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Improvement in Feed Efficiency and Reduction in Nutrient Loading from Rainbow Trout Farms: The Role of Selective Breeding
Journal of Animal Science  (IF3.338),  Pub Date : 2022-06-09, DOI: 10.1093/jas/skac214
Antti Kause, Antti Nousiainen, Heikki Koskinen

Resource efficiency, the ratio of inputs to outputs, is essential for both the economic and environmental performance of any sector of food production. This study quantified the advancement in the feed conversion ratio (FCR) and reduction in nutrient loading from rainbow trout farming in Finland and the degree to which genetic improvements made by a national breeding programme have contributed to this advancement. The study combined two datasets. One included annual records on farm-level performance of commercial rainbow trout farms from 1980 onwards, and the other included individuals across eight generations of the national breeding programme. The data from the commercial farms showed that from 1980 onwards, the farm-level feed conversion ratio improved by 53.4%, and the specific nitrogen and phosphorus loading from the farms decreased by over 70%. Hence, to produce 1 kg of fish today, only half of the feed is needed compared to the 1980s. The first generation of the breeding programme was established in 1992. The FCR was not directly selected for, and hence, the genetic improvement in the FCR is a correlated genetic change in response to the selection for growth and body composition. Since 1992, the estimated genetic improvement in the FCR has been 1.74% per generation, resulting in a cumulative genetic improvement of 11.6% in eight generations. Genetic improvement in the FCR is estimated to be 32.6% of the total improvement in the FCR observed at farms, implying that genetic improvement is a significant contributor to resource efficiency. The use of genetically improved rainbow trout, instead of the base population of fish, reduces feed costs by 18.3% and total production costs by 7.8% at commercial farms (by -0.266€ per kg of ungutted fish). For phosphorus and nitrogen, it can be assumed that the use of fish material with an improved FCR also leads to 18.3% less nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into an aquatic environment. Such improvements in resource efficiency are win–wins for both industry and the environment—the same amount of seafood can be produced with significantly reduced amounts of raw materials and reduced environmental impact.