Genomic Testing for Better Selection

The Danish pig industry has developed a genomic test to select the best breeding animals to be able to ensure improve meat quality, better feed conversion and for sows, better maternal instincts, writes ThePigSite senior editor, Chris Harris.
calendar icon 26 November 2010
clock icon 5 minute read

According to the Danish Pig Production Research Centre, the new DNA tests that were announced at the recent industry congress in Herning will show a genetic gain in breeding of between 25 and 30 per cent.

The research has been carried out together with the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences in Foulum.

The research centre believes that the information obtained through the genomic tests will place the Danish industry at the head of the international breeding lists.

"We had been using traditional testing for breeding values," said the head of the team leading the research at the Pig Research Centre, Anders Vernersen.

"Over the last year we have been preparing to use genomic information – the information from young animals."

The research centre has been conduction trials on about 2,000 Duroc boars over the last year.

The tests were taking DNA samples from young boars that are on their way to the AI station.

The information that is acquired through the tests is being expanded by their genomic breeding pattern.

In all 62,000 points have been tested on the DNA of the animals. The centre has kept a library of the blood samples having tested all the animals in the nucleus.

Anders Vernersen said that the breeding values from the rests have a high reliability and because of this they are able to get a formula for breeding patterns from the 2,000 animals that were involved in the tests. This will produce new breeding patterns for the animals.

He said that achieving a high variation in the breeding values in the young animals it allows the researchers to select the superior animals.

He said from the tests to date, the highest rankings had come out of the progeny testing.

He added that this is also being done in dairy cattle, where the tests showed traits that allowed young bulls to be used for breeding alongside prove bulls.

"We have a lot of information on both young males and females because we performance test them, but we would have a lot to lose if we went on genomic testing alone."

The researchers use the genomic information alongside performance testing. From the best five per cent on performance testing, the best DNA tests are taken and this allows each animal's index rankings to be changed.

Through these tests, the next generation of parents can be selected – for the boars, before they produce semen and for the females, before they are mated for the first time.

Dr Vernersen said that it will allow them to predict the animals performance in feed conversion, meat quality and growth rate more accurately and at a younger age.

"We are trying to improve what we do already," he said.

"In practice, we will add on 25 to 30 per cent more traits that the industry believes are desirable – such as better feed conversion, growth rates and meat quality."

By next year, the tests will be expanded out to the females – Landrace/Yorkshire – and the research team believes they will be able to glean more information on survival rates through the genomic tests.

Nicolaj Nørgaard, Director of the Pig Production Research Centre said: "Unlike previous methods, we now include knowledge from DNA testing in our index of breeding animals.

"It allows us to more accurately identify the make-up of those boars for improved meat quality and low feed consumption, and females with good maternal instincts, so that way we can help further reduce mortality among piglets.

"Initially, we ensured that we identified boars with the greatest potential for example, better feed efficiency, higher growth and increased lean meat," he said.

Genomic selection also provides opportunities where particular maternal characteristics will come into focus.

The tests have already registered which of the various groups are able to have 14 piglets that survive for 21 days.

"These records can then be used as a foundation for using genomic selection for improving maternal qualities of our pools of females," said Mr Nørgaard.

"Our expectation is that the new method can help to improve animal welfare and reduce the environmental impact further over the coming years," he added.

November 2010
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