Genomic tools for addressing breed purity and optimising heterosis in pig production

Everestus Akanno,PhD, Geneticist, Genesus Inc.

Swine genetic improvement programs are concentrated in nucleus herds that keep single or multiple breeds or composites with the goal of improving the performance of crossbred pigs in commercial herds.

Consequently, 100% breed purity is assumed based on pedigree records and largely subjective breed characteristics such as hair colour, ear length and structure. However, breeding and recording errors can occur which may introduce breed and pedigree errors. Thus, utilizing known breed characteristics are not reliable enough to make a final decision. New methods and technologies, especially those related to genomics need to be developed, customized and implemented to enhance genetic improvement programs.

Currently, genomic tools such as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) are used along with performance and pedigree information for genomic prediction of breeding values and subsequently genomic selection in nucleus swine herds.

In addition to genomic selection, these genomic tools (SNPs) can be used for pedigree and breed composition verification of individual pigs (Kuehn et al., 2011 J. Anim. Sci. 89: 1742–1750. doi:10.2527/jas.2010-3530. PMID:21278116).

Pigs with incorrect breed assignment can be identified and corrected thereby ensuring breed purity and registration systems.

In addition, validation of breed composition is beneficial for crossbreeding programs to ensure the maximum benefits of heterosis and breed complementarity. This is especially important for commercial producers since correct crossbreeding programs are a major contributor to commercial herd profitability.

Extensive research has been carried out on the utility of genomic tools for determination of breed composition in livestock (Akanno et al., 2017 Can. J. Anim. Sci. 97:431–438,; Mujibi et al., 2018, The result from these studies suggest that breed composition of an animal can be determined with up to 96% accuracy using genomic markers (Akanno et al., 2017).

Genesus has already developed and integrated a comprehensive and automated system of pedigree verification into its weekly genomic evaluation. We will enhance this system by including breed composition verification procedures to further ensure the quality of Genesus purebred nucleus populations. These procedures will be developed by customising existing software for our specific purebred populations and incorporating our customised SNP panel. (more than 55k Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms)

The Genesus Inc. genetic improvement program is focused on assisting our customers to maximise their profitability. Our continual efforts to ensure the quality and accuracy of all data is an important component of this program. Accurate pedigrees and breed purity impact the program in multiple ways and thus the success of our customers.

As a leading global pig genetic company, Genesus Inc. continually develops and implements new technologies and methods ensuring we provide the best genetics to all our customers.

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