The general scope of research of the “MODGEN” group is to develop and apply statistical and quantitative genetic and genomic methods to answer important scientific questions in monogastric species (rabbits and pigs) to ultimately improve monogastric breeding schemes. Focus is done on the development of methods and models to study interactions between individuals (maternal and social effects), genotype by environment interactions (robustness and adaptation), high-throughput genotyping and phenotyping and genetic and genomic evaluations in crossbreeding schemes. Attention is paid to numerous traits including: meat quality, feed efficiency, young and adult survival and resistance to diseases, as well as traits participating to robustness and adaptation.
The range of current research efforts spans the development of:
- efficient selection models in crossbreeding schemes. The objective is to provide tools to select purebred animals raised in a highly controlled environment to improve crossbreed performances in production environments using phenotypic and genomic data.
- new selection criteria to improve health in rabbits. The goal is to determine whether genetic variation exists for new disease phenotypes based on biological analyses (e.g. bacterial load, antibodies response, inflammatory parameters etc …) or disease syndromes that can be simply visually assessed. The selection criteria that will permit to improve the health status of herds and reduce the use of antibiotics will be evaluated as well as its genetic correlations with production traits.
- tools to disentangle genetic and non-genetic effects in traits controlled by direct and indirect effects. Statistical models and experimental protocols are implemented to estimate variance components when indirect effects hold (maternal effects for early growth and young survival or social effects for feed intake in group housed animals) and to identify and control factors that mimic maternal effects such as imprinting, cytoplasmic inheritance, cultural inheritance…
- methods and criteria to improve animal selection robustness and adaptation. Several models (reaction norm, structural models…) and criteria are studied to select animals with more stable performances (focusing on feed efficiency, meat quality, litter size, growth) in different environments (defined by heat stress or nutritional challenge…) and/or period of production. Repeated measurements of body weight, feed intake, feed efficiency and health score are also analyzed using various longitudinal models (character process, random regression, structured antedependence…) in order to improve the selection and the real-time management of the animals. Furthermore, in addition to the classical traits under selection, new on-farm heritable criteria for feed efficiency, robustness and welfare are evaluated (digestive efficiency, metagenome composition and functions, physiological and omics indicators of feed efficiency…).