The AGRICYGEN project receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 763700
RTD Talos Ltd



In the last century, animal breeding programmes have focused on the genetic improvement of production, reproduction and disease traits, such as milk yield, growth rate, fecundity, mastitis resistance and many others. Sheep and goat (S&G) breeds have been the first farm animal species to be domesticated worldwide and, thus, have been selected in various countries across the globe for various productive and functional traits. The S&G industry is a valuable livestock sector in Cyprus, since it contributes about 20% to the total value of animal production. In particular, S&G milk correspond to 22% of total milk production and to about 11% of the total value of animal production on the island. Most milk is used for the production of the local halloumi cheese, for which a PDO application awaits approval from the European Commission.


Since the Agricultural Research Institute’s (ARI) establishment in 1962, ARI scientists have been leading the research field of animal breeding in Cyprus and in the east Mediterranean region. For over 38 years, the ARI has been in charge of the national efforts for genetic improvement of the Cyprus Chios sheep and Damascus goats. Continuous record keeping and best practice approaches on animal management and nutrition, all resulting from extensive experimentation and close monitoring of international trends, also make the ARI farm a model farm for breeders and other stakeholders. Since 2000, ARI has provided S&G breeders with more than 6000 breeding animals of superior genetic stock, along with resistance to scrapie. In addition, an extensive DNA bank has been created, representing a unique resource worldwide for these breeds, and an important asset for any international research project.


In the last decade, the availability of high-throughput genotyping methods and analysis tools has opened up the use of genome-wide information for S&G breeding. However, there are specific issues for implementing Genomic Selection to S&G that need to be addressed through research and technological innovation. Within AGRICYGEN, the use of pioneering approaches and the continuous collaboration with worldwide experts will facilitate the genomic characterization of local S&G breeds, advanced genomic research relevant to expedited genetic improvement of selected traits, diversity management, traceability, and mitigation of climate change effects on animal production.


Sheep of Chios