A foresighted breeding program

The key to a global pig breeding program lies in combining the global pork market trends, customers demand, and international genetic expertise and tools. That is the mindset behind the approach to designing our breeding program.

Knowing the market
We constantly perform market analyses via a direct approach to the market. Factual data analyses across the industry ensures that we get the broad picture of all aspects of the market. A clear understanding of the demands and the trends allows us to produce the animals of the future through our updated global breeding program.

Danish Pig Genetics and AbacusBio have developed a unique bioeconomic model that incorporates genetics principles, economic modelling, and market trends to ensure that the right amount of emphasis goes on traits within the breeding program.

“This tool produces accurate economic weights for the traits of interest in the breeding program, informed by the outcomes of consultation and underpinned by robust economic analysis” Dr. Tim Byrne Managing Director of AbacusBio’s UK business unit explains.

Cutting edge genetic and genomic tools for increased accuracy in breeding values and index
In collaboration with geneticists in EGENES we have developed novel statistical algorithms for translating the large-scale data collected on nucleus and multiplication units in Danish Pig Genetics into estimated breeding values for the traits of interest.

“Integrating large amount of DNA information with the on-farm data collected through Danish Genetics’ breeding activities requires a smart genomic tool. EGENES has developed a new system with funding from CIEL where this tool allows Danish Genetics data to be automatically retrieved, quality assured, preprocessed and then turned into genomic breeding values seamlessly” Prof. Mike Coffey Director of EGENES explains. “This provides state of the art genomic breeding values rapidly and regularly for Danish Genetics customers to benefit from the extensive recording in Danish Genetics’ breeding program.”

Optimizing breeding program and population for faster genetic progress
Danish Pig Genetics’ breeding scheme and population has been optimized through a new breeding program optimization software tool developed by Roslin Technologies Ltd in collaboration with The Roslin Institute.

The simulation software tool assists decision making for selection, breeding and genetic improvement activities. For example, the model can predict more precisely how much genetic progress will be made in the Danish Genetics pig population in next 2, 5 or 10 years, considering the merit of different traits in the population under selection as well as acceptable level of inbreeding.

A breeding objective framework, which allows for monitoring and modelling of the implication of changes in market revenue and cost streams provides us with the ability to update the economic weights and genetic trend forecasts. Optimized statistical genetic algorithms for higher accuracy breeding values makes the selection of elite animals more precise. Along with a decision support tool for optimization of the population and breeding program, we ensure the delivery of superior genetics to not only address the market demand but also drive the pork industry to new levels.

Breeding philosophy

The core focus at Danish Genetics is genetic improvement to increase customer profit. This is achieved by our breeding objective which focus on breeding for robustness, reproduction, mothering ability, efficiency, growth, and carcass quality. We aspire to develop superior genetics of highest value for each actor along the pork value chain.

In the breeding program, the aim is to balance selection such that we can secure sustainability in the future animal production landscape, and to achieve that, total farm efficiency (more output for less input) is essential.

Breeding categories

Growth and efficiency: Danish Pig Genetics is building an optimized balance across feed efficiency, growth, and carcass quality in terminal lines. We focus on daily body weight gain at different stages of growth. Genetic improvement for daily weight gain from birth to growing period fast-tracks animals and reduces feed costs. Genetic improvement for daily weight gain during the growing-finishing period provides options; either reducing the number of days to slaughter weight or increasing slaughter weight at a fixed slaughter age.

Robustness: Robustness defines characteristics that ensures that the pig can stay strong and deliver efficient meat and produce more marketed product in different environments. Therefore, robustness has substantial influence on producers’ profitability.

Improving sow longevity means breeding for sows with a longer productive life, leading to lower replacement costs and more total produced litters per sow. Danish Genetics is focusing on total life cycle efficiency through improved sow survival, increased weaning rate, and higher meat production through growth rate and carcass yield; all while utilizing less feed.

Strength or body conformation of finisher pigs ensures that animals are robust and efficient throughout their productive lifespan. Gilts with high body conformation are expected to have better conformation for insemination, and especially before and after farrowing. To monitor the realization of selection for strength at finishing, the pig’s performance and conformation are monitored throughout their lifespan.

