Balanced breeding for the future

There are many wishes and requirements for livestock production today, including pig production. Sustainability, efficiency, health and welfare for the pigs must all come together. Here, breeding goals play an important role in improving the pigs’ genetics to suit the future pig production.

There are high demands for pig production, which is expected to use fewer resources, reduce impact on the environment and climate as well as improve animal welfare. Through balanced breeding, we want to provide pig production with more efficient, sustainable and robust genetics.

Breeding is part of the solution

Within breeding, selection is used to improve the important traits of pig production. The basic principle is to rank the breeding animals according to the traits in the breeding goal, after which, the best pigs are selected as parent animals for the next generation. This principle will not change in the future. But the direction of selection itself has continuously changed, and it will certainly also change in the coming years to align with the agenda in society, for example with increased focus on the climate, the environment, and animal welfare. At the same time, future pig production must, of course, continue to be economically sustainable for the farmer.

The direction of selection is defined by the breeding goal. Breeding goals are defined by identifying the traits you want to improve and calculating the economic weight that each trait has for pig production in a broad sense. Together with the amount of information on the animals and the genetic parameters, the selection pressure on the individual traits is determined, and, thus, how much each trait should contribute to the breeding progress.

In our breeding programme, the balanced breeding goals include traits such as growth, feed efficiency, strength, and survival. These traits not only increase economic profits, but also contribute to more a sustainable and robust pigs.

Balance between traits

The traits in the DanBred breeding goal can be divided into three groups: productivity, robustness, and reproduction. Recent years of research into breeding and genetics have shown that there are relatively strong unfavorable genetic relationships between the traits represented in the groups of productivity and robustness. This applies, for example, to piglet survival and feed efficiency.

This means that the pigs that have a really high feed efficiency, will then have a lower survival rate, genetically speaking. Within one group, the traits also have favourable correlations with each other. This means, for example, that the pigs that have high conformation measurements will also have a higher survival rate.

The characteristics of the breeding goal can be grouped into three: productivity traits, robustness traits, and reproductive traits. Here, they are seen for the white breed/maternal breed.

More accurate breeding models

Both the favourable and unfavourable correlations between the traits in the breeding goal are included in the statistical models that calculate the weekly breeding index for all DanBred breeding animals.

Today, we have more precise statistical models that can select the best breeding animals for future pig production, where the best pig is a balance between high productivity, robustness, and good reproduction. These factors play an important role in a more sustainable and efficient pig production with good welfare.