategies in the tropics have changed over the years in an attempt to optimize production levels given constraints o f climate and economic conditions. Because o f the diverse ecological zones and production systems found in the tropics and the possibilities for significant genotype x environment interaction effects, no one breeding system or genotype would be efficient for all situations. Breeders are therefore faced with the task o f identifying and developing genotypes and genetic combinations that will maintain a balance between specific production environments and the need for optimum levels of production. To achieve this, it is necessary to strengthen on-going research/breeding programs in order to provide the much needed basic information on indigenous breeds and types and on genetic parameters, that is necessary for the development o f more relevant and sound breeding strategies. Conventional beef cattle breeding systems are in a broad sense, applicable in the tropics. However, in choosing an appropriate system, consideration should be given to the need to maintain the right genetic constitution for adaptation, the practicability o f the system and the economic conditions. Although the potential for utilizing composite (synthetic) populations is there, the risks involved in breed development are high when compared to selection within the indigenous breeds. The limited resources available for long term breeding programs in developing countries, and the long generation interval in cattle, make it necessary to identify in advance those breeding strategies with the highest prospect for success. The ideal choice would be the program that gave the highest return to investment. The potential o f biotechnology to enhance livestock improvement in the tropics should not be overlooked, the contribution.of multiple ovulation and embryo transfer (M OET) in tropical beef cattle breeding is not so much in the industry but in the long term improvement programs such as selection and breed development as a technique to facilitate genetic gain. Promising developments in molecular genetics may in future make it possible to select for disease resistance in tropical livestock using genetic markers.

L. L Setshwaelo

Proceedings of the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Volume XIV. Dairy cattle genetics and breeding, adaptation and conservation., , 349–359, 1990
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