Gene-based Technologies in Livestock Breeding: Phase 1 - Characterization of Small Ruminant Genetic Resources in Asia

Rationale and background:

Many studies have now shown that considerable genetic biodiversity exists in small ruminants in developing countries, much of which controls advantageous traits influencing adaptability to harsh environments, productivity or disease resistance. However, these indigenous genetic resources are underutilized in conventional breeding programmes due to a failure to identify animals carrying the most advantageous traits. Mapping of quantitative trait loci and genes controlling such traits, and subsequent use of this information in selection and breeding programmes, could provide considerable gains in productivity. At present, there is a need to build capacity within national agricultural research systems (NARS) of most developing countries in Asia to conduct research in livestock genetics and breeding using modern molecular methods. Such methods are likely to become increasingly important in the future for developing appropriate breeding strategies to optimally utilize indigenous genetic resources.

This Co-ordinated Research Project (CRP) is therefore planned for implementation in two phases. The first phase aims to provide an opportunity to scientists in NARS to acquire research capacity to define the genetic characteristics of their small ruminants. The second phase will focus more specifically on genetic resistance of small ruminants to helminth parasites. This trait, which is known to exist in many indigenous breeds, is likely to be an important resource for ensuring future sustainability of many production systems. Molecular genetic methods involving nuclear and related techniques have a clear application in this field. This CRP fits well within the current research priorities in livestock production and health of many Asian countries. It also complements programmes of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in the area of Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR) and will generate information that will be directly relevant to their on-going efforts to compile a global AnGR database.

Overall objectives:

This project intends to build capacity in developing countries in Asia to use modern molecular methods and bioinformatics to characterize and use the available genetic advantages in indigenous livestock, enabling optimum management of this natural resource. It will develop methodologies, generate information and formulate decision support systems for defining phenotypic and molecular genetic diversity, using micro-satellite and related technologies, and enable the development and implementation of national and regional strategies for optimum use and conservation of small ruminants in Asia.

Specific research objectives:

  • Complete the databases of characteristics and status for a representative set of breeds of sheep and goats of Asia, which will complement existing FAO and ILRI data for Africa and Europe;
  • Develop capacity within the Asian region to use radio-isotopic micro-satellite methods and related technologies for genotype characterization of ruminants;
  • Complete the analysis of regional and global genetic diversity of each species based on molecular data;
  • Assess new technologies for diversity assay; and
  • Make recommendations on their future application for improving ruminant productivity.

Expected outputs:

  • Increased capacity of NARS in Asia to integrate modern molecular techniques for livestock genetic characterization into research and breeding programmes;
  • Improved knowledge on the genetic characteristics of small ruminants in Asia;
  • Publication and dissemination of research results;
  • Establishment of regional and international collaborative linkages;
  • Recommendations for future research and development through use of genetic characterization to improve productivity of small ruminants.


The closing date for submission of proposals was 31 March 2004 and no further submissions can be entertained. Selection of proposals for award of contracts is expected to be done in the second half of 2004.

Implementation procedure:

Proposals selected for award of Research Contracts will be provided with funds, on a cost-sharing basis, to cover part of the local costs during the first year of the project. Subsequently, annual renewals will be available, based on satisfactory progress, up to a total of five years. The maximum award available under a Research Contract is US$ 10 000 per year and it is mandatory that Contract holders have support from their institutes for part of the local costs of the project. In addition to the award of Research Contracts, scientists with international expertise in the fields covered by this project will be considered for award of Research Agreements, which do not carry cash awards. They will function as resource persons in this project to provide assistance to Contract holders.

The CRP will be implemented in collaboration with technical staff at FAO in Rome and ILRI in Nairobi, who are involved in the global analyses on AnGR. Previous experience in the use of micro-satellites to define genetic diversity has shown that combining data obtained in different laboratories is very difficult. Therefore, funds allocated for the early stages of the project will include support to send an appropriate member from each research team, together with a limited number of relevant samples, to undertake training and to perform core micro-satellite analyses at ILRI. The data from all participating countries will then be combined with existing data to complete the global AnGR database. Subsequently, each research team will be assisted to establish the techniques in their own laboratories and to undertake more detailed analyses on their small ruminant genetic resources.

A Research Co-ordination Meeting (RCM) will be held at the commencement of the project, to which all Contract and Agreement holders will be invited. This meeting will discuss the proposed work plans of each research team and elaborate a unified and co-ordinated approach to the studies that will be undertaken during the first two years. A second RCM will be held after 18-24 months to present results from each research team, review progress and define further work plans for the remainder of the project period. A final RCM will be held at the conclusion of the project to present the final results and to prepare the papers presented by participants for publication by FAO/IAEA.


[Download pdf]


  • Second RCM held in Wuhan, People’s Republic of China, 29 October to 2 November 2007. [Download pdf]
  • First RCM held in Bogor, Indonesia, from 19 to 23 September 2005. [Download pdf]
  • Reports of the IAEA/ILRI Training Course, 1st October - 30th November 2005, Nairobi, Kenya. [html, pdf]
  • Report of the Second Work Planning Meeting and Training Course, Nairobi, Kenya, December 2004. [Download pdf]

Project Officer:

M. Garcia Podesta