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Genomics Has Potential for Canadian Pig Industry

by 5m Editor
16 April 2010, at 10:40am

CANADA - The Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement recommend more pig genotyping to maintain the country's position as a leader in genetic improvement, according to Jaydee Smith of the Ontario Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

The application of genetic markers in animal breeding programs has advanced rapidly over the last 20 years. From early efforts which focussed on a single gene (e.g. the halothane gene), the technology and the knowledge of the genome has developed tremendously. Researchers can now work with commercially available tests for over 64,000 genetic markers. Economic benefits are expected to arise using known markers and new discoveries for specific genes. Another approach is to try to estimate breeding values by evaluating the genome using these high density panels. This has been successful in the selection of dairy bulls, and work is now underway in pigs.

The sequencing of the pig genome and the availability of the 64,000 marker test signals a new generation of applications for genetic improvement in swine, from increased accuracy in selection to improving traits, for example disease resistance and pork quality. These tools can be used to tackle traits with low heritability, that are difficult to measure, that cannot be measured in live animals, that can only be measured in one sex, or can only be measured later in life.

International collaborations are being discussed, which will use the application of genomics to improve swine health. PigGen Canada was recently formed to coordinate the genetics sector on applications of genomics, with swine health as a top priority.

More genotyping of pigs with important phenotypes along with related bioinformatics research is required to maintain Canada's position as a leader in genetic improvement.