Pig Genomics has High Value in Selection for Difficult to Measure Traits

CANADA - A professor of livestock genomics with the University of Alberta says the use of genomics in the selection of breeding stock offers its greatest potential for difficult to measure traits such as health, reproduction and meat quality, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 8 February 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

Genomics is the study of the genetic material, the DNA, that provides the blueprint for the structure of an organism.

As part of research being conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc, scientists are developing tools to apply genomics to the selection of superior breeding stock.

Dr Graham Plastow, a professor of livestock genomics with the University of Alberta, says scientists are looking more and more to use of genomics.

Dr Graham Plastow-University of Alberta:

Genomics, its sweet sport is where a trait is difficult or expensive to measure or is measured late in life.

Health is very important.

When animals get sick it's a tremendous burden in terms of lost production, treatment, mortality even, so that's the start point.

Other traits like that would be reproduction for example, female reproduction.

We need to take repeated measurements of adult animals so we only get the data late in life.

Another very good example is pork quality and eating quality.

We can only really measure that after we've harvested the animal and that animal, we can have frozen eggs or frozen eggs, but the animal itself is not available for us to breed.

Those sort of traits are ideal for this technology.

We have to do a lot of work to find the associations to do the predictions but, once we have them, then we have a tool where a newly born pig, we can send a DNA sample off to the lab and the geneticist can use the DNA genotype to make predictions of its production potential in this case.

Dr Plastow notes the current round of research is scheduled to continue for 4 years and he expects to see improvements come to fruition during that period.

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