New Technology Accelerates Genetic Improvement in Swine

CANADA - A geneticist with PIC says new tools and technologies introduced over the past ten to 20 years have dramatically accelerated the rates of genetic improvement in breeding stock for swine, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 28 February 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Improvements in artificial insemination, the introduction of genomics and new computer technology have allowed swine breeders to maximize rates of genetic improvement.

PIC global genetic development director Dr. Dave McLaren says selection objectives have become much more comprehensive, in part, due to technologies that allow breeders to estimate breeding values for lowly heritable traits like litter size and survivability.

Dr. Dave McLaren-PIC

Without the depth of databases that we wouldn't have had 20 years ago, without the technology we didn't have ten years ago, the software, the computers, we could really only tackle the more simply measured highly heritable growth, carcass composition, feed conversion.

Those are still absolutely key objectives to line improvement but now there are many other traits we can influence as well that have real economic value.

Over time, if you look back at the early 1990s we started to pull in a lot of litter size data that we had on recorded herds with pedigrees and we finally had the tools to be able to use that, analyze litter size beyond just the nucleus populations.

The next real target was meat quality traits and we were measuring a lot of animals through plants, both nucleus and commercial animals, got a handle on the genetic parameters for meat quality traits and started in the mid-90s breeding for meat quality.

The biggest initiative now in the industry is taking as much data from commercial crossbred situations and using that in genetic evaluation of the purebreds as the purebred information and the level of accuracy that that's adding is critical.

Dr. McLaren is confident the rates of genetic improvement we're seeing today will continue to accelerate over the next five to ten years.

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