Genomic selection has now been fully implemented within the Norsvin genetic program and is boosting the breeding objective substantially. Results so far show that genomic selection will enable an increase in genetic progress by at least 30 % compared with traditional breeding.
Years of research, including development of statistical tools, simulation studies and design, have been performed in Norsvin projects together with research partners. Furthermore, establishment of sampling and efficient pipelines, as well as genotyping of sufficiently large reference populations, was required before implementation of genomic selection in Norsvin was fulfilled.
As one of the first breeding companies we are now utilizing genomic information in the entire genetic program, i.e. all traits and breeds.
It’s all about accuracy
In practice, genomic selection in Norsvin enables through information from DNA testing, a more accurate prediction of the animals’ breeding value due to a more accurate estimate of relationship between animals.
The benefits of genomic selection are greatest for traits that:
- Are not directly recorded on the selection candidates prior to selection (e.g. meat quality).
- Tend to have low heritability.
- Are only expressed in the mature females.
By adding genomic information from females, we are therefore able to select the top AI boars for maternal traits much more accurately. Thus, selection of replacement gilts will also be more accurate.
Flags on the genome
Genomic selection in Norsvin is based on a marker panel examining 60,000 points on the DNA strand (SNP’s). Although these SNP’s are unlikely to directly cause functional genetic differences between animals, they can be used as genetic markers. That is, they can serve as flags on the genome to track the surrounding genomic regions, which may contain functional genetic elements.
Norsvin’s utilization of genomic selection is founded on our traditional breeding methods by modifying the relationship matrices in the current evaluation systems. This is done by a single-step procedure, which includes both the genomic relationship matrix G (genotyped animals and close relatives) and the pedigree relationship matrix A (un-genotyped animals).
The marker-based relationship matrix will thus yield a better estimate of the true relationships.
Evaluation of the genomic breeding value
At this early stage, it is difficult to evaluate the effect of genomic selection on genetic progress. However, based on the genotyped animals so far, evaluations of traditional breeding values and genomic breeding values indicate that genetic progress could be improved by around 30 % with the use of genomic selection.
Dr. Eli Grindflek, R & D Manager
Read more: Evaluation of the genomic breeding value
Read more: The next steps