Understanding the seasonality of performance resilience to climate volatility in Mediterranean dairy sheep

Valentina Tsartsianidou, Vanessa Varvara Kapsona, Enrique Sánchez-Molano, Zoitsa Basdagianni, Maria Jesús Carabaño, Dimitrios Chatziplis, Georgios Arsenos, Alexandros Triantafyllidis, Georgios Banos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

As future climate challenges become increasingly evident, enhancing performance resilience of farm animals may contribute to mitigation against adverse weather and seasonal variation, and underpin livestock farming sustainability. In the present study, we develop novel seasonal resilience phenotypes reflecting milk production changes to fluctuating weather. We evaluate the impact of calendar season (autumn, winter and spring) on animal performance resilience by analysing 420,534 milk records of 36,908 milking ewes of the Chios breed together with relevant meteorological data from eastern Mediterranean. We reveal substantial seasonal effects on resilience and significant heritable trait variation (h2 = 0.03-0.17). Resilience to cold weather (10 °C) of animals that start producing milk in spring was under different genetic control compared to autumn and winter as exemplified by negative genetic correlations (- 0.09 to - 0.27). Animal resilience to hot weather (25 °C) was partially under the same genetic control with genetic correlations between seasons ranging from 0.43 to 0.86. We report both favourable and antagonistic associations between animal resilience and lifetime milk production, depending on calendar season and the desirable direction of genetic selection. Concluding, we emphasise on seasonal adaptation of animals to climate and the need to incorporate the novel seasonal traits in future selective breeding programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1889
JournalScientific Reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2021

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