Focusing on phenomics to unlock the potential of livestock genomics


Juárez, M., Roberts, J.C., López-Campos, Ó., Prieto, N., Aalhus, J.L. (2018). Focusing on phenomics to unlock the potential of livestock genomics. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, [online] 13

Plain language summary

Phenomics is defined as the systematic study of the phenome (set of an organism's physical and biochemical traits, influenced by genetics, environment and their interaction). The cost of doing genomic research has become much more affordable in recent years. Thus, the ability to collect phenotypic data has become the bottleneck to improve the understanding of livestock genomics. As a first step, all phenotypes of interest must be identified and properly defined. Then a standard system for data collection must be created to make data comparison possible. Pre- and post-harvest conditions must also be considered and recorded in order to understand the genotype/phenotype interaction. New technologies are being developed for high-throughput data collection throughout the production process. Advanced data management systems and statistical analysis are also being developed and applied to phenomics data sets. Data sharing within research networks and collaborations with private companies will be essential to enhance scientific progress. With a better understanding of the phenome/genome relationship, new advances can be made to improve important traits in livestock production systems.


Advances in genomic technologies have decreased costs associated with research and led to a better understanding of the impact of genetic variations on livestock production traits. In this context, the collection of abundant, accurate phenotypic data has often become the limiting factor in the progress of livestock genomics and related fields. To improve understanding of the genotype- phenotype map and its complex interactions, a deeper knowledge of the influence of production systems and pre-/post-harvest conditions on the final phenotype is required. Hence, collecting both high-density phenotypic and environmental data is a major challenge for livestock production research. To address this challenge, phenotypes of interest, from gene expression to animal product characteristics, need to be clearly identified, standardized and collected in computable formats. High-throughput techniques are being developed in collaborative efforts from multiple research disciplines to collect data at different points of the production value chain. Research networks and collaborations with private companies will enhance data sharing and scientific progress. New bioinformatics approaches and advanced data management, processing and analysis methods are essential to integrate and interpret the large amounts of data generated by multiple sources. A better understanding of the phenome and access to valuable phenotypic data, coupled with the new wave of functional genomics, will result in unprecedented advances to economically important traits for livestock production systems.