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24, chemin de Borde Rouge -Auzeville - CS52627 31326 Castanet Tolosan cedex - France

Last update: May 2021

Menu Logo Principal AgroParisTech Université Paris-Saclay SAPS - Sciences Animales Paris-Saclay


GABI : Génétique Animale et Biologie IntégrativeUnité Mixte de Recherche INRA - AgroParisTech

A long experience in genetic evaluation.

Since the 1966 Livestock Breeding Act and until the application of the European Zootechnical Regulation in November 2018, the French government has entrusted INRA with the official genetic evaluations of breeding animals. This mission of the Animal Genetics division was carried out by GABI for cattle, pigs and horses.

The objective of a genetic evaluation is to estimate the genetic value of the breeding animals, i.e. that is to estimate the expectation of what is transmitted to their progeny for a particular trait. This genetic value cannot be observed and must therefore be estimated from three types of information: pedigrees, performance (or phenotypes) and, more recently, information from polymorphisms in the genome. At the end of a genetic evaluation, an animal has a genetic value estimate for each trait evaluated. Genetic selection is based on these objective values for the genetic improvement of animals.

This genetic evaluation mission have relied on the National Genetic Information Systems (or SNIG). For each species, the SNIG includes a database managing all the data produced by the many partners. The Centre de Traitement de l'Information Génétique (CTIG, located in Jouy-en-Josas) centralizes and exchanges data from more than 200 organisms.

Until November 2018, GABI was responsible for the genetic evaluation of cattle, pigs and horses. This activity was fully integrated, from conception to production, and up to recommendations for use. The number of traits evaluated has steadily increased in all species, reflecting the increasing complexity of selection objectives. Over time, in addition to productivity traits directly related to product sales, product quality traits (meat, milk) were added, followed by functional traits essential for longevity and health of the animals. Thus, more than 40 traits were evaluated in cattle. Among the most recently evaluated traits were stillbirths, resistance to clinical mastitis, calving-1st insemination interval, acetonemia, feet and legs affections in dairy cattle, carcass traits recorded in slaughterhouses, fertility, career efficiency, adult morphology in beef cattle. Cattle evaluations were ISO9001 certified from 2006 to 2019 without interruption.

The use of genomics data has revolutionized the field of genetic evaluation and selection. GABI has always been at the forefront of global research to develop new tools and methods to use this new information. As early as October 2008, genomic selection was implemented in dairy cattle. This innovation is the most important innovation in breeding for several decades.
The European Zootechnical Regulation entrusts the responsibility for genetic evaluations to Breeding Organizations (BOs). A new industry-owned structure, GenEval, has been created to ensure the production of genetic evaluations for BOs. INRA has prepared for this evolution by transferring its software to GenEval, by training its staff, and by giving access to its calculation infrastructure within the framework of an agreement, so that the handover can take place under the best conditions.

For many years, this evaluation work has been carried out in close collaboration with the Technical Institutes in charge of disseminating the results to the users. This strong relationship between the teams of INRA, the Institut de l'Elevage and Allice is recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture within the framework of the "Mixed Technology Unit" eBIS renewed in 2017. This UMT, whose role has been strongly renewed, is still heavily involved in the design of evaluation methods, for example in the so-called "Single Step" methodology, in taking into account causal mutations, in the estimation of genotype x environment interactions or in the evaluation of crossbreed populations.