Reproduction: Female reproduction is a key driver of farm productivity. Therefore, Danish Genetics utilizes its famous prolific sows to further improve female reproduction, evaluated using the number of live pigs at day 5 after birth. This trait has been shown to have favourable genetic correlation with piglet survival and therefore the number of weaned piglets per sow.

Mothering ability: Mothering ability is looking for the genetic potential of the sow for producing robust piglets. Selection for mothering ability leads to sows that yield heavier piglets at weaning that require fewer growing days to finish. This maternal genetic effect of the sow on the daily body weight gain of the piglet from birth to growing period means that Danish Genetics-sows produce more meat per space per year.

Carcass quality: The value of the carcass drives the income of finisher producers and has substantial effect on the rest of pork value chain. For slaughter characteristics, we are selecting and breeding directly on backfat, weight, and the traits that are directly measured and have direct effect on carcass value. Direct selection for backfat utilizes on the known relationships between the backfat measurement with other breeding goal traits, rather than the blackbox approach of lean meat percentage. This ensures that we are providing the necessary emphasis on product quality.

Danish Genetics is committed to providing superior genetic material to the global pig market with exceptional performance and resilience in a range of environments. This is achieved through our extensive breeding program that balances the trait emphasis and diversifies the breeding goal traits.

Breeding goals

The aim of the breeding program is to provide superior genetic material that maximises the profitability of our customers along the whole pork value chain. This is achieved by our breeding objective which focus on breeding for robustness, reproduction, mothering ability, efficiency, growth, and carcass quality. Our Danish Genetics Index (DGI) is a specialised index that combine economically important traits in a balanced way to maximise the genetic progress towards a more economically profitable pork production for the pig producers globally.

The breeding goal traits are specifically considered that have economical importance to pork producers and has great genetic potential for genetic improvement towards the market demand. The economic emphasis on the breeding goal traits are obtain through Danish Genetics bio-economic model. The economic parameters are updated constantly to consider all the economic aspects and future trend in the market to ensure our customers get maximum profit from the pig production.

Maternal Index
The breeding objective for maternal lines of Danish Landrace and Danish Yorkshire are designed by having sow producers in mind. Therefore, maternal index stands for maternal characteristics that produce the optimum crossbred F1 sow in the market. The objective is to produce strong and high productive sows that optimise the production profitability. Therefore, the emphasis is on robustness, reproduction, and mothering ability as well as growth and efficiency.

Terminal Index
Breeding objective for terminal line of Danish Duroc is to maximise the profitability for slaughter pig producers, slaughterhouses and meat processing companies, and consumer satisfaction. This is achieved through putting emphasis on trait categories such as growth, efficiency, and carcass quality.

Danish Genetics Duroc breed is internationally known for its excellent growth, efficiency and superior carcass and meat quality. The updated breeding program is capitalizing on this genetic excellence and pushes further with efficiency and growth as well as fertility in Duroc male as more viable slaughter piglet has substantial economic value for the pig producers globally.

We supply products from animals with top health status to the whole world

Healthy animals are essential for optimum breeding. Therefore, the health status and hygiene at all our professional business partners are extremely important. We take our responsibility very seriously and only sell healthy breeding animals in Denmark and the rest of the world.

All herds under Danish Genetics are approved SPF herds with a high health status, and all boars are PRRS-negative.

All boars at our artificial insemination (AI) stations come from PRRS-negative breeding herds and are subjected to blood tests before being taken to an AI station. In this way we ensure that our customers only receive semen from healthy and PRRS-negative boars.

Health status checked by experts
The Danish SPF system was established in 1971 and is one of the world’s best health systems. There are fixed rules for protection against infection, health inspections and transport of pigs to herds. Our high health status is therefore backed up by experts, and our customers are guaranteed healthy breeding animals and semen from healthy boars.

SPF-Danmark and the Health Status Management (SPF-SUS) are jointly responsible for controlling the health status of all Danish herds. The herds are checked at least once a month by a veterinarian, and declarations of health status are available for all Danish herds.

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