Considerable expansion of the animal gene bank collection in 2018

Published on
April 2, 2019

The Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands (CGN), of Wageningen UR conserves semen of Dutch farm animal breeds in the gene bank to secure as much genetic diversity as possible. CGN manages gene bank collections of breeds of cattle, pigs, horses, sheep, goats, poultry, dogs, ducks, geese and rabbits. Both rare breeds and more common, widely used breeds are represented in the gene bank collections.

The focus of last year’s expansion of the collections of rare breeds was on the Dutch Draught horse, the Friesian horse, the Black Blazed sheep, and the Dutch White goat, the Dutch Pied original goat and the Dutch Toggenburg goat. The collections of various rare cattle breeds were also enlarged, next to additions through snapshots of pig and cattle semen obtained from the commercial breeding industry.

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Gene bank aims

The gene bank aims are:

  • To be a “fire insurance” for rare breeds and more common, widely used breeds, through storage of genetic material for long term conservation.
  • To support breeding programs of rare breeds through distribution of gene bank material, and to make gene bank material available for scientific research.

About 90% of the 144 breeds in the Netherlands is classified as “critical”, “threatened” or “vulnerable”. Complementary strategies are needed to be able to maintain the large variety of breeds, including cryo-conservation of reproductive material in the CGN gene bank.

At present, the gene bank consists of material from 10 different species, almost 8,500 donors and around 350,000 insemination doses, collected from 1966 onwards. An overview of all material stored in the gene bank per species is presented in the table below and through the gene bank webpage.

Methods for semen collection

For many species, storage of semen is an effective way of storing genetic material. At regular intervals, in close collaboration with cattle, pig and horse breeding industry and breed societies, CGN is collecting “snapshots” of many and diverse breeding animals, capturing the genetic diversity within breeding populations or breeding lines. In some cases already frozen genetic material can be acquired from breeders or from semen collection centres. Moreover, for other species and for rare breeds in general, CGN takes initiatives to collect and cryopreserve semen of any interesting or representative individual (“targeted expansions”).

    Number of breeds/lines per species in the gene bank (2019)
    Species #Breeds #Donors #Doses Years of sampling
    Cattle 23 6,378 253,629 1966-2017
    Chicken 31 270 18,662 1985-2009
    Dog 7 19 612 1988-2012
    Duck 3 67 1,591 2011-2013
    Geese 1 11 102 2013-2014
    Goat 6 82 6,476 2005-2015
    Horse 13 253 4,538 1979-2017
    Pig 33 767 21,946 1995-2017
    Rabbit 8 62 1,957 2014-2015
    Sheep 11 336 31,567 2001-2015