Cattle breeding: What should we do next?

17 August 2023

Humans have been selecting animals for their own purposes since ancient times, but what should farmers and breeders be aiming for as new opportunities are opening up with developments in the science of genomics?

As part of the EU-project BovReg, Ann and Donald Bruce have created a group conversation card game to stimulate discussions on how knowledge of the genetics of cattle should be used to produce meat and milk.

Democs (Deliberative Meetings Of CitizenS) games are card games designed to be played anywhere by anyone (16+ years). They enable people to learn about new developments in science and technology and think about their ethical and social implications, without the need for an ‘expert’.

The cards provide the relevant information on a topic and scenarios to stimulate discussion. It helps people form their opinions, vote on options and sometimes reach group consensus.

The European Commission's BovReg research programme is investigating genomic features that are relevant to cattle breeding. It also includes an analysis of the potential societal implications of the project’s scientific genetic research (see WP8).

To explore citizens’ preferences and concerns about the latest genetic research on cattle breeding, Ann and Donald Bruce have created the Democs game: ‘Cattle Breeding: what should we do next?’

The game, which was designed through an iterative process with input from BovReg partners and other stakeholders, allows groups of 4-8 people to discuss future directions for cattle breeding and the development of the genomic prediction tools.

The aim of the game is to learn together and form opinions on the topic, both individually and as a group. Players get hands of cards and take turns to read and discuss them. The cards provide information, stories and issues. At the end of the game, the players can vote on different options. The results can be sent to Ann, who will include the anonymous information in an analysis that will be sent to the European Commission and project partners.

 “The game provides an opportunity for people to learn more about the impacts of genomic selection in cattle on the climate, land-use and biodiversity, as well as consider the ethical issues that it raises and form opinions both individually and as a group,” says Prof. Ann Bruce, Personal Chair of Innovation in Food Systems at The University of Edinburgh and Innogen member.

To request a free hard copy of the game in the post or download it, visit: