Genomic Selection Means Better Breeding Pigs

DENMARK - Research in genomic selection will result in healthier animals and improved selection of breeding animals.
calendar icon 29 October 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Scientists from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at Aarhus University have collaborated with the Pig Research Centre in making it possible to use genomic selection in Danish pig breeding.

Animal welfare, particularly on sow farms, can be improved by using DNA based technology because the genetic potential of male and female piglets can be determined already at birth
Photo: Lars Kruse, AU Communication

With genomic selection the genetic potential of an animal is determined according to its DNA profile. This means that scientists can use a blood sample to get a picture of the heritable traits of an animal. With present methods it is necessary to test the various traits – and that costs time and money.

Genomic selection can make it easier to combine improvements in pig welfare with production efficiency.

Senior scientist Peer Berg, Department of Genetics and Biotechnology, points out that feed consumption can be reduced because the pigs will be bred for improved feed efficiency.

Feed consumption is a major economic factor in pig production but it is difficult to improve further using present breeding methods. DNA based technology will improve the certainty of determining the genetic potential of feed efficiency in a breeding animal.

Another example is that welfare, especially on sow farms, can be improved using DNA based technology because the genetic potential of a male or female piglet can be determined already at birth.

Dr Berg said: "Today, the longevity of sows is difficult to improve via breeding because longevity can only be determined in old sows."

The project is based on a newly developed chip consisting of 60,000 SNP markers. The chip's huge store of information about the animal's DNA is what opens a window on new possibilities for selecting the best animals for breeding.

Compared to the methods and technology used in breeding today, genomic selection will pave the way for big changes in Danish pig breeding.

"There is a need to develop better mathematical and statistical models for calculating genomic breeding values. We also need to develop breeding plans in which genomic selection is included and which ensure the best use and implementation of the new technology," added Dr Berg.

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