Animal Breeding / Biotechnology / Breeds / Genetics / ILRI / Indigenous Breeds / LiveGene / Spotlight

A first look at ILRI’s new research programs: Livestock Genetics

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
headquartered in Africa and working in poor countries
worldwide to provide better lives through livestock,
held its Institute Planning Meeting from 4 to 7 Oct 2016.
This is the first of a series of blog articles reporting on
plans for ILRI research programs, including ILRI’s
work in west and southern Africa and south, east and southeast Asia.

IPM 2016 agenda

Do we need an African version of ‘Dolly the (Cloned) Sheep’?
ILRI geneticist Steve Kemp says, Yes, we do need a ‘poster child’
for this genetics research—even an ILRI breed.
But it’s hard to get funding for such long-term genetics work.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016

ILRI Livestock Genetics Program


The vision of ILRI’s Livestock Genetics program is to be a valued and globally recognized partner that provides state-of-the art breeding technologies and data platforms as well as leadership in gene discovery, in genetic diversity and in continuous improvement, delivery and promotion of more productive and healthy livestock raised in tropical production systems.

Staff of this program are working towards the following outcomes: appropriate livestock breeds are readily available, affordable and widely used by poor livestock keepers (women and men both), resulting in increased livestock productivity leading to improved food and nutritional security, livelihoods and natural resources.


The objectives of the Livestock Genetics program are the following.

  • Determine the most appropriate genetic improvement strategies for different livestock production systems.
  • Discover the genes responsible for better productivity and resilience and develop or adapt technologies to incorporate these genes efficiently in local breeding programs.
  • Design and support implementation of sound breeding programs and delivery of the desired genetics to a range of livestock keepers.
  • Identify policy gaps and provide the evidence and need for policies and institutional arrangements that would enable improved access to, and sustainable use of, livestock genetic resources.

This program will work on dairy and dual-purpose cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry.

The short-term plans of the program are to apply existing ICT and genomic technologies to better understand existing livestock genetic diversity and to roll out systems for on-farm testing and models for delivery of promising existing genetics.  Over the medium term, the program will work to identify genes and gene networks underpinning important livestock traits and to incorporate these genes in breeding programs. The long-term plan of the program is to integrate breeding and molecular technologies in optimized livestock genetic programs.

Example of upstream research

ILRI geneticist Steve Kemp on genome editing at ILRI:

Using the new genome editing tools, virtually anyone can design any organism they want in their kitchen. Well, it may not be quite that simple—but it is relatively easy and cheap—and it’s definitely revolutionary.

The key to the power in this work is the marriage of phenotype to genotype. We can now use genome editing tools to both validate and deliver desired genetic variants to an animal. We can now work with potential SNPs and start looking for further SNPs.



Example of applied research

ILRI geneticist Karen Marshall on the Senegal Dairy Genetics project:

We aimed to identify which breed or cross-breed dairy animal is most appropriate for smallholder pastoral and peri-urban farmers in Senegal to keep.

We monitored more than 300 cattle and 200 households and collected lots of data.




For more information, contact ILRI’s Livestock Genetics program leader Steve Kemp: s.kemp [at]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.