Programme: Animal Breeding and Genetics

Learn to design, set up, execute and optimise an animal breeding programme and increase the productivity of livestock and domestic animals.

Organised by Wageningen University & Research
Duration 3 months 4 - 6 hours per week

Why follow this programme?

In this online programme, the focus is on the design, set-up, execution and optimisation of animal breeding programmes, genetic improvement and conservation of genetic diversity.

This programme sets out the key factors for improving and increasing productivity and what it takes to create and maintain a healthy and strong population.

You will learn about the basic principles of population, quantitative and molecular genetics. Biological aspects are integrated into the courses by means of the various practical assignments. Professionals working with animals will be able to apply the knowledge gained from these courses to understand the impact of breeding on animal populations and to use genetic principles to make their decisions. It will give you an advanced starting point for further studies, such as MSc-level courses in animal breeding.

Is this programme for you?

Although this course is open to everyone, it is particularly useful for breeders of:

  • Cows
  • Poultry/chickens
  • Horses
  • Pigs/swine
  • Dogs
  • Sheep
  • Fish
  • Prawns/shrimp

This programme is a great step towards understanding the principles of animal breeding and the sector. Depending on the animal industry of interest, animal scientists can work in roles such as cattle breed association representatives, dairy industry breeding consultants and/or company representatives for Artificial Insemination (AI) companies. Alternatively, you could work for a private breeding company in the swine, poultry, and aquaculture industries. Some scientists with experience in animal breeding and genetics go on to work for plant breeding companies.

Take this online programme made by top-level experts from Wageningen University & Research, ranked number 1 for agricultural sciences in the NTU ranking. By joining this programme, you’ll become part of the growing community of students trained within the Animal Breeding and Genomics Group, which is the centre of excellence for all national and international animal breeding and genomics activities of Wageningen University & Research. The centre is a preferred knowledge and business partner of many national and international clients from both the public and private sectors. These include breeding organisations in commercial and non-commercial livestock, pets and horses, the EU and national and international governments.

What you will learn

  • being able to describe the steps that need to be taken when setting up a breeding programme
  • being able to describe how selection and genomic tools can be used to alleviate the effect of monogenic recessive diseases
  • being able to calculate family relationships and inbreeding coefficients in pedigrees and predict the rate of inbreeding for simple situations
  • being able to explain how family relationships between individuals can be used to estimate breeding values and describe the consequences of different selection and mating strategies for the selection response
  • being able to describe how current breeding programmes can be evaluated in terms of selection response and genetic diversity
  • being able to describe how the dissemination of improved animal populations to end users takes place, and why this differs between animal species
  • having acquired the tools and insight required to improve production and to work towards a healthy population

Job prospects

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (in the United States), career opportunities for the category of animal scientists and other agricultural scientists will continue to grow by about 13 per cent over the period from 2010 to 2020.
  • There is an urgent need for young professionals with up-to-date knowledge in animal breeding programmes.
  • Career opportunities are especially good within commercial breeding companies, but there are also good job opportunities with CGIAR institutes involved in plant and animal breeding and in local government, especially in the field of conservation of genetic biodiversity.
  • Animal geneticists can also find work with a variety of employers such as animal production facilities, pharmaceutical companies, private corporations, research labs, zoos, hatcheries, federal government bodies, or colleges and universities.
  • Aquaculture is the fastest-growing livestock production field and there is great demand for animal breeders who can design tailor-made breeding programmes.

Content of the Programme

This programme for professionals consists of two MOOCs which are preferably taken in the order as shown below. Your time investment will be about 3-5 hours per week per online course, and the average length is 7 weeks per MOOC. Of course, you can study in your own time, at your own pace, so you can adjust the duration.