New DanBred breeding goal strengthens sow robustness

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27 March 2024 | DanBred P/S

DanBred takes another important step towards increasing the productive lives of sows. Sow survival is a new trait in the breeding goals for DanBred Landrace and DanBred Yorkshire, which will secure that future generations of DanBred sows will be even more robust.

For decades, DanBred has focused on longevity and conformation in the balanced breeding goals. In recent years, we have implemented a number of other breeding initiatives that have contributed to more robustness and increased survival in pig production. In 2021, our Breeding & Genetics department, at Danish Agriculture & Food Council, introduced a new genetic model, which takes the correlations among all traits in our breeding goals into account. This shifted selection pressure even more towards robustness and survival with more accurate breeding values. Already then, we began to see the effect with improvements in survival supported by results from our breeding and production herds.

Now, another important milestone is reached, as we implement sow survival in the breeding goals for DanBred Landrace and DanBred Yorkshire.

Groundbreaking breeding method
Supported by a PhD project, the Breeding & Genetics department has researched new and innovative methods to improve the robustness of sows. After several years of intense research, DanBred now implements sow survival in our breeding goals.

The technical work on sow survival is completely unique, as data is now collected on at least 100,000 sows in commercial production herds annually.

“This is a groundbreaking piece of research that has been a major focus area in our department for the past five years. With the new breeding method that has been developed, we can now implement sow survival, which will contribute to more robustness of sows in production herds,” explains Tage Ostersen, Head of Department at Breeding & Genetics, Danish Agriculture & Food Council.

No other breeding company has the same innovative approach to sow survival where data is collected directly in production herds.

Annual improvement with new generations
The breeding progress for sow survival will manifest in production herds continuously over the coming years, while the effect of the breeding progress accumulates. The wait is due to the fact that the older sows in the production chain must be replaced with new generations of sows before the breeding progress will fully manifest in all DanBred sow herds.

“Even though the breeding progress for sow survival manifests continuously, producers will already notice a difference from today based on the breeding initiatives that we have introduced in recent years. This is because our models take into account all genetic correlations between the traits in the breeding goal, and because we have already introduced a new trait for piglet survival, which has a strong favourable correlation to sow survival,” says Tage Ostersen.

Larger data set contributes to better results
One of the innovative elements of the new breeding goal is that data is collected on at least 100,000 crossbred sows annually from the production herds that have DanBred Nucleus Management. In the DanBred breeding programme, completely new statistical and technical methods have been developed for handling data. In addition, data from the entire life of the sow, from the first mating to the last farrowing, are included in the breeding goal for sow survival.

“We have focused on developing the right methods. This means that we can utilise the large amounts of data from 100,000 sows annually. With this data basis, and the fact that the trait is measured in production herds, we know that we will see a greater breeding progress for sow survival in the herds,” explains Tage Ostersen.

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